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Local government meetings come alive when there’s affordable housing involved

Is there anything more likely to stir up local interest in a municipal government meeting than a proposal for low-income housing?

Even a plan for market-rate homes that includes some affordable units often draws neighbors to meetings they otherwise would ignore. This happens in every city and town in Massachusetts that has not met the state minimum for affordable housing and the municipality has less leeway to deny developers of so-called Chapter 40B projects.

So we expect continued neighborhood interest in Milton as town officials prepare to respond to a development plan for 56 condominiums, 14 of them classified as affordable, on a 2-acre parcel on Blue Hills Parkway that once housed a busy ice business. Next up is a Select Board meeting on Wednesday, at which the “Ice House” project is expected to be discussed again.


Charles Bosworth of Braintree-based David A. Bosworth Co. Inc. submitted the application to the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency for a comprehensive permit to build the project under 40B rules, which allow developers to bypass most local regulations if less than 10 percent of the community’s housing is deemed affordable. Less than 5 percent of Milton’s housing stock is considered affordable.

The town has until the end of the month to comment to the state. The Select Board last held meetings on the project on Dec. 18 and 23.

The parcel, at 485-487 Blue Hills Parkway, abuts Pope’s Pond and long ago housed one of Milton’s three ice businesses, employing about 100 people in the late 1800s. It is now occupied by two multifamily dwellings, according to the application. Those buildings would be demolished and replaced by one L-shaped building with 14 one-bedroom, 36 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units varying in size from 738 square feet to 1,342 square feet, and priced at $200,000 to $600,000, according to the application.


The developers have an agreement to buy the land and estimate the total cost of the project at almost $20.5 million.

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Have your say: The city of Salem is asking residents — especially those living with disabilities or caring for those who do — to help make its buildings, services, and activities more accessible, with written comments due by Friday. The city wants feedback on a draft update of its Americans With Disabilities Act “Transition Plan,” a document that evaluates how well the city is complying with the federal law. A consultant, the Institute for Human Centered Design, is helping with the update and has surveyed more than two dozen public buildings, a dozen parks and other outdoor areas, and both city garages to evaluate their accessibility. That draft was presented to the community on Dec. 17 and is online at for comments.

Crow about it: In Lawrence, the Essex Art Center (photo above), 56 Island St., is celebrating the annual return of upwards of 25,000 American crows and fish crows to the city for their winter roost, with three exhibits from Friday through March 12. “By a Thread,” in the Chester F. Sidell Gallery, features photography by Elaine Bezold, Barbara Bosworth, and Andrew S. Yang. A juried collection of crow photography is shown in the Elizabeth A. Beland Gallery, and handmade books by local artists who went looking for crows are displayed in the community artist exhibition space. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. An opening reception takes place on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Visit


Hats off to them: The Ayer Cultural Council presents an exhibit by local photographer Bret Bahe called “Faces of Veterans” featuring images and narratives of local military heroes on Friday from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Ayer Town Hall, 1 Main St. Donations are accepted to benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation, which sponsors programs for veterans, current military members, and their families. Visit and

Another look: In Hamilton, a lecture commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, with speakers offering various perspectives, takes place on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Patton Homestead, 650 Asbury St. Visit

L. Kim Tan can be reached at