2009-06-18 / News

Former Ocean State Scuba site could be used for affordable housing

By Tyler Will

Rendering of the proposed affordable housing unit. Rendering of the proposed affordable housing unit. The Jamestown Town Council revealed that the Church Community Housing Corporation is trying to acquire land for a 10-unit housing project on North Main Road, a location that will offer residents immediate access to the RIPTA bus route.

The announcement came during the water and sewer part of Monday night’s Town Council meeting.

The CCHC is a non-profit company based in Newport that seeks to build affordable housing in communities throughout Newport County. The announcement comes months after the company told the Press it had a housing location in mind and in the middle of a hazy economic climate.

“It is right on the bus route, it is right downtown,” said Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski. “We have not had an affordable housing project of this magnitude ever.”

Construction will not begin for four or five months because several people have leins on the property, which is involved in a court battle, Szepatowski said. The former owner, David Swain, is in jail in Tortala on a murder charge, she said. But all the partners and creditors have signed off on the project, so no surprises are expected in court, she said.

“They were overwhelmingly in favor of it, and they all signed off on it,” Szepatowski said.

CCHC Project Manager Christian Belden said the units are expected to cost about $1,068 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. That price is determined by federal fair market rent standards, tenant affordability and financing, which is uncertain, so the price has yet to be determined.

The unit is made affordable by either an upfront construction subsidy, which makes the rent affordable, or a subsidy to the tenant’s rent payment. To make sure the property remains as affordable housing, Belden said CCHC puts a 99-year restrictive lease on the property, renewable at the end of the period.

Szepatowski praised Steve Kirby at Marketplace Realties for the success of the program, and said he was enthusiastic about the project. “He did it with as much insight as I have ever seen, and he is not even a [Jamestown] resident,” she said.

Szepatowski pointed out that because the apartments are twobedroom style, small families are now capable of living in the units. The plan came under the water and sewer review for several unique engineering traits. The apartment complex will feature a cistern system, which will reclaim roof rainwater for use. However, the CCHC’s gray-water system will reclaim the roof water for toilet use, Belden said. An existing swimming pool will be converted into a water storage tank. The complex will only need town water as backup for flushing during low rainfall periods, Belden told the council. The estimated volume of water captured by the cistern is 66,000 gallons per year, which is 15 to 20 percent of the total water for the complex. The complex will be connected to the town water system for potable water usage.

While councilors asked if such technology is available, Belden said CCHC was in touch with the proper technicians.

“It certainly seems feasible, there are definitely products available to do this,” Belden said.

The complex will still put water into the sewage treatment system, and Council President Julio DiGiando said meters will be installed to measure how much sewage is being put into the system.

The town is planning to waive fees for connecting to the town water lines, which are about $6,000 per unit. Councilman Robert Sutton said the current building has at least one, and will probably need about nine more water connections.

Belden said the plans thus far do not call for any zoning variances. The plans call for a two-story complex, and one of the current buildings is already two stories high. Setback requirements are also met and CCHC does not plan to alter the footprint of the building.

In other business: After some discussion, the Town Council gave approval to the $168,089 harbor services budget recommended by the Harbor Commission. Prior to passage, DiGiando requested an increase of funding from $10,000 to $16,132 for infrastructure support. He said the commission agreed to this change after the budget was adopted at the May meeting. This amount would bring the total infrastructure transfer closer to the 10-percent limit allowed by the harbor ordinance for funding capital improvements with boating fees.

Councilman Bill Kelly said he believes there should be a review of the harbor program to see if it could be organized more effi- ciently. He said the Harbor Commission look at alternative ways to structure the administrative and harbormaster functions. Privatizing the mooring and enforcement might get more done at lower cost, he said.

Sutton agreed that a review would be worthwhile since the town currently pays $11,000 for unemployment compensation for the five months that the harbormaster is not working for the town. He commented that this expense does not add any productive value to the harbor program.

The council unanimously approved a motion directing the Harbor Commission to work with the town administration on possible restructuring and report back no later than Sept. 30.

The council agreed to hold a public work session on Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m. to discuss the town property at Fort Wetherill.

Keiser reported that three proposals have been received for reuse of the old highway garage.

Keiser also informed the council that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority had recently approved a new two-year agreement to assist the town with the cost of public safety equipment.

The agreement stipulates that the RITBA will reimburse the town for $26,000 in each year. Keiser said expenses for scheduled police vehicle replacement and personal protective equipment for the fire department and Jamestown Emergency Medical Services will qualify for the payments.

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