Board members emotional over Cherry Hill Lane lottery

Call it “nerve wracking, heartbreaking”
Thu, 10/17/2019 - 4:45pm
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UPDATE: The Housing Board announced the five winners of homes in the Cherry Hill Lane development at Town Hall last night. They are (in order of selection): Bernice Johnson, Joe DeMatteo, Shannon and Louis Marsella, Jessica Wood, and Vivian Donis and Jorge Morales. Johnson and DeMatteo won a two-bedroom home, while the other three winners won three-bedroom homes. 

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The following story is from the board’s meeting on Tuesday night:

“Nerve wracking.” “Heartbreaking.”

That’s how members of the Housing Board described the lottery where five affordable single-family dwellings will be awarded to the lucky winners. The board was referencing the 13 pre-approved applicants, who congregated at Town Hall, hoping to be selected and have their names announced. Seven applicants are seeking one of three three-bedroom homes, while six applicants are vying for the two two-bedroom homes.

The Housing Board discussed lottery preparations at its meeting on Tuesday night, which includes taking receipt of a $5,000 deposit from the applicants toward their down payment. Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas said the money will be held in an escrow account created for the Cherry Hill Lane project.

The board expressed their mixed emotions about watching the diametrically opposed reactions of the winners and losers. The lottery took place Thursday night in the Town Hall chamber, after The Times went to press.

The lottery involved the sale of five affordably priced homes in the Cherry Hill Lane development off Cooneymus Road. The two-bedroom modular homes, which are priced at $250,000, and three-bedroom homes, listed at $320,000, sit on  15,000 square-foot lots. They are scheduled to be closed on and owner-occupied in January of 2020.

Pappas said the board thought it appropriate that Marianne Brown, the prior owner of the land, be the one that picks the winners names from the hat. “She’s thrilled to do it,” said Pappas, who has lauded the generous contribution of both Brown and Steve Smith throughout the decade-long process.

Board member Rosemary Tobin expressed her anxiety regarding the lottery process. “It’s very nerve-wracking,” she said. “I’m nervous right now.”

“It’s heartbreaking for those who don’t have a winning ticket,” said Pappas.

Pappas said the board needed to reiterate the process to the applicants and note the restrictions on the homes prior to the lottery. She said that means that applicants must not own property elsewhere, and be committed to living in the homes on a year-round basis, which have resale restrictions.

“To whom much is given; much is required,” said Pappas, citing a variation of Luke 12:48 in the King James Bible. 

Board member John Spier said the project is attributable to contributions from various segments of the community. “It’s very much a community recognition that this is important, valuable, and necessary.”

The board discussed the logistics regarding the project. Pappas said a benefactor is offering installation of solar panels on the homes with potential installation of battery storage units. “We are the recipients of a gift,” she said.

Spier noted the issues associated with net metering on-island, but said if the solar systems are used correctly they could save homeowners a considerable amount of money. He suggested that “the maximum number of panels” be installed on the homes. “People will have to learn how to use them.” (See related story on page 5.)

Pappas said the modular homes, constructed by Pariseault Builders, are expected to arrive in mid-November, barring weather delays, and that the landscaping for the property would be completed some time in the spring. The group will soon be issuing a Request for Proposals for landscapers.

Michael Kiley, a board member and landscaper, said that plantings could begin in May. He also said homeowners will create “a goat path” on their properties from where they routinely walk, which could assist in determining the placement of landscaping on each property.

Pappas said by mid-July the homes should all be completed, meaning that landscaping and last minute touches have been finalized. The board agreed that it would like to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at that time.

The Housing Board also discussed the Town Council’s interest in creating a subcommittee to explore the decision-making process of people who did not apply for the affordable homes. Thirty-one people attended a pre-lottery applicant meeting at Town Hall on Sept. 17.  

Pappas said that Councilor Chris Willi said the board should “reach out to the people who didn’t apply, and ask their reasons for not applying. I thought that was a good idea.”

“The next few months would be a good time to reach out,” said Spier.

This story will be updated online to report on the results of the lottery for the new homeowners, which is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17.