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Monday, February 6, 2017

Provincetown town meeting backs Harbor Hill purchase
$10.7M price tag also needs approval at ballot box

Source: Cape Cod Times
By K.C. Myers

PROVINCETOWN — Voters packed Town Hall and lined up at the microphones Monday night and ultimately voted to buy 26 rental units for middle-income residents.

While many at the special town meeting expressed concern over the $10.7 million price tag, more than the required two-thirds of the estimated 500 voters agreed to let the town bid on Harbor Hill, a time-share complex scheduled to be sold at bankruptcy auction.

The approval to borrow that amount also needs support of a simple majority vote at a town election Tuesday.

"I just have to have faith that this will work," said Cass Benson. "We have two boys who were here tonight. They are 12. I want them to have a place to live in 11 years."

The opportunity to go for Harbor Hill emerged suddenly in November, when state lawmakers approved the Provincetown Year-round Rental Housing Trust. The legislation allows the town to buy property for professional income earners, who in a town of coveted vacation rentals cannot find year-round rentals, even at top prices.

State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, called the opportunity to buy Harbor Hill "almost like manna from heaven, 26 units almost dropped into our laps."

Officials had to move fast to prepare bids for the auction. They have held three meetings a week since Christmas, said Selectman Thomas Donegan. They posted on Facebook and called all 2,826 registered voters to remind them to vote Monday at town meeting and Tuesday at the election, said Selectman Erik Yingling. The effort apparently worked. An overflow crowd arrived.

Although many people expressed fears about the rush to go for this unconventional idea, many more were prepared to take the plunge. When the question was called after two hours of debate, a sea of hands rose in approval.

Resident Jonathan Sinaiko said the naysayers were putting up walls "instead of doors."

"We're not launching a rocket in space here," he continued. "We don't have to get everything right before we push a button. This is about community, this is about all the people who work in this community, people we all appreciate and we take for granted ... I say let's do it. Let's take the risk."

"This has an impact on every town I represent," state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, told town meeting. "Provincetown has an opportunity here to lead the way."

In conversation with the head of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Cyr learned the staff at the nonprofit organization includes five to six scientists "who are bouncing around from rental to rental."

"I could qualify for this," Cry added.

The exact rents to be charged have not been set but should range from $1,200 to $2,700 a month depending on income of the tenants.

The price tag for Harbor Hill will also be covered by rents charged to tenants along with $1.5 million that town meeting already approved to support the housing trust program, Town Manager David Panagore said.

If approved at the ballot box, more steps remain. The town must be top bidder at the bankruptcy court auction. Sealed bids are due Feb. 14, and if the town qualifies, the final auction will take place Feb. 27.