Housing Board anxious to get moving on Cherry Hill Lane

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 9:15am

The members of the Housing Board are anxiously awaiting approvals at the state level for Cherry Hill Lane, the five-home affordable housing subdivision located just off Cooneymus Road they have been working on for the past few years, so they can begin work on another housing project: affordable rental units. The Cherry Hill Lane project is still awaiting freshwater wetlands approvals from the state, and also needs final approval from the New Shoreham Planning Board before construction can begin. Members are also worried that if construction does not begin by at least the fall of 2018, the project will have to wait another year.

“If we can get Cherry Hill Lane going, then we can get to work on the rental challenge,” said Housing Board Vice Chair Rosemary Tobin.

The Board, in its annual report, said that “it has been committed to listening to concerns and promoting an open dialogue with abutters.” Some abutters, throughout this process, have been challenging the siting of the project, saying it will change the character of what has been a rural section of the island, as well as whether the parcel was the appropriate size for a five-home subdivision.  

“Other Cherry Hill Lane items in the works over the past year include a comprehensive landscaping plan, restrictions, covenants, and easement documents, solar grant research, and research into sustainable... homes.”

The Housing Board has entered into talks with Block Island Economic Development to discuss the need for affordable rental units that would be located on property the Housing Board purchased in 2016, and which is located adjacent to the E. Searles Ball property, more commonly called the West Side 20.

“The Board has initiated meetings with BIED, discussing the need for rental housing on the island. We touched on the potential of a future joint project encompassing the E. Searles Ball property and the O’Brien property,” the report stated. “The Board will pursue the development of the O’Brien property in earnest, following the completion of Cherry Hill Lane.”

“Conceptually, there is going to have to be a lot of work on that,” said Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas, who suggested putting a discussion on that property on a meeting agenda in February. 

Pappas said they would invite members of the BIED Board. Member John Spier suggested that appointing a subcommittee to work on the O’Brien project with BIED might be a good idea.

“Just the concept is going to take a while,” said Pappas.

Board members also said that no additional action needed to be taken on the Harbor Church’s proposal to build four new apartments at the church, “except perhaps to send a letter of support about the proposal,” said Pappas.