Emotions ran high and tempers flared at the West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting last week. The pending publication of a request for proposals (RFP) for the Bailey Park affordable housing project provided the flash point.
The Bailey Park project involves the construction of three affordable houses in a subdivision on Bailey Park Road. To date the town has invested $45,000 to gain access to the road and hook up to existing utilities.
Affordable housing committee chairman Michael Colaneri and committee member Glen Hearn asked selectmen to sign off on an RFP so they could begin advertising for a developer of the Bailey Park project. However, selectman Richard Knabel had questions about the language of the RFP. He identified the questions in a two-page review submitted to town counsel for review.
As a result, chairman Diane Powers said that approval of the RFP would be delayed for a week or two. The prospect of delay did not sit well with the housing committee members.
Mr. Hearn told the selectmen that after three or four years of meetings and discussion and the hiring of Bailey Boyd Associates of Harwich as consultants, the committee believed it was ready to move ahead with seeking the developer.
Mr. Colaneri said he did not want the process to be further delayed and that advertising could begin while the legal issues were clarified. “If we move forward with advertising the RFP, we can take a long time to decide what we are doing or not doing based on the response to the RFP,” he said.
Mr. Colaneri questioned whether the committee could proceed once the town procurement officer, town administrator Jen Rand, had signed off on the RFP. Ms. Rand said that the selectmen must approve the RFP, because it involves disposition of real property the town owns.
The discussion heated when Mr. Colaneri referred to state law that he said gives the affordable housing committee certain amounts of autonomy, especially in matters governing the disposition of land. “You can discuss this all day, but I will not sign it,” Ms. Rand said.
Ms. Powers, who is also the elected Dukes County Register of Deeds, voiced her concern with the RFP’s use of the terms “ground lease” and “fee simple.” She said that the language is used interchangeably but the meanings differ significantly.
One of Mr. Knabel’s concerns, he said, was to avoid what he referred to as another “Cote debacle.” The reference was to a house built on one of two affordable housing lots lost to foreclosure. The town was forced to go to court to regain control of the house and return it to the town’s affordable housing inventory.
Mr. Colaneri took exception. “I think we have had some good experiences here in town,” he said. “We have had some situations that are unfortunate. I would not categorize them as a debacle. I would say they were unfortunate, and hopefully those situations have been corrected so that this project will not have the same issues.”
In other business, following a brief debate over the size of the library building committee, the selectmen — seven full members versus five full members and two alternate, or associate, members — the selectmen approved seven full members of the committee: Linda Hearn, Tucker Hubbell, (Robert) Paul Levine, Mark Mazer, Peter Rodegast, Robert Schwartz and Leah Smith.