2009-10-22 / Letters to the Editor

Affordable housing ‘vital’ to Jamestown

I thought it extraordinarily telling that the first four individuals to step to the microphone at Thursday’s packed zoning hearing weren’t there to discuss housing or lot sizes, nor the evolution of the charette that has moved through countless public meetings into rules and regulations over two years to assist with affordable housing, acceptable development and maintaining the fabric of the town and island.

No, they wanted to object to the new regulations that would ban constructing their helipads and heliports for their helicopters.

Think about that for a minute. First four to the microphone! The Airport Corporation sent a lawyer to voice support for them (we have already permitted these heliports ‘with your safety in mind!’ Huh?), likely the same lawyer we’ll be talking to when they announce that Fed Ex, UPS and other cargo jets can come screeching over the island between 3 and 5 a.m. every night into Quonset; also, no doubt, with our safety in mind.

None of the first four speakers was the actual owner of property; they were too busy. Even one of their hired help stepped to the microphone and complained that he had to “actually drive and endure rain and traffic on route 95,” as if it were some type of inconvenience plague reserved for, well, I guess you and me.

Perhaps, it was suggested, the Town could entertain and “compromise the regulation” and charge those of us that are clearly too important and busy as to actually have to, oh, say, drive like you, a yearly “air-tollbooth” penalty of $1,000, which could be donated to the ambulance “people.” How quaint.

I have a better idea.

Why not take the ample waterfront acreage brought to everyone’s attention, and make just a tiny portion of it available for purchase or lease with a nice two-story, architecturally designed and landscaped according to our new strict regulations, for a permanently affordable dwelling? Call me crazy.

That way, those young “people” who drive those pesky ambulances and fire trucks to and fro, giving up hundreds and hundreds of hours of their free time for their fellow Jamestowners (that would include y’all!) in re- turn for nothing but an occasional thank-you, can afford one more home to live in.

As a very prejudiced member of the Jamestown Affordable Housing Committee (AHC), I have attended several of the workshops held over the past several weeks and years as the new zoning regulations have been contemplated and vetted in public. I urge the Council to vote NOW to pass them. AHC is in support of the changes being proposed in order to allow the town to begin the arduous task of meeting a 10% affordable housing mandate.

Our town is rich with character and characters. Affordable housing is vital for maintaining the very fabric of the town, and we have been quietly successful in placing families that have gone on to purchase their first homes. The demand is huge, the task of interviewing and making the “who gets in” decisions extraordinarily difficult, the supply is tiny. The new accessory dwellings that are contemplated under this new ordinance will go a long way in helping us keep our parents living here and provide a stepping stone for our younger volunteers, both of whom in large part are the fabric that make this community a wonderful place to live.

As for the heliports, the permit fees should include free Bose noise-cancelling headphones for the rest of the island. I fear we’re going to need them for the nattily dressed Airport guy’s ‘quiet’ Quonset plans anyway.
Chris Crawford
Jamestown

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