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The Block Island Times: Affordable housing development approved

Published on July 17, 2017

By Cassius Shuman Fri, 06/30/2017 - 10:00am

The Housing Board’s Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing project is one step closer to becoming a reality. That’s because the New Shoreham Zoning Board granted unanimous approval of the project, clearing the way for five qualified year-round residents and their families to enter a lottery to secure affordable housing on Block Island.

In its decision, the Zoning Board noted that abutting opposition to the project “lacked focus, and specific details” necessary to influence the board’s approvals. None of the abutters who had voiced opposition to the project throughout the application process were present at the meeting. The State of Rhode Island mandates affordable housing at 10 percent of housing development.

After the meeting, Peter Saxon, Chair of Block Island Economic Development, told The Block Island Times that he thought “the Zoning Board took into account all of the applicable regulations and ordinances, and the concerns of the neighbors to the extent possible.”

“I think this approval is a positive event for the community,” said Saxon. “It shows how concerned we are with affordable housing on Block Island.” Saxon noted that “the Housing Board will run the lottery” for the homes.

Saxon said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the development is constructed, including final approval from the Planning Board, and the “town and Building Official Marc Tillson have to weigh in on it.” There is also the matter of securing financing for the project, he said.

The affordable housing development has three three-bedroom dwellings and two two-bedroom dwellings priced under $250,000 on 4.5 acres of land at the corner of Cooneymus Road and West Side Road. The development, which still has to go back to the Planning Board for final approval, has been an eight-year project for Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas and the board.

The five-member Zoning Board of Review approved the application after member Judith Cyronak presented her findings of fact to the board. Cyronak said, “I move to approve the application by the Block Island Housing Board, Plat 14, Lot 55, for a special use permit to develop a five home subdivision under the provisions of section 405 of the zoning ordinance.”

In her findings, Cyronak said that, “the lot is a conforming 4.5 acre parcel located in the RA Zone, which permits one residence per lot. An increase in the density of 100 percent is permitted by special use permit for construction of affordable housing units; and by more than 100 percent if the proposal is sponsored by the Block Island Housing Board.”

“The subdivision comprises five single-family residences on individual lots, and three open space lots, which are not for development,” said Cyronak. “The housing meets the definition of affordable housing” per the town’s zoning ordinance. “The applicant testified that the deed would be restricted for at least 99 years,” and sold to year-round, low-income residents.

Cyronak said the five dwellings “are relatively small compared to neighboring homes, and are sited so as not to intrude on neighbors’ privacy.” She said the homes will have vegetated screening where they are closest to neighboring properties, and the development will share two wells, and an onsite wastewater treatment system, with each home having two parking spaces.

“The plan submitted did take neighbors into consideration in the areas of road improvements, landscaping, and the overall lot coverage,” said Cyronak. Cyronak said that pending “final subdivision approval by the Planning Board,” the project “would be deed restricted so as to remain permanently affordable,” and “that at all times the project would be subject to suitable monitoring to ensure the long-term affordability of the homes.”

The next Zoning Board meeting is July 26 at 5 p.m.

Courtesy of The Block Island Times