A new neighborhood takes shape

Fri, 03/20/2020 - 1:45pm

Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas opened up the group’s most recent meeting with updates on the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing project. The Housing Board met on Tuesday, March 9 at Town Hall.

“Work is progressing great. Bain [Transue] is moving lots of earth, so that you can actually start to see the contours of the neighborhood taking shape. The water lines are all in, and the exteriors for the three houses in the back are pretty darn close. The modular company sent a crew over to work the edges of the roofline to coordinate with the trim package we wanted – that seems to be coming along. [Contractor] Turtle [Hatfield] was selected to do the landscaping, so Turtle and Bain are coordinating on the area,” said Pappas.

“Do we have a potential closing date?” asked member Millie McGinnes.

“Mid to late April, I don’t have a fine point on it. The plumbers have done quite a bit of work on mechanicals, and water lines to the houses. Final electrical tie-ins need to be done, and flooring needs to be done. Ceiling fans have been picked out, and half are delivered to the site. We will get them up to the site for the electricians,” said Pappas.

Cherry Hill Lane has five affordable homes located off Cooneymus Road. A lottery was held last 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 were selected for the Cherry Hill Lane homes.

Pappas said the solar panel arrays were also moving forward.

“Solar panels are getting ready,” said Pappas.

“Can you just reiterate the previous solar installations and what the offer is,” asked member Stacy Henshaw. Henshaw was referring to a program started out here by an anonymous donor who will fund solar array projects on the island.

“My understanding is that any non-profit on Block Island and any affordable housing that are deed-restricted affordable houses are eligible to apply for the solar panels, and it is a gift that is free. Anybody out there can call and get on the list. We are in pretty good shape to naturally take advantage of this,” said Pappas.

Anyone who wishes to apply for the solar array project should contact Tony Pappas at pappas.anthony@gmail.com or at (508) 272-8822.

Meeting with homeowners

Pappas mentioned holding a future group meeting to discuss specifics with the Cherry Hill Lane homeowners, and “to refresh everyone. We want to make sure they understand, and to help them start off.”

“I think its important to let them know if they are having issues, these are the steps to take for the homeowners, and what can and can’t happen,” said member Rosemary Tobin.

“I think they will appreciate having some guidance,” said Pappas.

A meeting will be set for Monday, April 13 at 5 p.m. for the Housing Board, and 5:30 p.m. for the Cherry Hill Lane homeowners.

Additional affordable housing

Member John Spier brought up the subject of the possible use of property owned by the Housing Board located across Ball O’Brien Park on West Side Road. The board discussed the next steps in using the land for new affordable rental units.

Spier had previously suggested putting together a proposal about finances and grants, as well as building the project in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. Spier said he recently met with Town Planner Alison Ring and Land Use Administrator Jenn Brady, to find out what the possibilities might be.

Spier said Brady indicated the Housing Board should talk to the Town Council about which zone the property is located in to see what kinds of projects can be developed there. “I think we can figure out what we want to do. We have been talking about some kind of combination of rentals, or ownership, or multi-family housing. I think we really need to go back to the brainstorming level and look at what kind of housing we really want to do, and figure out if it will work,” said Spier.

Spier brought up an idea of networking and finding potential organizations to assist in fundraising for the project.

“I think it’s also a different kind of fundraising if it’s rentals. Our fundraising has always been about getting the houses to the people,” said Tobin.

“I think that’s where we need to start: focusing on what we want to put there, and what can happen to the property as a whole,” said Spier.

Member Millie McGinnes presented some possible questions for an upcoming survey that will help answer some questions about what people may need in terms of housing and what could be developed at the West Side Road property.

“There are some good questions in here, as far as price range, how many bedrooms we need, what kind of housing do you prefer, issues, how long you will stay on the island. I think this survey is a good start to come up with more detailed questions. I think once we get that, we can see where the public is,” said McGinnes, who noted that finding affordable housing is a perpetual issue on Block Island. “You just don’t know when you come out here if you will make it or not” with housing, she said.

“I think we need to find out what people want, and what they can afford,” said Tobin.

“This is a great first step. We have to refine this. We are coming into a period of time where housing is important,” added Pappas.

“I say we put this [survey out] in May or June. This is a good start to it,” said Tobin.

Pappas noted island residents had communicated to her their interests in other housing options, including the construction of tiny houses.

“A lot of people did say to me, if you built a tiny house, I would sign up. There are a number of people that are singles and that have lived here for years, or maybe couples who have been here for years, that don’t want a high price tag and would be very happy with the tiny house concept. I’m not sure how that would go,” said Pappas.

“I say we do a little bit of everything. Urban development now is all about mixing it all up,” said Tobin.

“It still needs to be in the affordable range,” added member Kay McManus.

“There is a group of people out here who just want something, and something affordable. I think we can find out from this survey what people are looking for,” concluded Tobin.

Approval of Financial Report

“We are on track with our expenditures so far, and with the payments. We just received another payment request from Pariseault Builders. We are current and all paid up. We are going to make it,” said Pappas.

“That’s great,” said Tobin.