City of Truro reunion covers housing crisis and loss of community year round

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TRURO – Voters in the city took forward initiatives to maintain and build a year-round community at the city’s annual meeting on Saturday at the Truro Central School Ball Court.

Items approved by voters during the four-hour meeting included the annual municipal budget of $ 21.6 million for the next fiscal year, a pilot child care voucher program for 2-year-olds, a increase in the excise tax on room occupancy, an affordable housing stabilization fund, facilitate the construction of secondary suites and create a year-round rental housing trust.

Voters have tabled proposals to change whether three municipal regulatory boards should be appointed or elected.

An estimated 189 voters gathered for the 10 a.m. meeting, according to City Clerk Kaci Fullerton. A quorum of 100 registered voters had to be present before the meeting could begin, and was recounted once towards the end of the meeting.

The meeting was originally scheduled for May 1, but was extended until Saturday and was held outside as a precaution against COVID-19.

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Extra free money

Truro voters at the June 26 annual town hall meeting waved cards to approve a $ 22 million omnibus budget for the next fiscal year.

Almost $ 1 million in additional free cash allowed the city to offset the tax rate for the coming fiscal year, purchase a $ 170,000 heavy tractor truck, repair and replace windows, shingles, siding and trim for $ 228,000 at the school; and adding money to several of the city’s stabilization and trust funds, as approved by voters on Saturday.

For Truro, the free money includes state-certified money from the beach and transfer fees collected throughout the year, finance committee chairman Robert Panessiti said.

“The number is particularly high because of COVID last year,” Panessiti said. The summer season has been more robust than expected, resulting in increased fees collected. Usually, the city’s annual available money is around $ 2 million, but this year it was around $ 2.7 million, he said.

Simplified secondary housing law

Several zoning by-law changes have been passed, making it easier for landowners to add secondary suites. A citizens’ petition, section 22, which was approved, eliminated a review by the planning council and authorized an additional unit “of right”.

A handful of voters described the oversight of the Planning Council as “onerous” and “expensive”. Section 22 follows state guidelines in its efforts to resolve the housing crisis in the region, State Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, said in support of the article.

According to current city regulations, there are nine accessory housing units, according to town planner Barbara Carboni. Some who spoke on Saturday said more than nine units should have been built under the current regulations. Other voters felt that eliminating the Planning Council would reduce comments from neighbors and leave them no recourse.

In addition to the passage of section 22, voters reduced parking requirements for accessory housing units, reduced copies of physical requests and added digital copies of requests, eliminated submission requirements beyond under the jurisdiction of the planning board, eliminated building elevation plans when no exterior changes were made and a handful of other measures, all supported by both the Board of Directors and the Council of planning.

Creation of an affordable housing fund

Two other past articles will tackle the housing crisis from another angle.

“I can’t say it more strongly. We had a housing crisis before the pandemic. Now it’s on steroids, ”Cyr said while discussing sections 19 and 20 of the petitions. These measures will increase the local excise tax on room occupancy by 2% and establish an affordable housing stabilization fund – with 33% of the annual excise tax on room occupancy dedicated to this fund.

Truro's annual town hall meeting was held outdoors on Saturday, June 26, at the Truro Central School ball field.

Many community members were unable to attend because they were working or were at home with their children, resident Mara Glatzel told voters at the meeting, in support of the two articles.

“We act like everyone is in the room,” Glatzel said.

Efforts like an affordable housing stabilization fund are essential, and it will take much more than that, she said.

Some voters expressed concern that they did not want another fund established because several funds already exist, such as the City General Fund or the City Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Setting money aside for a certain purpose keeps the money from evaporating, Cyr said of the importance of the stabilization fund. He compared it to a savings account for housing projects. The allocation of money within the fund would be discussed at future city meetings, supporters said.

Childcare voucher pilot pass

A pilot program of childcare vouchers for 2-year-olds was adopted at the request of the Board of Directors, with modifications on the basis of a citizens’ petition.

The school currently has a pre-K program for children ages 3 and up.

The Eastham-inspired voucher program is aimed at Truro families or Truro City employees with children. The program is one year. The voucher would be direct tuition assistance for state-approved child care services up to a maximum of $ 7,500 for each eligible child.

While one citizen spoke out against the article, saying in part that the program should be based on financial need, many others spoke in favor.

“We want families to thrive here,” said one voter.

The voucher program would not only help young families, but would better help support an economy year round, supporters said.

The similar citizen petition had no mechanism to pay for the program and was postponed indefinitely on Saturday.

Year-round rental housing trust passes

Truro voter Raphael Richter championed housing initiatives at the June 26 annual town hall meeting in Truro.

A citizens’ petition creating a year-round rental housing trust was also adopted.

The creation of the trust is a first step in helping families who earn more money than traditional categories of affordable housing, but still cannot afford housing in Truro, said petitioner Raphael Richter.

A family that earns about $ 80,000 a year and has a few children often has to move out of Truro because the rental market fails them, and they are disqualified for housing traditionally considered affordable housing, Richter said.

No money was asked of city voters with the vote to build confidence, Richter said. In the future, this could be a possibility, although the trust may also receive funding through other means such as grants, he said.


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