Pennywise housing project gets needed state support
The Pennywise Path affordable housing project, a 60-unit mixed income, town-planned, rental subdivision in Edgartown, has passed its last major hurdle.
At a meeting Monday evening, Fred "Ted" Morgan, chairman of the Edgartown affordable housing committee, told the Edgartown selectmen that the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has awarded the town $655,945 in state and federal tax credits for the project.
The tax credits will give the town the ability to borrow the remaining $6 million necessary to fund the $14 million affordable housing project.
Last fall the Edgartown selectmen signed a 99-year lease with The Community Builders Inc. (TCB), a non-profit housing developer based in Boston which the town chose to build and manage the subdivision. The closing for the real estate deal is scheduled for April. Mr. Morgan said that TCB could begin work later that month.
Mr. Morgan told the selectmen that the project has been a longtime coming. "It has been a real battle," he said.
The Pennywise project began in 1998 when Edgartown voters voted to authorize the town to purchase by eminent domain 175.7 acres of woodland between the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. The town completed the eminent domain purchase in 1999 and placed 118.7 acres of the land under a conservation restriction held by the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank.
The remaining 57 acres were set aside in two separate parcels, one on the North end and one in the Southern corner of the preserve, for future municipal uses. Among the possible uses, the town considered a fire sub-station, a new school, and affordable housing. In 2001, Edgartown voters approved a town meeting warrant article designating the southern parcel for affordable housing.
After much planning, in January 2003 the town issued a request for proposals from developers to build 40 to 70 affordable units on 12 acres of land within the 27 acres.
The town chose TCB, the largest non-profit housing developer in the U.S., to undertake the project. Since 1964, the company has constructed more than 17,000 units of affordable and mixed-income housing.
After several public hearings and many meetings with TCB, the town drafted a final development proposal and submitted it to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) for a special permit as a development of regional impact (DRI).
The MVC held its first public hearing on the project on May 20, 2004. On July 22, 2004, after much wrangling over issues such as traffic, density, and environmental concerns, the MVC voted unanimously to approve the Pennywise Path Project, along with a hefty list of conditions.
Two months later, the town overcame several more hurdles by signing a right-of-way easement with the Vineyard Golf Club, which allowed the town to run sewer lines through the golf club property to the development, and signing a 99-year lease with TCB.
The final missing pieces were state and federal tax credits to fund the project. Last February the DHCD, which is responsible for distributing federal tax credits for affordable housing, funded only 11 of the 28 projects that had applied for the money. The Pennywise project was not one of the recipients.
The project remained stalled until this month, when town leaders were notified that DHCD had agreed to fund the project with this year's tax credits.
At Monday's selectmen's meeting, Mr. Morgan thanked the many people who have been involved in the project over the years: "It has been a real team effort, starting with the voters of the town of Edgartown who agreed to go ahead and designate the land."
Mr. Morgan said he is excited to see the project finally move into the construction phase. "I think we all recognize the need for affordable housing and when it comes to fruition, this project will be a major accomplishment," he said.