By Luke Baynes
A proposal that would bring nine affordable housing units to Williston was met favorably by the Williston Selectboard at its March 19 meeting – although several homeowners with properties abutting the proposed subdivision expressed concerns about the project.
The housing proposal – a joint venture between landowners Dana and Brenda Hood and Colchester-based developer Jeff Atwood – would involve the construction of perpetually affordable housing on land off North Williston Road, adjacent to the Williston Golf Club and several Lefebvre Lane properties.
The project has been through many modifications and delays since Atwood first presented plans to the Williston Development Review Board in May 2007. A pre-application was approved by the DRB in October 2008, although the project has since encountered several roadblocks, including wetland mitigation issues.
“Our project has straddled the mortgage financial crisis,” said Dana Hood at Monday’s meeting.
The Hood/Atwood proposal would involve nine housing units, one of which (the current Hood residence) is existing. The other eight units would include seven that are perpetually affordable. Four of those units would be affordable to those who earn 100 percent of the county’s median income, while the other three would be available to those who earn 80 percent of the county’s median income.
Selectboard member Debbie Ingram expressed her support for the project.
“I want to really applaud you, Mr. Hood and Mr. Atwood, for working so hard to try to make this project happen and keep it affordable,” Ingram said. “I completely support building more affordable housing here in Williston and I’m really glad to see that you’ve stayed with it and found a creative way to try to do it.”
Ingram’s fellow Selectboard member Jay Michaud agreed with her sentiments.
“I thank you for what you’re doing,” said Michaud. “I think in Williston we need a bigger inventory of affordable housing, and I thank you for persevering with all these curveballs.”
Several residents with properties abutting the project area were more skeptical of the proposal, including Briant Hamrell, who expressed concerns that the planned residences could devolve into rental units.
“If the whole neighborhood turned into rental units, then obviously it wouldn’t be as appealing and the physical structures would suffer, because I think most people who rent don’t always take care of the places as well as somebody who owns,” Hamrell said.
Brian Donohue, a North Williston Road neighbor of the Hoods, asked what happens if the housing units don’t sell.
Dana Hood responded by referencing a housing project on Kirby Road in South Burlington.
“All I can tell you is the Kirby (Cottages) project in South Burlington sold extremely quickly. They built the whole thing in like six months and they were all gone,” Hood said. “So, is this going to be similar? I think so – it’s right in the village.”
Although no formal action was required by the Selectboard, a general consensus was provided to Hood that the Selectboard will not object to the project proceeding to the final review stage with the Development Review Board.