Affordable housing in Oak Bluffs took a big step forward Tuesday night after the town select board approved the Southern Tier Housing request for proposals (RFP).
The project aims to build 60 mixed-income affordable housing units through a phased approach on an eight-acre parcel of land off Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. All of the units will be rentals, with a focus on year-round low-income households earning up to 80 percent of Dukes County area median income, which in 2020 was $58,720 for a single person, and $83,840 for a family of four.
The RFP states that no less than 15 percent of the housing units should be designated as Community Housing, to support households earning between 81 percent and 150 percent AMI. No more than 15 percent of the project is reserved for year-round market rate housing. The project will be a mix of unit sizes and layouts, with at least 10 percent of the units featuring three bedrooms. The town is also seeking proposals that exceed minimum state accessibility requirements, and provide housing options for the elderly.
One of the RFP requirements is for the developer to also accommodate future development on the adjacent 24-acre parcel to the rear of the property. That parcel is awaiting legislative approval, following a 17-year old land swap between Oak Bluffs and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.
The project had been in the works for several years when it was highlighted in the town’s hHousing production plan in 2017. Since then, extensive planning and public outreach has led to the RFP’s approval.
The RFP is expected to be released later this month, with potential selection occurring in October. If all goes according to plan, the project would then head to town meeting for voter approval.
Laura Silber, coordinator for the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank, said she spoke with several coalition members who were all in support of the project.
YMCA president Jeanne Ogden said, as a neighbor of the proposed project, she applauded the plan, and looked forward to working with developers.
Planning board chair Ewell Hopkins said the RFP was completely in line with the planning board’s vision for that area. He added he was encouraged by this project, because it looked not only at its eight-acre parcel, but the wider implications of development in the area.
“It’s the wild, wild west out there,” Hopkins said. “It’s residentially zoned, and there’s nothing residential at all about Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road on either side, due to the vast amount of zoning-exempt organizations that are clustered in one area.”
The board voted 4-0. Select board member Brian Packish left earlier in the meeting, and was not present during the vote.
“That’s a big win,” select board member Jason Balboni said of the project.
In other business, the board approved hanging a progress pride flag for the month of June outside the police station.
The request to hang the flag was made by the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP in recognition of Pride Month.
“This is really about honoring those who came before us. Those trailblazing, really heroic queer men, women, and nonbinary people who have really made it able for us to be here,” Jenelle Gadowski, chair of the Island NAACP’s LGBTQ committee said.
The original request was to fly the flag on the police department’s flag pole, but the board did not want to display the flag under the American flag, and felt it would be better placed in another spot.
“I am in full support of LGBTQ rights, I’m in support of pride rights, queer rights, and in support of people being who they want to be, and I don’t think they should be judged by who they are or what they do,” Balboni said. “In saying that, I’m not in support of adding any flags to the flagpole where our American flag and possibly state or POW/MIA flags hang.”
Select board member Gail Barmakian agreed, saying she was in support of hanging the flag in another spot.
Packish said the flag should be at the forefront, and in a place where everyone can see it.
The board appointed Jesse (“Jack”) Law III to another three-year term on the board of assessors.