Chilmark debates proposed rules for affordable homesite grants
Chilmark town officials and residents debated heritability rules for affordable housing recipients Tuesday. The debate also extended to whether the town can force developers to create affordable house lots and whether the town or donors should select homesite recipients.
Selectman J.B. Riggs Parker argued that the town needs new bylaws to govern creation of affordable housing lots and choice of recipients. His colleague Warren Doty argued the town has the right to exact the lots and choose the recipients.
The debate arose around implementation guidelines proposed by the town's housing committee. The town planning board favors demanding that an affordable housing lot be donated by a developer. The housing committee has proposed that if three or more lots in a subdivision will be sold for profit, a fourth lot must be designated for affordable housing, and the recipient chosen by the town, housing committee chairman Andrew Goldman said. The town now allows large lot owners to carve a substandard lot of at least an acre from their holdings, if the remainder amounts to at least three acres. In such cases, the town allows the property owner who creates the substandard lot, which must be sold or given as an affordable housing lot, to choose the recipient of it.
Frank Fenner, the third selectman, acknowledged what he said were valid concerns on both sides of the lot designation question. Mr. Doty and Mr. Parker did not share his generous embrace of the issues, particularly on the question of whether land donors or the town ought to designate recipients. Mr. Doty supported the town's right to select recipients regardless of the donor source, citing his experience as chairman of the housing committee several decades ago when the committee designated recipients of what were called "youth lots," on which mostly young residents could build homes.
Mr. Parker argued that there is no force of law to support Mr. Doty's position. "That has been the Chilmark practice - that you need to [provide a lot in exchange for development approval]. But it's not a power we have. Now comes the housing committee and says developers can't designate the recipients. That's double jeopardy. First, they donate the lot, then they can't designate the recipient," he said.
Mr. Parker said the matter should go before the town and that the town's bylaws ought to reflect the voters' judgment. "We shouldn't shave it or body English it. It's improper," he said.
"It is proper," Mr. Doty said.
Mr. Parker cautioned that more work is needed on bylaws regarding homesite awards. "We have people coming here now that know the rules," he told Mr. Doty.
Debate also considered deed riders permitting children of affordable housing recipients to inherit property regardless of income and whether private and commercial developers should be allowed to designate recipients of affordable lots they donate to the town.