Town Administrator Notes
Local Town Pages will discuss town updates with Franklin’s Town Administrator, Jamie Hellen, each month.
Franklin Reaches 200 Acres of Open Space
“We just finally hit 200 acres at the registry of deeds in the last year,” says Hellen, pointing to the 70-acre Maple Hill purchase of dense forest, trails, and animal habitat, as well as the purchase of the Schmidt Farm parcel at 113 acres.
“The Schmidt Farm parcel was the largest piece of land left in town that wasn’t a golf course,” says Hellen, “As fate would have it, when the town announced in the winter that the Schmidt Farm had been recorded at the registry, the Dalzell family, that had 17 acres right next to Schmidt Farm, on the town line, on top of the hill, called up and offered the land for $250,000.
They probably could have gotten a pretty substantial amount of money, but the family was dedicated and never wanted it to be developed. That 17 acres got us to 200,” says Hellen, adding that, “on the clearest of days, from that property, you can probably see the top of the Hancock. I don’t think anyone would have ever thought that the town would have purchased any open space rather than 200 all in one year. It’s a testament to the Community Preservation Act.”
Budget hearings for the Finance Committee – May 8-11
Budget hearings for the Town Council Budget – May 24 & 25
“The big issue in the future is finance in the school district. They have a huge decline in enrollment. At the peak in 2008, they had 6,500 kids. Today it’s 4,700. That’s 1800 kids in the district lost in 15 years.”
At press time, Hellen was reviewing applications for the Davis Thayer Re-Use Committee, which will form for the rest of this year to look at what the future of that property could be. Committee appointments will be decided sometime this month, and the committee will have a dedicated page on the town website.
The town of Franklin has currently met the threshold of 10% Affordable Housing to avoid state-forced 40B construction, but Hellen pointed out, at press time, that only four Franklin properties were up for sale. The lack of affordable housing, he says, is a crisis.
Hellen hopes to secure more funding to fund a development at Franklin Ridge, across from the police station.
“We have $5 million secured, but we need $30 million,” says Hellen. “I’ve been doing lobbying, talking with Rep. Jeff Roy, Congressman Jake Auchincloss. Any funding mechanisms to get this going are critical. Even if you secure the money, it takes years to build.” Hellen notes that he believes local government “is not where (the issue of) housing should reside. It’s too expensive to be done under Proposition 2 ½ and state and federal government really need to figure a way to spur development. Everyone wants housing, but they don’t understand how expensive it is to build.”
Hellen hopes state funding will spur federal funding to get the project moving.