Putney Housing Project meeting draws attention

PUTNEY, Vt. – Plans for a new housing complex on a vacant piece of property near the Putney Farmers Market and Community Gardens drew quite a bit of attention at a recent virtual meeting about the proposed project. Nearly 100 viewers attended the meeting, which included both housing trust and Putney town officials.

In the fall of 2020, the Brattleboro-based Windham Windsor Housing Trust and Putney-based Green Commons of Vermont proposed a plan to purchase roughly four acres of land in order to build housing on the southern portion of the lot, still allowing space for both the farmers market and community gardens.

Green Commons was created with the idea of acquiring and preserving “green spaces,” promoting local agriculture, preserving and providing local public areas for recreation, and to assist in efforts of making food accessible for all.

The initial plan was to build a total of 24 one- and two-bedroom affordable housing units – suited for both families and individuals – to be located on both sides of Alice Holway Drive. The land for the proposed housing project is owned by general partners Jeff Shumlin and Marcia Leader of Putney Gateway Associates.

The original plan has since been altered to now offer a total of 17 apartments, including 13 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units, and eight town houses. The rent for these units would be based on income and the buildings will offer electric heating and cooling with solar panels installed on the roofs of each building.

From its inception, the site plan was developed as to not affect the farmers market or the community gardens. “Our intention from the beginning was to develop a site plan that would leave the gardens intact, so we haven’t planned anything that directly impacts the gardens,” said Elizabeth Bridgewater. Bridgewater is the executive director of the Green Commons of Vermont.

“We did make some adjustments [to the site plan], but that was in response to a report that prompted a different storm water management approach – and a subsequent design change – not because the original plan impacted the gardens.”

In the recent virtual meeting, officials from the housing trust responded to several questions from town officials, ranging from property taxes for the buildings and the logistics of property management, to property assessments and possible noise triggered from residents living in units so close to each other.

The yet-to-be-named Putney housing project would be jointly owned by the Windsor Housing Trust and its partner, Evernorth, a nonprofit housing development company based in Burlington, Vt. However, the project would be controlled and managed locally and any investing partners will have no part in the decision-making processes.

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