BENNINGTON -- The Select Board will vote in September on whether or not to facilitate a $700,000 grant for a controversial housing project.
Shires Housing wants to build a $5.5 million, 24-unit apartment rental project off Silver Street on land that was once slated to be a condominium development. The project is largely being financed through investor tax credits, but Shires Housing, a non-profit private housing corporation has applied for a grant from the Vermont Community Development Program.
The board decided it will hold a special meeting on Sept. 15 at the Bennington Fire Facility to discuss once and for all whether it should facilitate the grant. The board will not make a decision at that meeting, but instead will wait until its regular meeting on Sept. 22.
Board Chairman Greg Van Houten said he expects the meetings will be at 6 p.m., but their exact times will be posted when they are officially warned.
The grant money is federal in origin and is administered by the state. The town does not have to offer a match and is not contributing any funds. To apply for the grant, Shires Housing needed the board to agree to be the recipient of the funds on its behalf, which it agreed to do, twice.
The first time the board agreed was at a March meeting. Shires Housing Executive Director John Broderick said he needed an answer that evening, and the board said yes. The warning notice for that meeting, however, lacked information about how people with hearing impairments could participate so it was re-warned for a second meeting.
Opponents have attended numerous Select Board, Development Review Board, and even school board meetings to say the project will harm the neighborhood and town in a variety of ways including increased crime, traffic, and unfair competition with private landlords.
The Vermont Community Development Board, which administers the grant for the program, also heard from opponents of the project at a hearing in Montpelier, but it ultimately agreed to allocate funds for the grant.
A grant agreement between Shires Housing and the state board must still be signed, and the Select Board must adopt a final resolution to handle the money. Opponents have been urging the board not to do this.
The project does not need the grant to move forward, but what it does need is approval from the Development Review Board as well as an Act 250 permit. Both of these permits are technically amendments to the previous permits granted in 2006 to Appleridge Condominiums
Shires had applied for a DRB permit, but withdrew it two hearings in over problems with notifying abutting landowners. Broderick said Shires intends to refile soon, which starts that process anew.
At Monday's meeting, board member Justin Corcoran said he has reconsidered his previous opinion that the board wait until the DRB process is complete before deciding on how to handle the grant. He said the two issues can be worked out independently of each other.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.