TRURO — When Tighe & Bond consultant Gordon Leedy presented a draft conceptual plan for 224 housing units at the Walsh Property Community Planning Committee’s April 19 meeting, the plan and Leedy’s comments alarmed several committee members.
The committee, which has been meeting since 2020, voted in January to plan for the construction of 252 housing units on the 69.9-acre property that the town acquired in 2019. Of those, 152 would be affordable, meeting 60 percent of the need laid out in Truro’s Housing Production Plan; the other 100 units would be market-rate.
All of those units would be built on a part of the Walsh property marked “Area A,” 28.5 acres at the southwest corner of the tract that is topographically suitable for development.
Leedy’s draft proposal, which entailed a combination of single-family homes, townhouses, flats, and two-story live-work units, fell short of the committee’s housing target by 28 units.
“The scale of this plan is consistent with what Truro is generally,” Leedy said, adding that “I am not convinced that this site can carry even 224 units.
“The denser you get,” Leedy continued, “involves more and more modifications to the site in terms of earthwork.”
Leedy compared Truro to southern California, where “they go in with big earth movers and they carve out terraces for things to sit on. I don’t think that’s what Truro wants,” he said.
Committee members expressed dismay at Leedy’s comments.
“I do similar consulting, and I’m blown away by some of your comments, Gordon,” said committee member Morgan Clark. “I feel like they were overtly political.”
Clark told the Independent that Leedy’s remark about what Truro wants was “a big leap.” She added that “it’s not appropriate for a consultant to make those assumptions.”
Committee members pushed back against modifications to the ground as a meaningful deterrent to building housing.
“I personally thought that was a misinformed opinion,” said alternate member Raphael Richter about Leedy’s interpretation of Truro’s wishes.
Richter said housing has been the committee’s priority. “We have expressed a very strong desire several times to have a certain amount of density, and there is no fact presented so far that suggests that we cannot” do that, he said.
Leedy also said he recalled the number 260 being water consultant Scott Horsley’s “absolute outside limit” for the number of units on the property. “I think the jury’s still out on whether this site can support that, given the proximity to the wells and given the cost of any kind of advanced sewage disposal system,” Leedy said.
Committee member Paul Wisotzky said he recalled Horsley’s stance to be: “You could do as much as you want — it’s just a matter of building a system that has that capacity.” Wisotzky suggested asking Horsley directly.
In September, Horsley presented the results of a hydrological study to the select board. It showed that “cluster wastewater treatment,” which would hook up community housing on the Walsh property with Truro Central School and several neighboring homes, would improve water quality over current conditions.
Wisotzky questioned whether topography was necessarily an obstacle. “I wonder if there’s a way to actually use topography to our advantage,” he said, citing the multistory housing under construction as part of the town’s Cloverleaf project. “Density is both vertical and horizontal,” he said.
Leedy ultimately said that the site could potentially accommodate more flats, although “there may be some parking issues. We haven’t really looked at the sewage disposal issues that exist on the site,” he added.
“I think we would want to see a revised plan that shows the amount of housing units that we voted for,” Richter said, “or a reduction in the other uses, since we did not want to see other uses take away from housing.”
Leedy’s plan included 10,000 square feet of commercial space as well as 15 live-work units; at its meeting two weeks earlier, the committee voted to explore up to 40,000 square feet of commercial space.
Clark told the Independent that managing the scope of consultant guidance is not a responsibility that should fall on the Walsh committee. “A question is, where are staff to supervise the consultants?” she said. “That’s not a volunteer committee’s job.”
A New Water Tank
At the same meeting, Dept. of Public Works Director Jarrod Cabral presented a memo from the Horsley Witten Group about the siting of a new water storage tank to supply Truro.
According to the memo, which estimates per capita water demand at 65 gallons per day, Truro used a total of 21 million gallons of water in 2022.
The new tank is largely intended to supply water to residents of housing that hasn’t yet been constructed. “In evaluating a suitable location and design for a tank, the Town requested the addition of the future water demand for the proposed Walsh property and the additional buildout of 250 homes in Truro to the model,” the report says. The storage tank, which would also supply the Cloverleaf development, plans for up to 260 units to be built on the Walsh parcel.
The proposed tank would have a capacity of either 750,000 gallons or 1 million gallons, with total costs of $9.3 million or $11.7 million respectively.
The memo lays out two potential locations for the tank — one at the police station and another demarcated as “Walsh Property” on an attached map, which is actually situated on an adjacent parcel owned by Provincetown, Cabral said.
“We had concerns in the past about other conceptual drawings that showed a potential water tower site in development area A,” Wisotzky said, “so I think it’s important to note that that is not the case.” Cabral confirmed that.
The proposed spot is just northeast of the Walsh property and next to the North Union Field wellheads, which have surrounding “zone 1” and “zone 2” protection areas with radii of 100 and 400 feet. The water tower would be located in the zone 1 protection area. Committee members had questions, but Cabral said, “They assured us that this is something we can do.”
Based on the committee’s objections in March to the pace of Tighe & Bond’s proposed work plan, consultants Carole Ridley and Sharon Rooney presented an accelerated schedule.
“We’re planning about a month of outreach through the month of June to give folks an opportunity to learn about the draft and weigh in,” Ridley said. Outreach will involve a combination of educating the public about the property and gathering input about community hopes for the site.
The revised work plan would produce a “recommended master plan” in time for a special town meeting in the fall, likely in October. “It’s fairly compact,” Ridley said.
“I think that given where we are, this is a good goal,” said committee member Russ Braun. “I think we need to push this thing forward. If it is tight, then so be it.”