Average rent for accessory apartment is $1,100
The average accessory apartment rental rate on Block Island for 2018 was about $1,100, “which along with other expenses is not an easy monthly payment.” That’s what Building Official Marc Tillson said while providing his section 513 accessory apartment inspection report at the Town Council’s Sept. 19 meeting. His department performs the inspections every three years.
Tillson said he began the process in May, and conducted inspections of “49 accessory apartments. I reviewed the leases provided to me by some of the homeowners and found that rental rates for 2018 ranged from $500 per month to $3,500 per month.” A complete list of the 513 apartments can be found on the town’s website.
Under section 513 of the town’s zoning ordinance, it is noted that an accessory apartment consists of a 1,200 square foot maximum footprint, with a maximum of two bedrooms not less than 340 square feet each, and separate cooking and sanitary facilities. The ordinance stipulates that accessory apartments are restricted to year-round occupancy, and may not be offered for seasonal occupancy, unless the occupant derives income from employment on the island.
“I can report that 48 of the apartments are being properly occupied by year-round residents, and seasonal residents, in our commercial zones who derive income from employment on the island,” he said. “The apartments provide housing for five of our town employees.” Tillson said, “One 513 apartment was occupied by the owner, while the main house was being rented at market value” — a violation. He noted that he will be following up with the owner, and proceeding with enforcement, if necessary.
Councilor Chris Willi said Tillson’s list is helpful to the council for understanding how much attainable housing is available. “This is good. It covers almost 50 people right now,” he said. “Is there anything in the ordinance that stipulates price?”
“No,” said Tillson. “One of them was quite pricey.”
Councilor Martha Ball asked Tillson if the accessory apartments are occupied year-round.
“That is the question we’re dealing with — the whole residency thing,” said Tillson. “I can’t be there to make sure the person resides there nine months out of the year. I have to take their word for it.”
Councilor Sven Risom noted “the importance of having a complete list of accessory apartments.” He also said, “There is a theoretical payout for converting a garage to a 513 apartment. We looked at building an accessory apartment on our land. I will tell you — $1,000 per month (in rental income) — it is a nightmare trying to finance that.”
“So I think we really need to think about incentives for building accessory apartments of this type. Right now there are almost no incentives for somebody to build an apartment to make it 513,” he said, “other than good will.”
The Town Council unanimously approved Tillson’s report. First Warden Ken Lacoste made the motion that was seconded by Risom.
Thomas Property zoning
The council took another step toward construction of town employee housing by amending the zoning ordinance for greater flexibility so that it could facilitate its plans for the Thomas Property. The council unanimously approved (5-0) the Planning Board’s proposed amendment to section 513 of the zoning ordinance, noting that: accessory apartment shall be constructed for the purpose of providing housing for town employees; and there shall be no more than four accessory apartments on a town -owned lot. The town has $1.5 million at its disposal to construct employee housing at the Thomas Property that was voter authorized at the May Financial Town Meeting.
Rescue Squad wrap up
Block Island Rescue Squad member Kate McConville presented the council with a summer wrap-up report for Memorial Day to Labor Day of 2018. The total number of calls was 272, down from 2017, in which there were 287 total calls. There were 303 total calls in 2016.
Notable in the report were moped and bicycle incidents. There were 46 total moped incidents, requiring six Lifestar trips, and three medical flights off. There were 39 moped incidents in 2017. And there were 28 total bicycle incidents, with one requiring a Lifestar trip to Rhode Island Hospital. There were 20 bicycle incidents in 2017.
The report noted that Lifestar made 32 trips to the island; medical personnel flew off nine times, with Block island’s EMTs flying off the island a total of 10 times.
Ball said, “There’s a broader question about public safety in the summer time. Is there any information from the Medical Center about how many accidents go into the Medical Center that don’t go through the Rescue Squad?” In response, McConville said she didn’t have that information.
“We can’t take this (report) as the sum total of what’s going on.” said Ball.
Second Warden André Boudreau noted that he has witnessed accident victims declining medical assistance due to a lack of health insurance or cost. “I think there are a lot more injuries on the island, where people don’t get treatment, that we will never know about.”
Lacoste noted that the town’s Emergency Management program received a $50,000 Emergency Management Performance Grant from the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. The funds will be used to upgrade the Police Department’s generator.
The council received correspondence from the State Police regarding the New Shoreham Police Department’s assistance with drug arrests and seizures, and resident Marilyn Bogdanffy concerning deer reduction on the island. Bogdanffy appealed to the council to “influence the DEM or any other entity to give the help we need to facilitate the eradication of deer.”
The next Town Council meeting is Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.