A project that would bring sorely needed affordable housing to Little Compton was unveiled at last week’s town council meeting. Though it is in very preliminary stages, the end result, assuming …
A project that would bring sorely needed affordable housing to Little Compton was unveiled at last week’s town council meeting. Though it is in very preliminary stages, the end result, assuming all regulatory requirements are met, would be construction of four single-family homes on approximately five acres of undeveloped land at 164 John Dyer Road.
A. Michael Steers, who serves as both a board member of the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust (Ag Trust) and chairman of the planning board, outlined the project’s details at the Sept 21 council meeting.
Patrick Bowen, chairman of the Little Compton Housing Trust, also addressed the council, explaining the anticipated role of his organization while stressing that currently, the two groups, which are not affiliated, have not collaborated on the project.
The Ag Trust, according to Steers, had its eye on a 31-acre parcel of land, which runs from John Dyer Road to Old Harbor Road. It was appealing to the group in part because of a recreational feature — it closed a loop on a walking trail between Westport and the Simmons Mill Pond Trail.
Because the cost of the property was prohibitive, the Ag Trust purchased 26 acres of the parcel, and Little Compton developer Dennis Talbot, who Steers said has an interest in affordable housing, acquired the remaining 4.9 acres. Despite the Ag Trust’s and Talbot’s mutual interest in the property, Steers noted that the two transactions were separate and distinct at the time of closing.
In describing the Housing Trust’s interest in the project, Bowen told councilors that Talbot had approached the organization after the closing to gauge his board members’ level of interest in purchasing the property for $200,000 — the amount he had paid for it.
The Housing Trust board was immediately on board and set the wheels in motion to apply for a state grant to cover the purchase price. That grant was subsequently approved, and the organization, according to Bowen, anticipates receiving additional grants to cover the project’s pre-development expenses.
“It should be made clear,” said Bowen, “that the Housing Trust had nothing to do with the initial transaction. “It was brought to us after the fact. Given the opportunity, we applied [for the grants] very quickly.”
He said the current plan calls for construction of four single-family homes, each with a “modest footprint” ranging from 1,200 to 1,700 square feet. Two of the homes would be two-bedroom units; the other two would be three-bedrooms.
“It is extremely important that anything done in this regard is done with the utmost transparency – certainly informing the council first and foremost and letting the townspeople know and be involved in what transpires.”
The presentations were met with favorable responses.
“I commend the Agricultural Trust for thinking outside of the box,” said Councilor Patrick McHugh. “Little Compton doesn’t have an open space issue, we have a housing issue. The Ag Trust can’t solve that issue but they can be helpful in trying to solve it.”
An audience member noted the Ag Trust’s approach on the project set a new precedent, since the organization has as its primary mission the purchase of land and development rights for preservation purposes.
“This in my observation is sort of a reinterpretation of the Ag Trust’s legal authority to participate in an affordable housing project in a way that for close to 40 years they said they couldn’t do. I appreciate their willingness to be proactive…This is a first and a step in the right direction.”
By unanimous vote, the council approved the appointment of councilors Paul Golembeski and Andrew Iriarte-Moore to work with the Housing Trust as the plan moves ahead.
Next steps involve a presentation to the planning board, anticipated to take place in October.