Waterfield Development a Win for Winchester
Updated: Jun 9
On June 22, Winchester will vote on an issue that will significantly impact the vibrancy and inclusivity of our community. The ballot question is the same that Town Meeting (TM) approved in May and one of several approved in connection with this development, which has been in the works from concept to implementation for over 10 years.
Information being circulated is not fully accurate and much of it is confusing. Many officials, boards and committees have worked on the Waterfield Development project. The Civico agreement was made with the assistance of the Town’s development consultant and the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. There are binding TM decisions on this issue that cannot be reversed by this referendum.
- A YES vote allows the project to move forward, authorizing a land development agreement (LDA) and a 99-year lease with Civico. Civico will build a 60-unit apartment building with 66% affordable units. They will also provide retail space, public parking, a refurbished Chamber of Commerce building, an amphitheater and a plaza.
- A no vote ends the Civico LDA and stalls the project. It does not allow a sale of the property nor does it allow for a development of luxury condominiums. Any project on the lot must include affordable housing.
Residents are told that the Town is “losing” revenue. Not true. The so-called “lost” revenue is hypothetical revenue from a “deal” inconsistent with prior TM decisions and it’s based on unfounded assumptions about property potential. In fact, the Town stands to gain both financially and otherwise.
- The Town has structured the Civico LDA and lease to share in the profits and will receive annual financial reports to be able to monitor the operations and profitability.
- The Town is gaining affordable and inclusive rental housing for middle income people like teachers, firefighters, seniors and young professionals.
- The Town is gaining foot traffic to existing businesses.
- And the Town retains its ownership of the parcel.
Scare tactics are being employed in an attempt to paint this project as bad for the Town. One major fallacy is treating the per pupil expenditure as if it were equivalent to tuition. It is not. Per pupil expenditure is based on an aggregate cost that is averaged across the total number of students. The 40 students quoted by the No voters represent less than 1% of the total enrollment. The half million price tag is incorrect, as is the invented “cost” to the Town’s financial position.
It is also not true that alternatives were not considered. Discussions on how to develop the Waterfield parcel date back almost 20 years. 10 years ago, our town government began the process to allow a mixed use commercial and residential development through rezoning, design charrettes, and the solicitation of street scale designs for the site. Last year the Town put the project out for competitive bidding. The developer evaluation criteria took into account a number of urgent town needs, in addition to financial viability. The winning bid best met the diverse needs of the Town as defined through a careful and deliberate process.
This project was approved by the Select Board, the Planning Board, the Housing Partnership Board, the Finance Committee and Town Meeting. State Senator Jason Lewis has endorsed the project, saying: “The Waterfield project along with the renovation of the MBTA commuter rail station that is now underway will jumpstart the town's efforts to revitalize the downtown and unlock long dormant economic potential.”
Sound decisions in town don’t get made on the fly. They aren’t based on sound bites. And they most certainly aren’t made through the deliberate dissemination of misinformation or incomplete information.
The Town has a robust and invested set of elected volunteers who are committed to this community. They have spent years involved in a thoughtful process to move Winchester into the future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. The entire community gave input to the Master Plan which drives our priorities now. Our Select Board, Planning Board and Housing Partnership were guided by a thoughtful Housing Production Plan which led to this LDA. Our representative Town Meeting has many processes in place to ensure that complicated decisions are made thoughtfully. The enormity of both the paid and volunteer efforts that make Winchester the incredibly wonderful place it is cannot be overstated.
Our residents are smart, caring and sensible. We are confident that our citizens will make the right choice for Winchester and vote yes on June 22nd. For more information, visit www.waterfieldfacts.org.
Reprinted from The Winchester Star: https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/the-winchester-star/2021/06/08/proponents-explain-need-support-waterfield-project/7588472002/