Corcoran's Way now a town street

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BENNINGTON — With a cluster of five new homes and a dilapidated house now rehabilitated, Corcoran's Way was accepted Monday by the Select Board as an official town street.

The street and neighborhood of homes grew from a collaboration involving Bennington County Habitat for Humanity and the town to create new housing and affordable home ownership in the area off 296 North Branch St.

The homes are set along the short, recently completed street named for the late select board member, lawmaker and later town clerk, Timothy Corcoran.

With a 50-foot right-of-way, sidewalks and paving, the street meets the requirements for inclusion in the town street system, Town Manager Stuart Hurd said during a site visit prior to the board's meeting, where the vote was unanimous to accept Corcoran's Way.

He said the only remaining street project detail is to close an original curb cut into a former single-home lot that has been replaced with the construction of the new street and curb cut. Since that work won't be completed until the spring, Hurd said the organization will provide a bond to ensure its completion.

Municipal water and sewer service has been installed, he said.

Susan Sommer, executive director of the area's Habitat for Humanity, said the last house in the cluster that remains incomplete is expected to be finished by next summer.

Speaking during the Select Board meeting, she said the organization went to the town early in the process of creating affordable home ownership at the site, and a partnership formed that resulted in six new homeowners in affordable homes.

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With incomes up to 80 percent of the area's median, the new owners are families that might otherwise never experience home ownership, Sommer said, adding that the program targets two of the goals in the town plan — upgrading or replacing aging dwellings and providing affordable housing.

The county's Habitat affiliate, which relies on volunteers who work on the houses it builds, is providing homes at an average of $110,000, which she said is much lower than other projects creating affordable units in the area.

"That's because homeowners are putting in sweat equity on their houses," she said, "and it is because we volunteers who've gotten 'habititis' and come out on a regular basis, and groups of volunteers too, and help to build the houses, so there is no cost for labor."

Sommer added, "And not only are we building houses and creating homes for people, but we are creating ownership opportunities. That's critical. That's in the town plan as well. More affordable home ownership."

Sommer thanked town officials for working with the group to provide information on how develop the new street to town specifications and create a neighborhood.

Board member and state Rep. Jim Carroll spoke of Corcoran, "who was always for the underdog and for people who were struggling," noting that the late town official had died of cancer five years ago this month.

The board voted unanimously to certify Corcoran's Way as a municipal street.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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