A tight-knit community of family farmhouses in the wooded hills off Tabor House Road. Homes that optimize their surrounding landscape and maximize exposure to the sun. A rambling stone wall surrounded by daffodils.
These are the images the Chilmark housing committee will introduce to town residents next week as part of a new conceptual design and feasibility report on the Middle Line Road project, the town-proposed affordable housing development.
The meeting marks the first time the committee will address the public on proposed designs for the project. The committee also will discuss development options, engineering concerns and recommendations made by the project consultant and author of the report, the South Mountain Company.
"The committee is very pleased with the report," housing committee chairman Steve Schwab said after the meeting on Wednesday. "We're looking forward to the public presentation."
The public hearing starts Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the town hall.
John Abrams and Derrill Bazzy of South Mountain attended the regular meeting of the housing committee Wednesday to present their report. Chilmark hired South Mountain last year to conduct the study.
"We focused on how the land can best be designed and utilized," Mr. Abrams told the committee. "In terms of its burden on the land and surrounding environment, we wanted to make the project as low-impact as possible."
The project is slated for a 20-acre parcel of town-owned land off Middle Line Road, a dirt road off Tabor House Road adjacent to the landfill. The report outlines two ideas for the development's layout, which calls for six rental units and six homeownership units. The report also addresses site engineering and legal issues.
Project cost is still unknown. Mr. Abrams estimated it will fall somewhere in the $3 million range, and said about half could be recovered through the rent and sale of the homes. Mr. Abrams also noted that funding could come from several outside sources, such as the community preservation fund and the Island Affordable Housing Fund.
The South Mountain report offers two designs that adhere to the town's strict request to limit the number of dwellings to 12. While they generally follow the same layout, the designs feature notable differences.
The first design, Plan A, includes six rental units and six one-acre lots for homeownership. The six lots are arranged in a line along the east side of the property, while the six rental units are housed in two triplexes to the west. Each of the homes would have its own septic and well system. The six homes share three parking lots, while the triplexes share one.
Rather than isolate the rental units, Plan B mixes both types in three, five-acre clusters. Each cluster includes three buildings, mixing apartment duplexes and homes. Each cluster would share a septic and well, and each house would have a quarter-acre area for its personal use, with the rest of the five acres available as common land. There would be more space designated for parking in Plan B as well, with six spots.
In Plan A housing units are spread over a larger area of property, while in Plan B a greater area of the property is left undeveloped.
The look and feel of the homes is based on a farmhouse design, but Mr. Abrams said the town could allow the homeowners to have a greater role in designing the houses. He suggested that if the town sold the homes before development, the owners could form a building committee to give input.
The committee also discussed the town's role after the project's completion. Mr. Abrams urged the town to look into options for managing the rental units. He suggested the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority as one potential agency.
Mr. Abrams noted that the plans also offer different strategies for development. By offering six, one-acre lots for homeownership, Plan A is open to development by individual builders. In Plan B, one developer would handle the construction of all units.
"We feel that Plan B makes the most sense in terms of the pressure put on the land," Mr. Abrams said. "Six different builders building homes side by side, along with the two rental units, will create a major headache and unwarranted stress on the environment. We think a one-time build-out approach makes more sense in controlling and protecting the land.
"It's a beautiful piece of property, and Chilmark is a beautiful town," he added. "There's no reason this project shouldn't be done beautifully."