WELLFLEET — Select board chair Ryan Curley wants to finish what he started. At the annual town election on May 1, Curley will face former Wellfleet Principal Clerk Jeanne Maclauchlan, a newcomer running for the one seat on the board to be filled this year.
Curley has been on the board since 2020 and has served as chair for two of those three years. A native of Wellfleet, Curley comes from a long line of civic leaders: his grandmother, Cynthia Paine, was on the select board in the 1990s, and his grandfather, Bob Paine, served on various panels including the board of health.
The challenges the town faces now are different from the ones his forebears took on, the 39-year-old incumbent told the Independent — the most important one, Curley said, being the Outer Cape’s housing crisis.
“Housing is really undermining everything else we’ve been working on,” he said. With a total subsidized housing inventory of 2.58 percent, Wellfleet is far behind the 10 percent goal the state has established.
Curley said he has worked hard to ameliorate the town’s housing crisis during his tenure on the board. He names zoning bylaws he proposed, including one to allow undersized lots to be used for affordable housing and another to allow cottage colonies to be occupied on a year-round basis as two steps forward.
The town’s $6.5-million purchase of Maurice’s Campground last September, to be used for affordable housing, was, he said, “the biggest thing for me and what I’m most proud of.”
But there’s more to do. “We need to continue to be aggressive on housing,” Curley said. “Programs we have in place now we struggle to monitor, and we need to preserve the housing stock we do have, or else the hole will keep getting bigger.”
Curley worked to get several articles on this year’s warrant to tackle these issues. Article 17 would establish the new position of housing and Community Preservation Act specialist charged with overseeing housing programs and opportunities.
One home rule petition on the warrant asks the legislature to allow the town to develop a voluntary year-round deed restriction program. That would enable the town to purchase deed restrictions from homeowners to permanently require the property to be occupied year-round. Another petition would expand the residential tax exemption to owners who rent out their properties year-round.
Curley also worked to include a nonbinding article on the warrant that would raise the residential tax exemption from 25 to 30 percent for year-round residents. The vote on that article will be advisory, as the select board has final authority.
Also on the warrant is a $635,000 Proposition 2½ override to fund the operating budget.
“We had hoped that it would be a number of years before we would have to have another general override,” Curley said. But it was inevitable after the Nauset Regional School District came in with a budget increase of over 7 percent, he said. “Then we have collective bargaining agreements in place, insurance going up by 10 percent, and additional help needed in terms of accounting.”
That accounting help, he said, is what Wellfleet needs to ensure financial mismanagement “doesn’t keep happening.”
For Curley, the Dept. of Revenue’s recommendation to restructure staffing was the most important takeaway from the state’s financial management report. “For some departments, we should be looking at regionalizing to reduce the cost for the taxpayer and to increase resiliency,” Curley said.
He said that his record on the town’s financial crisis “speaks for itself.” He has asked for increased oversight and helped write financial management policies for the town that included replacing the town’s auditor every three years, he said, adding, “We still have a long way to go.”
Curley is currently enrolled at Suffolk University, working on a master’s in public administration. He’s grateful for all he learned from his family about civics.
“I have a firm perspective on how things are done because, even from a young age, I was exposed to it,” he said.
The annual town election will take place on Monday, May 1 from noon to 7 p.m. at the Adult Community Center, 715 Old King’s Highway.