Cherry Hill Lane subdivision moving ahead

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 5:45pm
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“Has anyone been up there?” asked Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas regarding the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing project located off Cooneymus Road. The Block Island Housing Board met on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to discuss updates on the project.

Member Stacy Henshaw noted she had visited the site in January, and “it looked really good. Good progress was being made.”

“I think we are doing great — as with any project there have been little wrinkles here and there, but Pariseault [Builders] has been great to work with, and Sam Bird is helping me have some eyes on the property.” Pappas described the hiccups as “inconsequential, I think there are a few things from the modular company production, a few little wrinkles,” said Pappas.

“I think that would be normal,” said member Rosemary Tobin.

“Pariseault has been able to retrofit and adjust accordingly. For instance, one thing was the way the windows were installed. I think the modular company wasn’t planning on the trim package that we had stipulated. We asked for and paid for trim,” said Pappas.

Pappas noted the windows “installed are a little bit bigger than the windows that were on the plan, which then interfaces with the porch roof, so they had to make an adjustment on the pitch of the roof... I’m very happy with the floor plan... There’s lots of space for storage in the attics, the drop down stairs are there,” said Pappas.

“Have any of the neighbors said anything about the houses?” asked member Michael Kiley.

“The comments I have seen are that people feel that it is really spacious,” said Pappas. “It doesn’t feel like the houses are on top of each other.”

Cherry Hill Lane has five affordable homes off Cooneymus Road. The lottery was held back in October when 12 applicants gathered to learn who would be chosen for the homes. Shannon and Louis Marsella, Bernice Johnson, Vivian Donis and Jorge Morales, Jessica Wood, and Joe DeMatteo had their names picked.

Pappas went on to say she has been in touch with Pariseault Builders to check on progress, “I’m in contact with them at least once a week, and on site a number of times a week. I don’t have any decisions that we need to make, they are just doing their thing,” said Pappas.

“What’s the target date now?” asked member John Spier.

“I think we were figuring April 1. The interior work, they have to fix where the boxes come together, they haven’t addressed. People will come in and do the flooring. The electricians and plumbers have to make the final connections. There’s not a lot of interior work to do, it’s really the exterior,” said Pappas.

Lottery protocol

“I put this on here, just to have you think about and review how we set up the last lottery: is there anything we would like to change, improve, modify, in the future so this gives us an opportunity to freshen our minds?” asked Pappas.

“The one thing I had, mulling over: in this situation, we had 12 qualified candidates, we had five houses available, all 12 candidates got a number. The first five got the houses, so numbers 6 through 12 got a number and no house. I’m just wondering, for the future, if we kept that list (numbers six through 12), and in the next project, number six would have the opportunity to say yes, I’m interested, or not, but they would have the first opportunity to say yes or no. And if they are interested, to see if they are financially qualified for it,” added Pappas.

“Before we do a lottery?” asked Tobin.

“Right. The reason I had been thinking about this is that there were people who were in the lottery again and again, for instance, the Marsellas. If they had not pulled the winning ticket, I think that would have been their fourth or fifth lottery of not pulling a winning ticket,” answered Pappas.

“On my feedback from people, I think we need to make it more clear on what the rules and regulations are for who qualifies,” said Tobin.

“Every single project has had different rules, and we are trying to keep it uniform. Our project is the same qualifications as Coast Guard Road was,” said Pappas.

“Can we change that rule, you do have to live here for a certain amount of time?” asked Tobin.

Pappas said that the lottery adhered to the Federal Fair Housing law, which does not stipulate any length of time for residency to become eligible for affordable housing.

“I told people it was out of our control — we can’t say you could have lived here for four years. Because it’s affordable housing, it’s a federally mandated thing. I try to explain to people, someone can come from the mainland, and if they are qualified and became a resident, they can get it. That’s where people are shocked, but that’s the federal jurisdiction,” said Tobin.

The board discussed the next steps for individuals who are qualified for affordable housing, and how to move forward with future housing protocol.

Member Millie McGinnes offered up the idea of creating opportunities that are fair to all families and individuals on the island.

“We can do a little research on what other places do,” said Tobin.

“The reward is substantial,” said Spier, who added that applying for an affordable home “is an investment of time and money to be qualified.”

“I can look into other towns and how they might do it,” said Tobin.

Pappas noted Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in having a “pretty active program.”

Henshaw brought up holding a public information session before going ahead with another lottery.

“We tried, and there’s no interest until you actually have” a lottery scheduled, said Spier.

“It’s a good discussion, on thinking ahead. Let’s keep those thoughts moving,” said Pappas.

“There’s always going to be some feedback, but the more information the better,” said Tobin.

More housing options?

Pappas began a new conversation on uses for a piece of property located across from the Ball O’Brien Park. The board discussed the next steps in using the land for new affordable rental units.

“We’ve got the property. I think that we should have a brainstorming session amongst ourselves, about what our possibilities and dreams we might have about that property. And it should be followed up with a larger community discussion. It would be good to have a wider perspective than just what is around this table to see. We might have to follow that up with a survey, to start to think about resurveying,” said Pappas.

Spier suggested putting together a proposal about finances and grants, as well as moving forward in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner for the project.

“Related to our Cherry Hill program, we always were trying to be energy-conscious. I think there would be people out there who would be very excited in participating and assisting in a green development that could be a real model,” said Pappas.

“We are paving the way for wind energy, for conservancy efforts. We are paving the way for a lot of things, why not pave the way for a community rental?” asked Tobin.

“It’s an innovative community, with a lot of resources and potential, and committed people who are willing to make this happen. That’s my interest in this project,” said Spier.

Pappas asked Spier to meet with Town Planner Alison Ring and Land Use Administrator Jenn Brady, to find out what the possibilities might be.

“First step, find out what the possibilities are legislatively through our ordinance. We need to start to think about the resurveying, the timing of that. May might be a good target date,” said Pappas.

The board agreed to schedule a discussion on an eco-friendly green rental project. Pappas said they would wait to hear from Spier before moving forward.

The next Housing Board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, March 10 at 5 p.m.