South Chatham Affordable Housing Land Deal Falls Through

By: Tim Wood

The Jordan property at 2337 Main St., South Chatham. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM – One of several annual town meeting articles aimed at boosting affordable and attainable housing won't go forward, after the owner of land in South Chatham the town hoped to purchase agreed to sell the property to a neighbor instead.

Select Board Chair Shareen Davis said article 17, which proposed the purchase of 2.44 acres at 2337 Main St. for affordable and attainable housing will not be acted on at the June 12 meeting.

“It's extremely disappointing,” she said.

The realtor for the property owner, Dennis Jordan, said an offer to purchase the property from a neighbor had been signed. The neighbor, who intends to keep the property as open space, presented an attractive offer that Jordan felt he needed to accept.

David Farrell confirmed that he has signed an agreement to purchase the wooded land at the rear of 2337 Main St. from Jordan. Farrell said he wasn't opposed to affordable housing being built at the front of the parcel, but felt strongly that the rear should remain in its present state. The lots connects to open space behind his property immediately to the west and the town-owned Bassett House property and is an important wildlife corridor to larger open space tracts in the area, he said.

“It's a remarkable path for deer and coyotes and fishers and turkeys,” said Farrell, an attorney. “It's just a remarkable spot. It would be a real loss to this town to have it broken up.” He declined to comment on the details of the agreement.

After negotiations, the town had made an offer to purchase Jordan's property at $974,100, less than the original asking price of $1.1 million, but a purchase and sales agreement had yet to be signed, Davis said. Farrell said he is purchased the rear two acres of the property, but not the lot along Main Street with a cottage on it.

Davis said because the town is required to follow a specific process, it could not respond further to the situation. This is a perfect example, she said, of why the community needs a private trust that can respond to the availability of land suitable for affordable housing fast than municipal government. That happened with a few years ago with a house on Crowell Road which a private group purchased, renovated and then sold to the town to be rented under the Marconi-MCI rent-to-own program.

“It's the only way we're going to stem the tsunami that's happening here,” Davis said, referring to the current red-hot real estate market. “And I say that as a serious call to action.”

“I understand the importance of affordable housing,” Farrell said in a phone interview earlier in the day. “I just don't think that it should be on land that is wooded. I think there are plenty of options in town” on land that has already been cleared. He pointed to several town-owned parcels in already-developed areas, such as the Eldredge Garage property and 127 Old Harbor Rd.

Town meeting will be asked to devote the latter parcel to affordable housing through a petition article. Davis said officials continue to negotiate with the Buckley family on the sale of property at 1533 Main St. for affordable or attainable housing, although whether talks will be concluded in time to put the sale before town meeting voters remains uncertain.

Town meeting will also address several other affordable housing-related articles. They include designating town-owned land on Middle Road for that purchase and petitioning the legislature to allow the town to impose a property tax surcharge on land sales of $2 million or more to raise money to fund affordable and attainable housing.