Two members of the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition approached the Fayston Select Board about the possibility of the town donating a 1-acre parcel to the coalition.
Don Simonini and Ward Smyth, members of the housing coalition, came to the Fayston Select Board on August 13 to explain their preliminary research into the possibility of putting prefabricated housing on a 1-acre parcel of land on Route 17. The former Fayston Country Store had been located there and ownership of the property reverted to the town after a tax sale.
“You all know where the old Fayston Country Store was, right? Nine months ago I talked to (zoning administrator) John Weir who got me some names of people at the state to determine whether the site was mitigated and the gas tanks taken out. It seems the land was reclaimed, but the state people would like to make a visual inspection if we proceed. It appears that before legal gets involved that the site is mitigated and could be developed pending perks and permits,” Simonini told the board.
He said that the housing coalition is hard pressed to do much without money and said it is not known how soon there would be funds for the housing coalition. Housing is one of the primary issue areas that a local option tax (LOT) proposal would address.
LAND AT NO COST
“We’d like to pursue this location for housing. I got some prices from some prefab home builders and before we spend any more energy on this, specifically on legal and engineering, we’d like some kind of indication from the town that you’d give us the land pending your final approval, with deed restrictions to keep it affordable on an ongoing basis. We want town acknowledgement that you’d provide the land at no cost if you approve the final design and layout,” Simonini continued.
He said that Weir explained that with a planned unit development or planned residential development the parcel could house two or three two-bedroom units.
“We looked at some Huntington homes, all 900 square feet, for $170,000 with two bedrooms and nicely done, assuming the land is at no cost. It would be $184,000 per unit for 1,200 square feet. The mathematics looks like it could work,” he continued.
By “all in,” Simonini clarified this week via email that he means including foundation, septic and water.
Road foreman Stuart Hallstrom said that the leach field for the white farmhouse adjacent to the town-owned parcel is on the town’s piece of property.
Smyth introduced himself to the board and explained that while the housing coalition is working on the issue of affordable or workforce housing, he’s aware that Valley towns are also looking into the issue. He said the former Fayston Country Store parcel had been brought up as one with potential.
“But before we expend more energy on this or try to get legal and engineering done, we’d like to have some agreement that this is doable and worth spending money on,” Smyth said, adding that perhaps a memorandum of understanding or some other agreement could be reached.
Simonini told the board that he felt there is an interesting potential for the whole area around the former Fayston Country Store property where the three abutting properties – the farmhouse and two mobile homes – are currently unoccupied. Those parcels abut a 10-acre parcel to the west that runs almost to Tucker Hill Road that is currently on the market.
“The water district could run water up there to sell more water. We’re focused on rentals and we need acknowledgement to go ahead and see if the town would donate the land to the entity,” Simonini said.
“At this point, we don’t know what the entity is. It shouldn’t be the housing coalition. We don’t want the housing coalition to get into the land development or housing business. I’d like to see us focus on putting things together that will encourage developers to come in and do something,” Smyth said.
Board member and acting select board chair Chuck Martel said that the town would incur legal and other costs in donating the land to whatever entity it ended up going to, but noted that if the property were developed the town would collect property taxes on it that would offset those costs.
“That’s better than having it continue to sit empty,” Martel said. “We’re always talking about what we can do as a town to support affordable housing. This may be a place that may make sense.”
“It would be interesting to see if there’s a way to get integration with the nearby landowners,” board member Mike Jordan said.
“With 10 acres on one side and then the house, you could visualize that whole stretch being developed. Darryl Forrest (Waitsfield water commissioner) said they’d love to sell you the water. There could be 25 acres of land there,” Simonini said.
The select board will consult with board chair Jared Cadwell, who was not at the meeting, before taking further action.