TRURO — Wendy Lurie, a founder of the Truro Community Kitchen (TCK), proposed to the Walsh Property Community Planning Committee on Dec. 14 that a “food security joint facility” for the TCK and Truro Food Pantry be located at the property.
The Walsh property’s 69.9 acres were acquired by the town in 2019, and the committee is discussing development proposals for the southwestern part of the property. These 28.5 acres have been designated “Area A” by Tighe & Bond, the town’s development consultants, who in November presented four concepts for the area that include 57 to 210 housing units.
“Food insecurity and housing insecurity are two sides of the same coin,” Lurie said. TCK’s proposal is not meant to come at the expense of housing development, she added.
“We think the biggest issue in town is lack of affordable housing,” said Lurie. “Our proposal is strictly to provide food at no cost for people who need it without taking away housing.”
Committee member Russell Braun raised questions about the need for kitchen space. “The municipality already has a really nice commercial kitchen at the Community Center and it is really underutilized,” he said.
Committee Co-Chair Fred Gaechter said that the TCK had tried to use that kitchen but “it was too small and did not have enough storage.”
TCK currently operates out of the Christian Union Church, which does not have a commercial kitchen. “We are trying to build ourselves out in various ways to be a more stable and permanent presence in the community,” Lurie said.
The committee also heard from Nancy Medoff, vice chair of the Truro Economic Development Committee, which held five roundtable discussions and one public summit with businesspeople.
“Loud and clear, the number-one challenge for business owners is housing,” Medoff said. Local businesses also cited “the unpredictability of the visa process, lack of affordable child care, supply-chain issues, and onerous permitting” as major struggles, Medoff said.
There is also a “very low percentage of property that is zoned for commercial use in Truro,” Medoff added.
Gaechter said that development space on the Walsh property is limited and wondered how the economic development committee would prioritize different uses. Medoff said no vote had been taken, but so far the committee favors maximizing housing at the Walsh property.
Kevin Grunwald, chair of the Truro Housing Authority, presented the latest draft of the town’s housing production plan, which foresees a need for 260 more units by 2035.
“If you look at who lives in Truro,” said Betty Gallo, a member of both the housing authority and the Walsh committee, “we have people of fairly high income and people of fairly low income — it’s the middle income we don’t have.” Gallo said the reason was “we don’t have housing for them.”
Gallo also said that the 2020 census showed Truro has lost 24 percent of its 18-to-34-year-olds. “That includes a lot of our workers,” Gallo said.
The housing production plan notes that the median single-family home price in Truro is nearly $1.4 million, considered affordable for a household with an annual income of about $375,000. Currently, the median household income in Truro is around $69,000.
The Walsh committee held an event on Dec. 8 at the Truro Central School to update residents and gather public input. Posters laid out the committee’s planning principles and the site’s constraints alongside maps and diagrams. A sticker-based voting system allowed residents to indicate their preferences on housing design, recreational uses, and the potential inclusion of commercial or retail space.
“This is by no means scientific,” Tighe & Bond consultant Sharon Rooney said at the meeting, but “the clustering of dots indicates some preferences.”
The stickers showed a preference for traditional architectural styles in single-family, multiplex, and townhouse-style developments. For duplexes, both traditional and contemporary styles earned support.
Braun, who had been managing the sticker voting at one of the posters, said he thought the process confused issues of aesthetics with issues of density.
On the open space and recreation posters, “hiking/walking trails and/or fitness circuit trail was probably the top preference,” said Rooney, although a summer camp facility, multi-use event space, and climbing wall were also top choices.
Violet Rein Bosworth, the student liaison on the Walsh committee, added “community pool” in marker at the bottom of the recreation poster, and it received many votes. A pool hadn’t appeared on the poster because town staff hadn’t identified it as a priority. Committee member Morgan Clark said that “future data collection should incorporate things that this committee has collected as options and not just what Truro staff has offered.”
The voting on mixed-use development showed preferences for ground-floor commercial with apartments above, buildings set back from the street, and establishments similar to Salty Market on Highland Road.
Select board member Stephanie Rein said that her board had voted to reduce the Walsh committee from 13 members to 11. The death of member Susan Howe and the resignation of Craig Milan created two vacancies; rather than fill them or elevate alternates to full members, the select board decided that the group should have 11 members and two alternates.