Ocean View housing gets green light
The Ocean View Foundation has been given the green light by the Planning Board to proceed with converting its two rental properties off of West Side Road into affordable housing units. The project, a joint effort between the Ocean View Foundation, a non-profit organization, and the Block Island Housing Board, will be included in the island’s affordable housing inventory.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the project, with Mary Anderson recused and Dennis Heinz absent, at its Nov. 14 meeting. Vice Chair Sven Risom made the motion that was seconded by Socha Cohen. As part of his motion, Risom thanked Ocean View Foundation members Kim Gaffett, and Josie Merck, and the Block Island Housing Board.
“Thanks to Kim,” said Chair Margie Comings, after the vote was taken. “It’s very exciting.”
The project involves converting one lot with two separate dwellings into two separate lots. One of the structures is an older dwelling that will be refurbished, and the other will be a new dwelling.
The OVF has been renting to two tenants on the property for several years who will have the right of first refusal for purchasing the dwelling they occupy. If the tenants opt not to purchase, the Housing Board will sell them through the affordable housing lottery system. The OVF is also gifting the properties to the Housing Board at no cost, with the net proceeds from the sale of the homes going to the OVF.
Sea level rise
In other news from the meeting, Cohen presented the board with her report on the subject of sea level rise. Cohen told the board that she wrote her report with input from Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University, who has been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Prize in 2007.
Cohen said sea level rise is a major threat to the island, and action must be taken to address its potential impact on the island’s infrastructure. She noted that Oppenheimer gave her some observations and recommendations, and “wants to provide data to the board and help any way he can.”
The board’s discussion on the subject revolved around forming a committee, or subcommittee to address the issue. Risom said he supports Cohen’s initiative, but felt the town already has “too many committees and not enough people to sit on them. I think we should tackle this ourselves.”
“I’m concerned about the amount of time this will involve,” said Comings.
Risom said he would encourage the Planning Board to pursue answers to addressing sea level rise. He said the board could host meetings attended by experts to educate the public on the subject.
After deliberating the topic for about half an hour, the board decided to hold special meetings outside of their regular meetings to tackle the issue.
Risom and Spier step down
Prior to the meeting’s conclusion, the board noted the resignations of Vice Chair Sven Risom and board member John Spier.
Risom said, “I made a commitment to leave the Planning Board after being elected to the Town Council.”
Risom and Spier will serve out the remainder of their four-year terms, which end Dec. 31.
The Planning Board will begin conducting a search for their replacements.