Chilmark debates the matter of affordable housing inheritors
Chilmark selectmen wrestled Tuesday with restrictive language that would apply to an affordable town lot that was awarded to a couple last month. At issue is a deed rider that allows an heir of a family awarded an affordable housing lot to inherit and reside in the house, only if he or she meets affordable housing guidelines.
Last month, Dardanella and Sean Slavin won the right to purchase a 2.1-acre lot in the High Meadows development for $40,000. As part of the pre-application process, the Slavins received a housing packet that included a summary of deed restrictions, but the restrictions on heirs was not included.
As a result, the Slavins told selectmen Tuesday night they were not aware of the restrictive language until final documents were being prepared.
Ms. Slavin told selectmen she was aware of another Island case, in which the heirs could inherit affordable housing property regardless of income. Ms. Slavin told selectmen she read the summary information carefully and was relieved not to see affordable income restriction on heirs.
Selectman J.B. Riggs Parker said he was reluctant to allow the affordable housing unit to be lost to future qualified buyers in need of affordable housing. Mr. Parker said that although the summary information did not specify that descendants must qualify under the income standards it was not a legal document.
Chairman Frank Fenner expressed reservations. "I agree we need to retain affordable housing, but these applicants applied in good faith, using the information we provided. Perhaps we should allow this one and fix this for the future," Mr. Fenner said.
Warren Doty was also willing to extend some latitude. "The Island Affordable Housing Trust has allowed descendants to inherit without restriction. And although we lose an affordable unit in this case, it will keep a family on the Island for several generations," Mr. Doty said.
Mr. Parker said that allowing the inheritance exception might be in violation of town bylaws that were passed to ensure that affordable housing property remains so in perpetuity. "I have checked with town counsel, and he agrees that we would need to go back to the town for a bylaw change," he said. Mr. Parker added that ground leases for properties in the town's Middle Line Road affordable housing development do not allow descendants to take property in that development unless they meet income guidelines.
After discussion, selectmen sent the matter back to the housing committee and to town counsel for review.
After being assured by Ms. Slavin and administrative assistant Chuck Hodgkinson that the matter would not affect a scheduled April 15 deadline for the Slavins to close on the lot, selectmen voted to reconsider the matter on March 3.
In other action, selectmen and the personnel board agreed on an interview process for candidates to succeed retiring police chief Timothy S. Rich. Mr. Fenner appointed Mr. Parker to represent selectmen in the initial screening interviews. All three selectmen will participate in public interviews with the finalists.
The board agreed to solicit public comment on the hiring process for the new chief when they meet on March 17.
Mr. Parker told selectmen that a contract is to be concluded this week with American Tower Company to provide a distributed antennae system in the three up-Island towns. The system, which will provide improved up-Island cell phone and emergency phone service might be operational this fall, according executive secretary Tim Carroll.
Selectmen also agreed to consider granting aquaculture permits to out of town residents, as part of an ongoing program to develop the Island shellfish industry.
Mr. Doty reported that the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Division of Marine Fisheries are close to granting experimental licenses to Chilmark and West Tisbury to develop ocean aquaculture zones. He said also that Chilmark, West Tisbury, and the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group are planning an oyster development project on Tisbury Great Pond. They hope to receive $20,000 in grants to undertake the project, he said.
The board also approved replacement of the maintenance shed at Lucy Vincent Beach, awarded a $37,500 contract to Smith Property Care for restroom cleaning and trash removal at Menemsha between Memorial Day weekend (May 22) and Columbus Day weekend (October 11), and approved a contract for $74,650 to Island Water Source in Edgartown, to dig 10 wells at the Middle Line Road affordable housing site.