Answer is still no to CPA funds for affordable housing bank

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Echoing their discussion last week (Feb. 16, “Selectmen balk at CPC funding for regional affordable housing”), the Edgartown selectmen refused Monday to add a nonbinding question on the annual meeting warrant that proposed funding for a regional affordable housing bank.

“Are you in favor of establishing a regional housing bank, to address the critical housing needs on the Vineyard? The initial funding for this housing bank will come from a portion of each town’s existing Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.”

That was the question Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, and realtor and businessman Robert Sawyer wanted posed to Edgartown voters.

“We’d like to give the opportunity for all of the community to voice how strongly they feel about this affordable housing crisis,” Mr. Sawyer told the selectmen.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck said that this sort of housing push requires a different source of funding, not CPA funds.

“I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t see your way clear to take the CPA out of it,” Mr. Smadbeck said. In the end, Mr. Smadbeck did move to include the nonbinding question on the spring ballot, but selectman Margaret Serpa declined to second it. The third selectman, Michael Donaroma, was not at the meeting.

“I’m not in favor of it,” Ms. Serpa said. “It’s not the process that the selectmen use to spend money.”

Mr. Smadbeck said the “temperature has already been taken” regarding the community’s understanding of the need for affordable housing.

In a later telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Jordi said, “We’ve been working pretty hard on affordable housing for decades, and we’re looking at leadership to step up and look at it differently. We’ve been talking about it for years, and we’re still in the same place. Look at the Land Bank model — they’ve been able to do what they’ve done because they have the resources and the capacity.”

He said that the state and the governor are looking at enhancing current legislation that imposes a 5.7 percent state tax, and up to a 6 percent local tax, on hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. The proposed changes would amend that legislation to include any vacation, leisure, or short-term accommodation that would otherwise not qualify as a hotel, motel, lodging house, or B and B. And it would reduce the length of time of taxable occupancy from 90 days or less to 31 days or less.

“That’s the kind of revenue source that I think could have a significant impact,” Mr. Jordi said. “It’s hard to create a new revenue source, because it usually means adding a tax, and people don’t like that. This rooms tax has potential.”

In other business Monday, selectmen voted to approve the sale of $665,571 in water bonds to pay off the temporary note issued to fund renovations to the town’s standpipe.

The issue date of the bond is Feb. 28. The town’s annual principal payment will be $18,489, due each Feb. 28 through 2052. On Feb. 28, 2053, the town will pay $18,456, including the interest due, calculated from the date of issue.

The selectmen again considered the hours of operation for Isola, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria on Church Street. The restaurant’s owner, Peter Sullo, failed to show up at last week’s selectmen’s meeting. The subject was on the agenda for this week’s meeting, but again Mr. Sullo did not show up.

Mr. Smadbeck noted that the restaurant was open on a recent Sunday with live entertainment. “That’s a violation of his license,” Mr. Smadbeck said. Hosting live entertainment on a Sunday requires a special state license.

The selectmen admitted to some confusion as to the hours the restaurant is in operation in the off-season. Karen Fuller, an assistant to the selectmen, suggested they send a warning letter to Mr. Sullo, explaining that he must operate in accordance with the terms of his license.

Every other restaurant has solid hours, Ms. Fuller said. “There are people sweating it out with year-round business, and this isn’t fair to them,” Ms. Fuller said.

“Let’s try to help [Mr. Sullo] get on the right track,” Mr. Smadbeck said.