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Island High fever

Submitted by on 1, July 29, 2008 – 2:30 pmNo Comment

As promised, more than two dozen neighbors of the old Island High site confronted the Planning Board on Monday night over Warmington Homes’ proposal to put a 36-unit, low-income apartment complex there. They say 36 units is too much for the less-than-an-acre site, that its impacts to parking and nearby Edison School would be too great, and that to concentrate low-income housing on the site instead of spreading it across several developments goes against the spirit of inclusionary housing rules.

Problem is, the board hasn’t okayed a 36-unit, low-income apartment complex for the site. In fact, some board members said this was the first time they had even heard of the proposal (though, to be fair, planning staff was reportedly at the meeting, and this affordable housing agreement with Warmington drafted for the city calls for up to 36 units). While we’re on it, Warmington has yet to have conversation one with the school district about building on the site. (School board Trustee David Forbes told the Planning Board at its last meeting that he had only just heard about the proposal days earlier.)

The city’s current land inventory calls for 16 affordable units on the site, to be developed by the school district, for teachers. School board Trustee Mike McMahon said the district had been looking to work with the city “to convert Island High to usable space for housing with redevelopment funds and provide for an ongoing stream of revenue to the District rather than a one time infusion of monies from a sale.”

A spokesperson for Warmington characterized the neighborhood meeting as a discussion, no more, no less. “The reason they invited the public that lives within 300 feet to a meeting was simply to get public input about the possibility of affordable housing on that site,” spokeswoman Miriam Schaffer said.

Still, we can see how neighbors could think it was more. A letter from Warmington’s architect, AE3 Partners, to residents, invited them “to a community forum to discuss a proposed Housing Project planned for the old Island High School Site.” And one neighbor who attended the AE3 meeting, Joseph Yon, said the meeting was more of a sales pitch than an information gathering effort.

“We said, this is so many units, how about 12. And the spokesperson said flat out, we can’t do it for less than 30,” Yon said. “It was much less of a community input meeting than a PR meeting.”

At its June 23 meeting, the Planning Board allowed Warmington to move five of the low-income homes they were supposed to build into their Grand Marina development onto the Island High site, plus up to 12 additional units that could be built in place of low income units in to-be-planned developments.

To be continued … and while we’re on it, for more on this, check out Lauren Do today, here.

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