2011-08-04 / Front Page

Affordable housing proposal heard by planning commission

BY GEOFF CAMPBELL


Bridges Inc. and the Community Church Housing Corporation have approached the town’s Planning Commission with a proposal to build five new affordable housing units on the island, designed like the illustration above. Bridges Inc. and the Community Church Housing Corporation have approached the town’s Planning Commission with a proposal to build five new affordable housing units on the island, designed like the illustration above. Bridges Inc. and Community Church Housing Corporation presented a proposal as joint applicants to build five new affordable housing units at the July 27 meeting of the Planning Commission.

John Murphy, the attorney representing Bridges, said that the proposed use and design of the property located at 2 Hammett Court allows the “ugly duckling” parcel “to become a swan.”

Douglas Kallfelz, a principal at Donald Powers Architects and the designer on the project, will be chiefly responsible for the transformation. He said that the design goal was to create a “live-work” campus that offers a community courtyard.

The 3,800-square-foot proposed building is two stories high and designed in a “sympathetic style” to the neighboring buildings, Kallfelz said. The building would include three one-bedroom handicappedaccessible units on the first floor, and both a three-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom unit on the second floor.

The apartments will be rented to adults with developmental disabilities as part of the nonprofit’s mission to “work in collaboration with people we support toward a life of opportunity, enrichment, contribution and purpose.”

Lisa Rafferty is the executive director of Bridges, which has been located in Jamestown for 25 years. She explained that the group-home concept is changing and a movement toward individuals living on their own in apartments is partly behind the design of the new project.

Christian Belden, the project manager from the Church Community Housing Corporation, said that while the CCHC was a co-applicant on the project, it would be “functioning as the development consultant.”

Belden added, “Bridges asked us to assist them with this project primarily because of our experience with the comprehensive permit process.” Belden went on to say that CCHC’s role will include overseeing the construction process, monitoring grant compliance and managing the funding process. It was noted that the property would not be placed in the CCHC land trust. Instead, it would be held by Bridges.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer explained that a comprehensivepermit application means that “the Planning Commission is basically the sole authority for all planning and zoning permits that this application requires.”

She continued, “The only [relief] that the Planning Commission cannot grant is water and sewer approval. We’ll have to go to the water and sewer commissioners for that approval.”

Bryer encouraged the applicant not to take a phased approach but to address the property as a whole and assume “full build out,” particularly as it relates to parking.

Located primarily in the downtown commercial district, the current two-story industrial building may eventually house a job-training facility for Bridges.

Murphy said that H.V. Holland will continue to operate its heating and air conditioning business in a portion of the building and in addition will work with Bridges to offer employment training for its clients.

Murphy identified parking as an issue that could require potential relief from the commission in the form of zoning variances. He later added that due to the property’s location in both an R8 and commercial district, further relief might be required as it related to mixed use.

“Depending on how the town building official views this site – which is unique – we may need relief related to mixed use that is more than one use, commercial and residential on a single parcel.”

He added, “And we may need relief from setbacks, [which is] outlined in the application.”

Regarding another potential concern – drainage – Murphy said that reconstruction of Howland Avenue and the proposed changes to the property, including the addition of a water garden and a cistern, will ultimately result in no net increase. Murphy said that Mike Gray, the director of the town’s Department of Public Works, believes that the reconstruction of Howland Avenue will “diminish” the run-off from the northern end of Howland Avenue that previously ran across the Hammett

Court property. Murphy noted a study done by Michael Darveau, a licensed surveyor, indicated that run-off created by the additional roof surface for the proposed building can be addressed in such a way as to eliminate an increase in flow from the property.

Parking requirements, based on a full build-out including the use of the industrial building currently occupying the property, will likely number 50 spaces, Murphy said. Given that residents of the new units are unlikely to have cars and that green space is more valuable than paved space to both the town and the Bridges community, the drawings only show 25 parking spaces. “Every time we create a parking space we take away green space,” Murphy said.

Parking, storm water run-off, soil testing for industrial waste, a relatively high water table, and water and sewer easements were the principal concerns raised by commissioners and property abutters.

Vice Chairman Duncan Pendlebury, who presided over the meeting, told the applicants to bring current drainage plans and updated drawings, including a full description and outline of the uses of the commercial space already located on the property. He also asked that the rationale for the reduced number of parking spaces as indicated on the plan be brought to the formal plan-application meeting in order to address the concerns that were raised. Finally he asked that the details regarding the deed restriction, whether it is 30 or 40 years or more, be resolved prior to the next meeting.

The commission voted unanimously to “compress the process,” which combined the master-plan and formal-plan public hearings. The next meeting will be scheduled according to the readiness of the applicant and its team.

The next regularly schedule meeting of the Planning Commission will be Wednesday, Aug. 17.

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