The Block Island Times

Housing Board discusses affordable housing project

By Joel Taylor | Feb 25, 2014

The Block Island Housing Board met on Wednesday, Feb. 12, primarily to review its financial situation and to discuss a project on the Brown-Smith property off of West Side Road.

Board Clerk Bonny Ryan announced that the Housing Board’s funding status is ahead of schedule compared to last February. Board member Patricia Murphy then asked the group to consider further itemizing its expense reports during projects. “We want to get better at doing things every time we do them,” Murphy said.

Regarding the Brown-Smith project, the Housing Board has settled on the basic structure designs and footprints of the five affordable housing units. The board will attempt to meet with architect Frank Karpowicz in March to discuss its design and zoning needs with him.

The project will include a pair of two-bedroom units with projected footprints of between 800 and 900 square feet. The other three units will consist of three bedrooms and are projected to have a footprint of 1,200 to 1,400 square feet. All units will be placed on slabs and will have attachments for storage with exclusively exterior access.

The board cited cost as the driving factor in the decision to place the units on slabs. “We struggled a lot with the costs of basements [in our last project],” Murphy said. Vice Chairwoman Rosemary Tobin added, “If we were to build on basements, the basements would have to count as one of the bedrooms, anyway.”

The Block Island Housing Board is hoping the project begins within 18 to 24 months.

There was also a discussion about building restrictions to be placed on the properties. To prevent additions on the properties, the Housing Board only has leverage through deed restrictions, according to Chairwoman Cindy Pappas. She said she spoke with Building Official Marc Tillson about the issue, and he has legal authority only over zoning restrictions, so “there’s nothing the town can do about [additions on the property] beyond that.”

Currently, Pappas added, the only way to prevent someone from adding to their property in a development, if the addition complies with zoning ordinances, is for the neighbors to sue the homeowner in question. The board recognized this as an issue and plans to explore further solutions. “On our developments, we have made a commitment to restrictions,” Pappas said.

Tobin asked the board members what she should tell people who inquire about the lottery for the Brown-Smith units. Ryan said, most importantly, those interested should contact Town Hall and fill out a form to be entered into the town’s database. To participate in the lottery, those submitting for consideration must be pre-approved for a mortgage. Pappas said she would advise people to “start saving because there will need to be a cash down-payment.”

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