Senior Center Vote Fails, 'Mansion Tax,' Plastic Water Bottle Ban Approved At Town Meeting

By: Tim Wood

A hand count is taken during Saturday's annual town meeting at Veterans Field in Chatham. TIM WOOD PHOTO 

CHATHAM – The proposal to build an $8.3 million senior center at 1610 Main St. failed to muster the two-thirds vote necessary to pass at Saturday's annual town meeting.

Discussions about affordable housing dominated most of Saturday's session. Voters approved several measures designed to help boost both affordable and attainable housing in town, including a so-called “mansion” tax on home sales of more than $2 million, revenue from which would be dedicated to affordable and attainable housing. Voters also agreed to appropriate $1,375,000 million to be used to purchase 2.53 acres of land at 1533 Main St. for housing if officials can negotiate the sale.

But voters rejected designating 19 acres of town-owned open space north of Middle Road for housing.

“This is a town treasure,” Ted Lucas said of the land, located about 500 feet away from Goose Pond. “It should be preserved for everyone and future generations.”

Housing also dominated the conclusion of the meeting on Sunday afternoon, when voters backed a recommendation to the select board to add a vacant town-owned building at 127 Old Harbor Rd. to the inventory of affordable housing and agreed to petition the legislature to allow Community Preservation Act funds to be used for attainable as well as affordable housing. An article advising the select board to adopt the residential real estate tax exemption allowed under Massachusetts law, which proponent Seth Taylor said would lower taxes for working families and seniors who live in town year-round, was defeated 46 in favor and 76 against.

Voters on Sunday also adopted a ban on the commercial sale of single-use plastic water bottles and supported $243,250 in community preservation funds to preserve the historic Stage Island Coast Guard boathouse.

On Saturday, the senior center proposal won a majority of the vote but required a two-thirds majority to pass because the money would be borrowed. The vote was 358-326, short of the 456 required to pass.

A number of voters said the 1610 Main St. location in West Chatham, which was being donated to the town by Eastward Companies, was the wrong place for the senior center. The site was chosen after an exhaustive search of town-owned land and buildings, town officials said, and options brought up by voters, such as the community center and the elementary school, were examined but rejected. In its 47-year history, the council on aging has been located at five different sites, said Friends of the Council On Aging President Judy Hanlon.

“A new senior center is needed because once again, we've outgrown our site,” she said.

Others said the expenditure should be put aside for the time being until the cost of cleaning up a town well recently shut down due to PFAS contamination is known.

With no discussion, voters approved the $33,045,296 operating budget, the town's $8,524,697 contribution to the Monomoy Regional School District budget, $451,856 for Cape Cod Tech, and a $2,881,200 capital budget.

Watch for a full report on our website and in Thursday's paper.