Council, Housing Board discuss O’Brien Property

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 10:30am

The Town Council met with the Housing Board on Tuesday May 18, to discuss the O’Brien property, Plat 18, lot 2-3, which the Housing Board is currently working on developing for affordable housing. The purpose of the meeting was to answer any questions the Town Council might have in advance of the Public Hearing scheduled for May 19. The Housing Board has contracted Dan Harrington III, to perform the Class 1 survey to determine exactly what size and number of units they can actually fit on the property. Housing Board Chair Cynthia Pappas explained that the zoning change request to change from Residential A to New Harbor Commercial necessitated
a change in the Comprehensive Plan for the parcel, from low density to moderate density.
Housing Board member John Spier explained that the zoning change from Residential A to New Harbor Commercial and the corollary change from low to moderate density would allow for the building of nine or ten single-family homes. He explained that this could translate into twenty individual units if they were a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom types. These units, according to Spier, would house the same total number of people as you would find in ten single family homes, yet serve 20 separate households.
Pappas said that all types of housing is needed on Block Island, from one-bedroom to four-bedroom, and that the Housing Board is possibly looking to build townhouse-style units or attached units, with a mix of rentals and for-sale options. She added it has been a recurring theme at Housing Board meetings to make sure they are providing aesthetically pleasing housing since the units will be highly visible, especially from the cemetery.
Housing Board Member Stacy Henshaw said the board is putting together another community survey geared toward rentals. Their previous survey had been focused on what size and types of units people preferred to purchase.
Council Member Martha Ball added that many people on the island are in need of housing, and said we have to move beyond our understanding of population density, and we should instead acknowledge Spier’s point about number of people versus number of units. She also mentioned that not everyone wants to own, and some would prefer to rent.
There was a brief discussion of the idea of the town purchasing or leasing some units for specific housing needs of the town and school, with Town Manager Maryanne Crawford stating that she and Pappas had been in discussion about this possibility. Council Member Keith Stover said that the water company and other entities might want to get in on this initiative as well.
The meeting ended with the Town Council expressing their gratitude for the work the Housing Board is doing and wishing them continued success with the project. The Town Council had this item scheduled for Public Hearing on May 19, and approved the zone change.