New affordable apartment units proposed

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 7:15am
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One nearing the starting line, one in the works.

With most of the approvals for the Cherry Hill Lane development lined up, the Block Island Housing Board turned to a new phase of that project, and learned about another planned affordable apartment project at its most recent meeting.

The new project was unveiled in a letter from the Harbor Church asking the Housing Board to endorse a plan to renovate the third floor of the church building into four one-bedroom apartments as affordable rental units. The church requested that a “letter of sponsorship” from the Housing Board be sent to the Zoning Board, which member John Spier agreed to draft.

As to the ongoing affordable housing project, Cherry Hill Lane, Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas told the members that she was “hopeful that we will be able to move forward” to the construction phase by the summer of 2018.

Pappas and the board members read through a list of restrictions and easements that a new homeowners' association will be bound by. The Board plans to meet with its attorney to review changes before filing the document with the Planning Board.

Landscape contractor Derek van Lent will make additions and corrections to the landscaping plan submitted to the Planning Board, Pappas said. An application for a wetlands permit has been filed with the state. Nothing more needs to be done with the Zoning Board of Review.

The next step is to prepare for the bidding process to construct the five new homes, to be located on a 4.5 acre property off Cooneymus Road; two with two bedrooms and three with three bedrooms. They will be sold to qualifying year-round island residents, and will share wells and a septic system, an improved access road, and “significant areas [that] have been designated as open space and will be left in their natural state,” according to a summary of the project the Housing Board published in The Block Island Times in March 2017.

“Our goal,” Pappas stated, “is to do stick-built houses using island labor.” She recommended, however, that the Board also get bids and specifications for pre-fabricated structures.

Board member John Spier, a building contractor, agreed to do research on panelized or modular homes. He acknowledged that “getting a local builder to bid could be very hard,” both because contractors are booked far in advance and because the five-home development is a large job.

“It might have to be an off-island contractor,” Spier said.

“If we are really, really lucky,” Pappas concluded, “I don't think we can have a contractor until June [2018]. The best case scenario, we are looking at a fall lottery” to select families from a list of prospective homebuyers.

The next Housing Board meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m., at Town Hall.