Housing tops warrant in Chilmark special town meeting
After five years, five town meeting votes, and several unexpected twists and turns, Chilmark voters will decide Monday whether to spend $2,000,000 to complete the Middle Line Road affordable housing project.
That question is the main attraction of a special town meeting Monday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 pm, at the Chilmark Community Center.
The Middle Line Road article asks voters to authorize selectmen to borrow $1,400,000, and appropriate $600,000 from Community Preservation Act (CPA) Funds to build three rental duplexes.
The Middle Line Road project, six rental units and six single family houses, will be built on 21 acres of heavily wooded town-owned land located about a half mile down Middle Line Road, a dirt road that intersects with Tabor House Road just north of the town landfill. The town will build and own three duplexes, which will contain the six rental units. The town will also award six building lots on the site to families that qualify on the basis of their income. The lots will be awarded by lottery. Those six people will be responsible for planning and building their own homes. A plan currently under consideration would require each lot recipient to pay the town $20,000 to cover its costs.
The project has progressed through five town meeting votes and an extensive permitting and public hearing process. Next week's warrant article will be the sixth time voters have considered the project.
"It requires a two-thirds vote for the bond portion of it. That's a lot of community support," said Andy Goldman, chairman of the Chilmark housing committee. "The matter has been before the town five different times. Five different times it's been overwhelmingly or unanimously approved."
The first of those votes was in September of 2004, when town voters approved $45,000 to fund a feasibility study for the Middle Line Road housing project. To date, the town has committed $905,850 to the project. Costs include legal work, site plans, land and rights acquisitions, wells, roads, utilities, and $38,721 to conduct an archaeological survey at the request of the Wampanoag Tribe and state officials.
The state has contributed $610,450, in the form of CPA matching funds. Town officials say the $2,000,000 in the warrant article for next week's special town meeting should be enough to cover the cost of the project, which is estimated at $3,516,000.
The town will retain ownership of the land with long-term ground lease contracts with the homeowners, structured so that the homes will remain affordable in the future.
"I'm very hopeful and enthusiastic of getting it approved," Mr. Goldman said. "In early January we will be leasing affordable home sites, and they will be able to start building their houses."
Also on the warrant next week are two articles totaling $30,400 for repairs to the Chilmark Community Center and to resurface and repair the parking lot. Voters will also decide whether to appropriate $3,500 to repair the Old Menemsha School and shed.
Voters will be asked for $18,000 to remove dead standing trees along town roads.
Another article would change regulations governing electrical inspectors. Now, the town electrical inspector cannot do electrical work in Chilmark. The article would allow the inspector to do work in Chilmark, as long as another qualified inspector inspects the work to make sure it meets all state wiring codes.
Finally, a housing-related article would designate the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority to act as the town's agent to "create, administer and enforce" covenants intended to keep affordable housing properties affordable, after the original homeowner moves out.