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Buy out issue still cause of controversy in Peabody

PEABODY – After nearly three years, a possible buy out for 17 affordable housing units that were never constructed still remains a hot topic at Peabody Industrial and Community Development meetings.Tuesday night, Attorney John Keilty, who represents Peabody Crossing LLC, the developer involved, said that his client has worked diligently to build the promised remaining units, but after being turned down by city councilors multiple times for multiple reasons, they have reached the solution to propose a buy out.Keilty said the developer has expressed their “willingness to pay to close the door on the issue.”The problem has been ongoing since 2004 when Peabody Crossing LLC originally signed a contract committing them to building 144 units of affordable housing. However, there was a provision attached to the agreement that if after considerable effort, they could not successfully build all proposed units, they could opt to buy out those that remained, which just so happened turned out to be the case.The issue now is figuring out how much the buy out rate should be for each unit, as well as how to not allow something like this to happen in the future.Committee member Edward Bettencourt said that allowing the buy out is “a big mistake.””This is going to cause the council issues,” he said. “It hurts the affordable housing number. We’re trying to get it over 10 percent and this buy out sets us back.””If you can’t build units, fine,” said committee member James K. Liacos. “I don’t have a problem with that. But, if we decide to bargain with one developer and don’t comply with the ordinances, what happens next time?”Liacos said he has been against buy outs all along.After suggested rates ranging from $23,000 to $37,900 per unit were proposed, committee member Judy Selesnick motioned that they send city solicitor John Christopher to go back to the negotiating table and “come up with something fair” to avoid going to court.Committee members voted unanimously in favor of her motion.

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