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Blue Tooth, up, up and away

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04/03/2008

By Kara Herlihy

Construction on The Valley's first affordable housing complex in over two decades is slated to begin in early June or July, according to senior project developer Kathy Beyer of Housing Vermont.

The 18-unit complex that will sit on a roughly nine-acre property received final plan approval from the Warren Development Review Board (DRB) in June. The property slated for the affordable housing complex now hosts the former Blue Tooth restaurant.

Plans call for 16 of the units to be rented at rates affordable to residents making no more than 60 percent of the median income for the county. Two units will be rented at market rates. Based on current data for Washington County, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment would be about $650. One month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment would be about $540.

The development, named Wheeler Brook, boasts three buildings around a common green space. Bill Maclay of William Maclay Architects and Planners, Waitsfield, said the goal is to use trees and vegetation to shield the development from the access road and restore a more "rural" feel to the location. Front entrances to the units face a winding driveway looping away from the access road.

The current structure on-site will be demolished.

Housing Vermont has submitted to Act 250 and expects to hear back in May. They will return to the Warren DRB on May 7 for minor site changes.

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PROJECT SECURES STATE FUNDING

In April, Housing Vermont and the Central Vermont Community Land Trust received $475,000 in funding for the project through the Vermont Community Development Program.

The town of Warren was a co-applicant for the funding.

Officials have said that rent at Wheeler Brook will not be subsidized. A combination of federal tax credits, low-interest loans and other funding sources allow the organizations to keep development costs low and rent units at less than market rates.

Applicants for the apartments will be required to meet income requirements based on a federal formula that takes into account the median income of the county, family size and other considerations.

Plans for Wheeler Brook first came to the DRB in July of 2006. Since then, two duplexes with units for sale have been eliminated, due in part to state regulations regarding stream crossings and other cost considerations.

Representatives from the Mad River Valley Affordable Housing Coalition have spoken in favor of the project at several hearings, citing a recent study that points to a critical need for affordable housing in The Valley.

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