EASTHAMPTON — At its Feb. 7 meeting, the Easthampton City Council approved $700,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for two affordable housing projects. The money had been previously set aside for this explicit purpose.

One appropriation, for $600,000, will go toward acquiring 53 acres of land at 385 Main St. for a joint project between Community Builders and Kestrel Land Trust. The project will have 87 units of affordable housing on 10 acres and 43 acres of open space.

Councilor Thomas Peake, chair of the Finance Committee, described the deal as “a pretty exciting project when two interests can come together.”

Planning Director Jeff Bagg noted that the project is “directly in line with the city’s Open Space Plan and Housing Production Plan.”

Many people at the meeting described the project as innovative and heaped praise on it, including Mayor Nicole LaChapelle who became emotional speaking in support of it. With much of the nation is in a housing crisis, the council praised all involved parties for working together to create a solution for Easthampton.

The council also approved $100,000 for predevelopment costs for a 96-unit housing unit at 1 Industrial Lofts on Ferry Street. This is the first of three requests that will total $500,000 over three years. This project will have a few market-value units, but most will be affordable housing units, according to Peter Serafino from Home City Development. The construction is expected to begin in 2025 and occupancy should begin in 2026.

The council also voted to approve $200,000 of CPA money for phase two, the final phase, of the Nonotuck Park pool project. This phase mostly includes the area surrounding the pool, including fencing and sidewalks. The project has a June 1 deadline.

Loudville Road electric poles

The council continued the public hearing on Eversource’s relocation and installation of electric poles on Loudville Road after several concerns were expressed about the number of trees being removed and whether or not Eversource had already begun the work before receiving the council’s approval.

Adam Bjelf, a representative from Eversource, described the work as needed to improve service reliability, particularly in terms of tree-related outages. He explained that a new heavier wire would be installed and needed poles that are closer together. While the council supported the work of improving the wires, they had received images that seemed to show that the work had already begun. In addition, Norman Taft, a resident who used to work for National Grid, spoke during public speak time about what he expressed as an excessive number of healthy trees being marked for removal. Although the council wasn’t sure that was in its purview, it agreed that the matter needed more clarification. The hearing was continued to March.

Ceasefire resolution

Although initially planned for a vote, the council moved its ceasefire resolution to the Rules Committee for further discussion and review after two members expressed concerns about the language and content.

Councilor Koni Denham presented the resolution, explaining that several members of the Jewish community had approached the council with “considerable concern” about the actions of both Hamas and Israel in the Middle East.

“We have a responsibility to respond to such acts of hate,” said Denham. “War is feeding that within our community.”

Council President Gomez noted that the council is not taking any positions on the issue, but asking for a ceasefire.

Councilor Brad Riley expressed concerns that nobody on the council has a “full understanding of the complexity” of the situation and about weighing into “geopolitical issues.” Councilor Owen Zaret agreed, saying that he would have issues with the wording and that historically the City Council has not made such resolutions about other similar conflicts.

Tina Lesniak
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