2012-10-04 / Letters to the Editor

Fort Getty can be used for affordable housing

With a new council scheduled to be elected, it’s a grand time to revisit the idea of affordable housing on 12 acres of Fort Getty. The town has gobbled up development rights and vast tracts of open land driving up available realestate prices, in turn creating an affordable housing problem. In a town that is highly reliant on volunteers who increasingly cannot afford to rent or buy a home and live here, we enjoy the labyrinth of marshland trails by the Newport Bridge, Fort Wetherill, Beavertail, the golf course, the Conanicut Battery, playing fields, and the land trust’s 450 acres.

At the same time we are short 140 units of affordable-housing units to meet the state 10 percent mandate, a percentage that is driven by sustainable community need models. With less than 700 potential buildable lots left on the entire island, simple math would dictate the town would have to mandate one in five must be for affordable housing. Good luck.

What is far more realizable and appealing is to take 12 of the 30 acres the town owns at Fort Getty, deed them over to a nonprofit foundation, who in turn would sell 1/4-acre lots for $50,000 each, raising $2,400,000 for infrastructure improvements for the entire Fort Getty area. The foundation would hire one Jamestown architect to design a stunning seaside village community of two-bedroom homes with brick walkways and porches affording stunning views, while maintaining 20 acres of open space for additional recreational needs. It would bring yearround life to the park.

The foundation could, without violating any laws, create a lottery for the lots based on affordablehousing parameters, length of time living here, documented volunteer efforts and participation over years, age, town workers, school teachers, etc. The homeowners would pay taxes yearly to the town providing additional revenue equal too or greater than what the RV park annually provides. It is once in a town’s life that an opportunity to address housing in this fashion comes up. The new council should give it serious thought in concert with other practical and realistic considerations.

Chris Crawford
America Way

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