Affordable Housing Committee chairman Paul Cully resigned earlier this month, sparking a debate over the town’s priorities on affordable housing as well as its policies on providing information to the public.
After what he said what was three years of efforts trying to reconcile figures in the town’s Community Preservation Act funding, Cully could no longer reconcile himself to serving on the board, stating that town employees such as Town Manager Jodi Ross became an obstacle toward fulfilling his duty.
“The worse it got, the more complicit I felt if I just kept my mouth shut,” he said. “I spent a lot of time and energy and burnt a lot of bridges, so I felt I would just be better off leaving.”
Although information was provided (see attached), Cully saw the information given as inadequate and requested more, citing that it was difficult to determine whether or not his committee was doing a good job with the information he had, making it difficult to get grant money.
“Many other nearby towns, such as Chelmsford, are more proactive, although I think we’ve done a good job despite resistance in town government,” he said.
On these claims, Ross says that the issue was not providing information, but a limited amount of staff resources, stating that Cully was welcome to search through records on his own, but this was not enough for him.
“We have provided (Cully) with several spreadsheets, we’ve sat with him, he’s sat with (town Finance Director) Dan O’Donnell and (Director of Land Use Management) Chris Kluchman several times with more documentation, but he wants to go check by check over the past ten years,” she said. “These resources have been audited by external accountants and we have proof that it is correct, but he wanted a different level of proof.”
Over time, Ross said that the information provided satisfied the committee as a whole, but not Cully.
The two clashed over a removed sentence from a recent Affordable Housing Committee summary from a yearly town report, which Cully claims is censorship and Ross claims was inappropriate and placed without authorization of the committee.
In addition to frustration over information, Cully also was frustrated with the town’s views over affordable housing, which grew from “virtually zero” when the committee was founded over ten years ago to approximately seven percent now.
Perhaps what was the final straw for Cully was the difficulty last fall regarding placing affordable housing on the Edwards Parcel, a piece of land on Tyngsboro Road used as conservation land.
A citizen’s petition was brought forth to keep the parcel as conservation land, preventing efforts to build affordable housing on a small portion of the parcel.
“My mind was made up there at that special town meeting,” he said. “That the town wouldn’t help us, it really brought home the level of opposition.
The town is looking for a replacement to fill Cully’s vacant seat, interested residents can fill out a form on the town website.