To the Editor,

The citizens of Manchester have many reasons to give thanks this April. 

First, our Selectmen stood strong against the threats Strategic Land Ventures posed through its ill-conceived proposal for a 157-unit multifamily complex on School Street. At SLV’s fourth and final negotiation session, our representatives refused to strip the Zoning Board of Appeals of its authority and responsibilities.  The Selectmen also refused allowing SLV to jump the queue for the sewer hookup so many existing residents have been denied.  We all must be grateful to our hard-working Selectmen for their diligence and tenacity in service to the town.

Second, we must give thanks to our local nonprofit North Shore CDC and the generous local family who made possible preserving Powder House Lane as affordable housing – not as a site for McMansions.  This partnership offers great hope for NSCDC to continue serving the needs of all people, of all incomes, who wish to age in place at the heart of Manchester.

Third, Leslie Hammond, her 16 fellow campaign committee members, and 245 neighbors deserve profound thanks from the people of Manchester.  Their persistence and generosity delivered more than $1.5 million in philanthropic capital to NSCDC.  This will allow the preservation of Powder House Lane and of other naturally-affordable housing in our town’s center.

As hope nurtures joy, so tribulation nurtures patience – and fortitude.  Our town has won a battle, but has yet to win the war.  We must remain strong and dedicated to the larger goals of conservation and genuinely affordable housing. 

What do those goals entail?  Certainly, a deep understanding of the uniquely valuable ecology of Shingle Hill, a location as unbuildable as any in Manchester.  Manchester Essex Conservation Trust has been a determined defender of the site’s open space, clean water and the wildlife it sustains.  By contrast, SLV has promised an adroit amalgam of environmental injury and arrogant insult to all who seek inclusion and equity.  If SLV returns later this year, it will encounter effective, expert and unabashed adversaries in MECT and others.

A year ago, few citizens understood why affordable housing matters to Manchester.  Now we all do.  Private landlords have allowed people of varying incomes to live here, but nevertheless our state-certified affordable housing is insufficient.  Preserving 29 units at Powder House Lane is part of a local solution to that local problem, consistent with Manchester’s Housing Production Plan.  In the spirit of trust and generosity, let’s now preserve more naturally-affordable housing in the heart of our town, and also work through NSCDC and the Manchester Affordable Housing Trust to construct new housing – at Newport Park, at The Plains, and at smaller sites also within walking distance of downtown. 

Manchester has proven its mettle.  In hopeful joy and brave patience, may we sustain the spirit of this hour, and together make a great town even better.  Thanks again to our Selectmen, and to all who have rallied in this time of Manchester’s need.

Bill Cross, Citizens For Affordable Housing, Manchester