With a green light from both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Chilmark planning board, the Middle Line Road affordable housing project has moved two steps closer to breaking ground.
Middle Line, which has been in the works since 2004, will be the first town-sponsored affordable housing project in Chilmark, with six rental units and six resident homesites.
At its meeting last Thursday night the commission voted 8-2 to approve the project, which was under review as a development of regional impact (DRI).
“The need for affordable housing is great. The town should be complimented on their willingness to spend taxpayer money. Not just the selectmen, but the town — the voters,” said commission vice chairman Linda Sibley just before the vote.
Commission approval is accompanied by nine conditions, including requirements for natural landscaping, low-level exterior lighting and protecting a number of natural features on the land, including ancient ways and clay pits. Holman Road, an ancient way that crosses the property will remain in use as a public walking path. The buildings in the development will be designed to meet high standards for energy efficiency.
The planning board quickly followed suit on Monday, voting unanimously to approve the plan. The board’s approval comes with five conditions of its own, among them a requirement to build a post and rail fence to protect Holman Road.
“The town’s goal to create affordable housing is coming to fruition,” said planning board chairman Rich Osnoss. “Hopefully the project will be done in such a way that the town will be proud of it and make us choose to do it again.”
The next step comes at the annual town meeting on April 28, when voters will be asked to approve some $500,000 to pay for road construction and improvements and well installation. The money would come from the town Community Preservation Act fund. Selectmen are awaiting final acceptance from the Massachusetts Historical Commission of a phase two archeological survey conducted on the site by the University of Massachusetts Archeological Services. In the coming weeks, they will apply to the board of health for well permits and will put out a request for proposals for a contractor.
Planned for 22.8 acres of town-owned land off Tabor House Road, the housing project will include 12 units in nine buildings. Six will be rental units and six will be resident homesites. The town will retain ownership of the entire parcel and deed restrictions will restrict the units to affordable homes.
The project has seen fits and starts since town voters first approved the purchase of the initial 21-acre property in a 2004 town meeting. The project has gone through two rounds of hearings with the planning board and the commission and the town recently purchased two adjacent lots in order to reroute the entrance road and improve sight lines.
If voters approve the two articles at town meeting this month, the town will have spent $1.5 million on the project to date.
The town is currently working on a second affordable housing project which would add four more houses.
“This is step one,” said Andrew Goldman, chairman of the Chilmark housing committee, this week. “But if this was all there was, I’d be terribly disappointed.”
Selectman and board chairman Warren Doty echoed his remarks. “Our current proposals are going to bring 16 units for families available within the next year or two, and 16 is still not enough,” he said. “We don’t want to be a town of just retired people and summer people. We need some regular working families.”
Following the commission vote Thursday, chairman Douglas Sederholm said the Middle Line project required compromise.
“This project represents the difficult decisions that we all have to make in balancing competing interests,” he said. “The Middle Line property is a beautiful piece of land and it’s a shame that beauty will be disturbed, but affordable housing is the greatest social need on this Island and can’t be ignored.”
The 8-2 roll call vote at the commission was as follows:
Voting in favor were Andrew Woodruff, Linda Sibley, John Breckenridge, Richard Toole, Doug Sederholm, Jim Powell, Mimi Davisson and Chris Murphy.
Voting against were Jim Athearn and Susan Shea.