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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Approve Community Preservation Recommendations to Provide Affordable Housing to Seniors

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Preserving our past to provide expanded opportunities to our community. We need Town Meeting support for Article 6, Second Motion, and for a Resolution: 35 Town Farm Task Force Recommendation for a Future Town Meeting. Town Meeting is on Saturday, June 12, 9 a.m. on the Westford Academy Trustees Field. Town Farm is in the process of seeking approval and financial assistance through the local Community Preservation Committee to secure more than a 500 percent match in federal and state funds.

Our goal is to preserve one of the last community-owned Poor Farms in Massachusetts and to return it to its original intention of providing support to some of our most vulnerable residents. With more than 500 seniors on the waiting list for low-income housing, the current Town Farm property will be expanded to accommodate 35 new rental units for those in need. Thirty of the 35 units will be truly affordable. These units are desperately needed to begin to meet the demand in affordable housing for our seniors. The original 1837 structure will be renovated and restored to accommodate the Westford Food Pantry and community space for the seniors residing in the new rental units. The Food Pantry will have a significantly larger space easily accessible to clients and volunteers.

Volunteers will no longer be required to carry hundreds of pounds of donations into the basement of the Cameron Center. The Food Pantry itself will be funding the new refrigeration and freezers to provide expanded products for their clientele. As part of the renovation and restoration, the structure dating back to 1837 and 1903 will be brought up to current building code while preserving its history and character. These structures are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

We are very fortunate to have a very vibrant and committed Community Preservation Committee. With annual income of almost $3 million dollars and a healthy reserve balance in Community Preservation funds, we are hopeful that the community will allocate funds for this community housing and historic project. State law requires the town to set aside a minimum of 10 percent of Community Preservation funds to housing, 10 percent to historic preservation and 10 percent to recreation and open space.

The remaining 70 percent may be allocated to any of those categories. With a match of federal and state funding of over 500 percent, your vote to support this project will realize an amazing return on our investment in housing and historic preservation. Fortunately, this project has the full support of the various committees and the Select Board. This is a win/win for the community. In order for this project to come to fruition, we ask for your support of the Resolution that the proceeds from the sale of the 35 Town Farm Road be allocated towards a new Fire Training Facility in Forge Village. But the funds received need to be allocated to this new facility to support the training needs of our firefighters.

There are many pieces that must come together to preserve our past to provide expanded opportunities for our community:

1. Restore and reuse the 1837 and 1903 buildings.

2. Provide a much needed enlarged food pantry to meet demand.

3. Provide affordable housing to low income seniors.

4. Provide a new, modern and working fire training facility for the Fire Department.

You can be part of a project that touches the lives of countless members of our community while preserving our past. With your help, Town Farm will once again provide housing to our most vulnerable residents and nutrition to those in need. Be part of history and please vote yes at Town Meeting on Saturday, June 12.–Diane Hendriks, member, 35 Town Farm Task Force