Bridge Housing will close on Norton land
Thirty new, affordable homes in Vineyard Haven will come closer to a reality this month, when Bridge Housing Corp. purchases a 14.8-acre Tisbury site at State and Deer Hill roads from the family of Jim and Sonya Norton of Vineyard Haven.
The nonprofit group, including representatives of several Island religious organizations has been working on the housing development, to be called Bridge Commons, for five years. The Chapter 40B project has gained the approvals of all necessary agencies, and won two previous court appeals brought by neighbors. Bridge is going ahead with the purchase, despite a pending appeal of a Land Court decision, which is in the Court of Appeals in Boston.
"At long last, Bridge Housing is purchasing the site," Ike Russell, a Bridge board member, said last week. The tentative closing on the land is May 18. The corporation has secured a loan for nearly $1.7 million from Boston Community Capital, Mr. Russell said.
"They are taking a little risk with us because they think we're going to do it, and we do too," said Mr. Russell who added that his group is confident it will win the current lawsuit brought by Ken Bilzerian and Kristen Henshaw.
The Land Bank Commission will close on the same day for an adjoining parcel of 9.1 acres next to Ripley Field Preserve.
A sketch of a two-family Bridge Commons House.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission signed off on the project in June 2003, and the Tisbury zoning board of appeals unanimously approved Bridge Commons in November 2004, with a list of 46 conditions. Both decisions were appealed and decided in favor of Bridge Housing.
Despite those setbacks, the Bridge Housing board members are determined to go ahead with the project. The effort started at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven and representatives from churches in other Island towns joined. "The impetus has come from this same group of people who just kept pushing," board member Barbara Shriver of Edgartown said.
The board of directors brings a range of skills, including two builders, a lawyer, and business people, Ms. Shriver said, adding that she is the designer. In addition to Mr. Russell and Ms. Shriver, Bridge board members are Dick Mezger, president, of West Tisbury, Mike Shepard of Vineyard Haven, Brad Austin of Oak Bluffs, and Bruce Slater of Chilmark. Robert Chidsey of Chilmark has retired from the board.
The members of the original Housing Ecumenical Action Team, which created Bridge included the following congregations: Grace Church, St. Andrew's Church, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, the Federated Church of Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center, St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha's Vineyard.
The Rev. Robert Edmunds of St. Andrews Church and the Rev. Robert Hensley of Grace Church have also provided extra support to Bridge. Bridge received a $20,000 recoverable grant from the Episcopal City Mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Mr. Russell said.
Two other big players in Bridge Commons, Mr. Russell said, are the Island Housing Trust and the Island Affordable Housing Fund, which gave the group a boost with a $25,000 donation. "It was the first real vote of confidence from donors in this area," Mr. Russell said.
"They gave us moral support," Ms. Shriver added. "They opened the eyes of this community to the unfortunate situation of teachers," she said, noting how beginning teachers who come to the Vineyard find they cannot afford to live here. Other professional people who could benefit from the housing are Martha's Vineyard Hospital employees. "Our goal is to keep people like that on the Island," Ms. Shriver added.
Bridge Commons will consist of 15 one-, two- and three-bedroom duplex homes built around two common areas. The modular construction units ranging from 800 to 1,100 square feet will be two stories, either in a farmhouse style or Cape style.
Tisbury town water will be brought to the site and advanced denitrifying septic systems will be used. The town board of health has approved the septic systems plans. Other Tisbury officials who have approved the plans include the board of selectmen, the planning board, the Tisbury School principal, and the police and fire chiefs.
Mr. Russell believes the location for Bridge Commons will be convenient, since it is not too far out of Vineyard Haven. A new bus stop for the Vineyard Transit Authority and school buses will be built near the entrance on State Road. The entrance to the property will be near the Scottish Bakehouse.
The homes will be priced for families or individuals at three income levels: those earning less than 80 percent of area median income; those earning up to 120 percent and those earning up to 140 percent. The house prices for a family of three at those three income levels would be $157,000, $278,350, or $330,500. Other prices are based on family size and unit size. No more than 33 percent of a family's income can go toward the housing. Each of the 30 families purchasing the homes will get its own mortgage and pays its own property taxes.
Fifteen dwellings will be for those at the 80 percent level, nine for 120 percent, and six at 140 percent. Half of the units will meet the state Chapter 40B affordable housing guidelines, Mr. Russell said. This will help the town meet state requirements that each town have a minimum of 10 percent of its housing stock at affordable levels.
Bridge will be permitted by state law to give preference to Tisbury residents, Mr. Russell said. Under the Chapter 40B regulations, 70 percent of the homes can be set aside for Tisbury residents, which will include employees of Martha's Vineyard Hospital and Island schools.
The development will be permanently affordable, Ms. Shriver pointed out. When a home is sold, it has to go to another individual or family who qualifies under the affordable housing guidelines.
Island residents who are interested in owning a home may call Terri Keech at the regional housing authority, 508-693-4419, for more information.