A plan to build eight affordable homes on eight acres off State Road in West Tisbury drew a number of neighborhood critics at a public hearing Monday night.
The Island Housing Trust is the applicant for the plan, which calls for clustering eight single family homes on three of the eight acres, situated on the south side of State Road near the intersection of Old County Road. The trust paid $350,000 for the land in December 2007 as part of a joint purchase with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank from the estate of the late Eleanor Bennett. The land bank owns an adjoining 14.5 acres and plans to place a conservation easement on four of the eight acres owned by the trust.
Hosted by the West Tisbury planning board, the Monday night public hearing included a presentation of the plan by the applicant and comments from abutters. Some said that while they support the goals of affordable housing, they worried about impacts on the neighborhood from eight houses packed onto three acres.
“If you pass this, I think you’ll see a lot of stockade fences going up,” said Tom Bassett of Briarwood Lane. “I’m not threatening to do it but I’m not too thrilled at the idea of lots of people walking through my front yard,” he said.
Seven of the homes will be built by South Mountain Company of West Tisbury; the eighth home will be built by Habitat for Humanity.
The homes will be sold in the low to moderate price range: four two-bedroom homes will be priced between $155,000 and $305,000, and four three-bedroom homes will be priced between $130,000 and $325,000. Four of the homes will be sold with preference for West Tisbury residents; the other three will be sold Island-wide by lottery. Applicants must meet annual income requirements ranging from $56,000 to $110,000. The trust will retain ownership of the land through a ground lease, and the homes will be subject to a number of restrictions to ensure they remain affordable.
The homes are planned to be highly energy efficient with solar panels, thanks in part to a grant from the Cape Light Compact.
In all, the project will include 20 bedrooms. The plan calls for the eight homes to be serviced by two private wells and two shared septic systems.
The total project cost is $3.1 million, not including the Habitat house. Financing will come in a $1.75 million loan from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, the sale of the homes and $1.3 million in gap financing that includes $400,000 from the West Tisbury community preservation committee, $400,000 from the compact and $650,000 in private donations from the Island Affordable Housing Fund, a sister organization to the housing trust.
“There is no profit, said Phillipe Jordi, executive director of the trust, at the hearing Monday.
Abutter Victoria Phillips said affordable housing should be spread throughout the town. “Why not use the shoebox lots?” she said, referring to a series of small, unbuildable lots scattered throughout the town.
Glenn Hearn, a member of the town affordable housing committee, said the committee had created three affordable lots out of nine contiguous shoebox lots over the past few years: “There are no more, believe me. This town has 40 lot maps and I’ve studied them all.”
Polly Bassett questioned the need for housing in the $300,000 range. “There are currently 37 homes for sale on the Island in the $300,000 range and there is very thin demand by affordable housing candidates for $300,000 homes,” she said, citing numbers from the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.
Conservation commission chairman Prudy Burt asked for clarification of the language in the land bank’s proposed conservation easement to ensure the land is protected in perpetuity from tree cutting or conversion to other uses, such as agriculture. She also wanted to know why the land bank plans a conservation easement rather than a conservation restriction to protect the open space.
Reached by telephone after the meeting, land bank executive director James Lengyel answered. “There will be no cutting. Our policy, particularly in cooperative projects, such as this, with the trust, is to screen the project from public view,” Mr. Lengyel said. He also said: “A conservation easement puts complete control of conservancy in town hands. That’s why we chose it.”
The planning board continued the hearing to July 14.