BENNINGTON -- Because of a paperwork error, a non-profit housing group will again have to go before the Select Board to ask its cooperation in getting a $700,000 federal grant, meaning critics of the project will get a second crack at questioning it.
In March, the board voted in favor of acting as the recipient for a community development block grant that Shires Housing intends to apply for to help finance a $5.5 million housing project. The project, called Appleridge Condominiums, will consist of 24 units designed for a "workforce" level of income. There are already some condo units there, as it was going to be a large development by Applejack Real Estate, which owns the site.
To apply for the grant, Shires Housing needs the town to be the actual recipient, which the board voted "yes" on, with two members voting against. The vote came after a public hearing where Shires Housing Executive Director John Broderick outlined the project.
Broderick said Wednesday that another public hearing has to be held because the public notice for the first one did not contain a phone number that people with hearing disabilities could call to arrange for accommodation. That phone number is 800--253-0191.
The new hearing will be on Monday at 6:15 p.m. on the third floor of the Bennington Fire Facility at 130 River St., during the board’s regular meeting.
"We expect a similar level of support as at the last meeting," said Broderick, adding that the board is being asked to vote again.
On Saturday at 10 a.m. Broderick will be at the site of the proposed project to answer questions. The site is a vacant lot north of the existing Appleridge condos. Broderick said he will be near the Silver Street side.
"We are looking forward to having a thorough conversation about the development we are proposing," Broderick said.
After the board gave its approval, board member Justin Corcoran said he had a number of issues with it, one being that Broderick asked the board for a decision immediately which he said did not allow the board time to consider its support. He said he had questions about Bennington’s housing needs and worried that federally supported projects were in essence undercutting private landlords.
His concerns were echoed by a few landlords themselves who attended the next board meeting and said asked the board to rescind or at least reconsider its support for the project.
Broderick said he plans to answer some of those anticipated questions. The project will be open to families within a certain income range. They can not be making more than a certain percentage of the median income, but neither can over 35 percent of their income be going towards rent. That puts the income range between $25,000 and $36,000, he said.
Because the project would be built using federal funds, it can apply for a tax break.
"The state law that governs property taxes, Act 68, includes a provision where by housing developments that have received federal funds are eligible for a reduced rate of up to 10 percent if the income and expenditures for the project justify the reduction," Broderick said. This would be applied for after the project was done.
He said Shires Housing commission a study last year that showed the vacancy rate for rental properties in Bennington is about 2 percent, which he said shows a need for housing.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.