Housing Committee Public Hearing Minutes
February 22, 2005
Present: Steve Schwab-chair, Zelda Gamson, Josh Scott, Thaw Malin, Bill Randol, Steve Gallas, Deborah Cini.
Selectmen: Warren Doty, J.B. Riggs Parker, Frank Fenner.
40 members of the public attended. A smaller number signed the sign-up sheet, as follows:
Kit Kenyon, Marcia Randol, Jonathan Mayhew, James Westervelt, Pat Jenkinson, Sheila Muldaur, Sarah Andresen, Robert French, Adam deBettencourt, Perry Ambulos, Sarah Kuh, Pam Goff, Clark Goff, Jonah Maidoff, Ena Thulin, Carol Merry, Bob Merry, Lev Wlodyka, Russell Walton, Lori Pfingst, Sam Hart, Christina Soulagnet, Sylvia Yeomans, Billy Meegan, Richard Osnoss, Frank Fenner, Candice DaRosa.
Steve Schwab opened the meeting at 7:30p.m. He introduced selectman Warren Doty, who presented the history of the town-owned property on Middle Line Road. He then summarized the current plan to build 6 rental units and 6 homesites as affordable housing for qualified applicants.
Steve Schwab then introduced John Abrams and Derrill Bazzy of South Mountain Company, who were hired along with their partner Keen Development Corp. by the town to do a feasibility study and initial plan for the Middle Line property. John Abrams reported that the property has 21.4 acres with three clay pits and a beech grove, along with other scenic features including Holman Road. South Mountain proposes that the town create conservation restrictions on the clay pits and beech grove. Houses would be sited and constructed so as to minimize disturbance to the property: trees would be mapped and preserved; the stone wall repaired and preserved; land kept open as much as possible. The structures to be built would be congruent with Chilmark homes, with a farmhouse appearance.
Abrams then presented two possible design plans for the property. (See attached). Plan A would group the 6 rental units together on one side of the property and 6 one-acre homesites would be lined up on the other side of the property. Plan B would cluster rentals and homesites together on three shared lots.
Questions about staging the construction and about ownership and management were raised first. There appeared to be support for building all of the units at the same time rather than having individual Homesite owners carry out construction on their own. Building all at once minimizes disturbance to the land and neighbors and insures that the houses built fit in with each other. The question of whether the town should build and manage the project or whether this job would be handed over to a non-profit organization was discussed. There were, however, several negative comments about Chilmark going into the construction and property management business.
There were questions about who was eligible for a Homesite or rental unit. The Housing Committee responded that only applicants who have worked, lived or volunteered in Chilmark and were qualified by the committee would be eligible for the lottery that would select candidates for homesites. Rental units will be allocated according to criteria set by the Housing Committee, with one or more held out for essential town employees who might not meet the residency requirement.
There were several questions about the wisdom of building affordable housing on Middle Line Rd. rather than on Peaked Hill, the other property owned by the town. Warren Doty stated that the town has not yet decided how to use Peaked Hill. There were proposals for a middle school, tennis courts, library or other recreation facilities over the years. There are two youth lots on the Peaked Hill property now, and it could be used for other kinds of affordable housing in the future.
Another question that came up in the context of the discussion of Peaked Hill concerned the youth lot program. Warren mentioned that the youth lot program was successful in the past but the creation of youth lots has dwindled in the past six years. The public asked why not create youth lots on Middle Line Road? The committee’s response was that many of the youth lot applicants are on the Homesite list and those who were not could apply for a Homesite. In any case, the Planning Board and not the Housing Committee is responsible for the youth lot program. Bill Meegan, chair of the Planning Board informed those assembled that the Planning Board would review the road under the Form C subdivision process.
A member of the Emin family asked whether the land would yield enough water for the proposed project, since he had difficulty. John Abrams replied that he has been assured that there will be sufficient water on the town property. Plan B shows each cluster sharing wells and septic; there were questions about this. John Abrams stated that the proposed structures and lots conform to zoning bylaws and board of health standards.
The question arose about the number of applicants and what restrictions would be placed on the homesites. There are currently 8 people with Chilmark connections on a list kept by the Housing Authority and 4 renters living in Chilmark houses subsidized under the Rental Conversion Program. There are 17 Homesite applicants; 13 are fully qualified by the Housing Committee and by the Housing Authority’s financial review process and 4 have been approved by the Housing Committee and await completion of the financial review. More than 5 homesite applications have been distributed recently. Qualified applicants will be selected by lottery before construction so that they will have input into the design of the homes.
As per the homesite program guidelines, homesite deed restrictions will place on homesites to keep them in the affordable housing pool.
A member of the Emin family suggested that 12 units is too large a number for the project, especially as most of them are located near the family property. Another abutter expressed disappointment that the number has grown from six units, which the Housing Committee discussed in early deliberations about Middle Line, to 12. That abutter expressed the concern that more units could be built in the future on the undeveloped portions of the property.
The public inquired about next steps. Warren Doty stated that there will be a meeting of the selectmen and the housing committee to review the project’s financing. An abutter asked if the town would have to subsidize this project in the long term. John Abrams replied that rentals would be self-sustaining and homesites would have mortgages. Community Preservation Act already put aside for affordable housing, as well as CPA funds for open land on Middle Line, would be available.
Several members of the public seemed to favor Plan A for the greater privacy it afforded and for its seeming familiarity to building patterns in Chilmark. Other suggestions were made about combining Plan A and Plan B, about using Peaked Hill in addition to Middle Line, and about changing the number of units.
There were questions about next steps. Funds for affordable housing are already in hand from the Community Preservation Act and there may be other sources outside the town. The cost to the town would be low. Frank Fenner read from the original Request for Proposals for the feasibility study that led to the employment of South Mountain Co. and Keen Development Corporation, which paved the way for another Plan C or even Plan D.
The meeting ended at 9:00p.m.
These minutes respectfully submitted by Deborah Cini.