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October 31, 2012

YMCA pulls bid for fee waiver

Councilors, mayor still at odds over Wadleigh House subsidy

HAVERHILL — The director of the YMCA withdrew her request last night that the city waive development fees for the group’s Wadleigh House renovation.

Tracy Fuller rescinded the request at the City Council meeting after it became clear Mayor James Fiorentini and councilors were not going to find common ground on the matter.

Fiorentini began the discussion by reiterating his opposition to the request, but he also apologized for previously giving misinformation about the amount of the building fees. At a meeting two weeks ago, Fuller said the fees were $26,000. But the next day Fiorentini said they were $60,000. In fact, the fees are $29,000, the mayor said last night.

The project, across the street from City Hall, is a 22-unit housing development for low-income men and women. The YMCA demolished the former 18-unit home at 170 Main St. this past summer and plans to erect the new building in its place. The new structure, which is expected to be ready for tenants next summer, is designed to be in character with the Main Street Historic District.

Tracy has said the $4.1 million project has proved more costly than anticipated due to asbestos-related issues and other problems.

The mayor called it “a great project” and said the city has provided $176,000 in federal affordable housing money and $40,000 in site cleanup money to the YMCA for the development. But he said the city can’t afford to set a precedent of waiving development fees for nonprofits.

If the city gave the break to YMCA, the mayor said, it would be hard to justify turning down similar requests from other nonprofits, including churches, boys and girls clubs and educational entities such as Zion Bible College, the mayor said.

“It won’t make us go broke,” Fiorentini said of the YMCA request. “But If we did this for YMCA, I don’t see how we could say no to others.”

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