OLD LYME — The town is aiming to work with Habitat for Humanity to develop two 3-acre lots that were designated for single-family affordable housing in the town’s 2019 purchase of McCulloch Farm.
Together, the two lots on Flat Rock Hill Road comprised $100,000 of the $600,000 purchase by the town’s Open Space Commission of the 300-acre McCulloch parcel.
In the agreement, the town was required to make a plan to develop the lots for affordable housing by September 2024 or the acreage would revert to open space.
At Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Michael Fogliano, chair of the town’s Affordable Housing Commission, said two approaches were explored for exercising the option to develop the lots, also known as “building envelopes.”
The chosen option was to sell the land outright to a development partner with experience in affordable housing, Fogliano said.
“[That was] based on a desire to first have folks who are very experienced in affordable housing development and all of the legal ins and outs of that to lead the project, and also to take ongoing responsibility for maintenance and stewardship of the property going forward,” he said.
He said the decision was made based on discussions with First Selectman Tim Griswold, Board of Finance Chair David Kelsey and former co-chairs of the Open Space Commission Amanda Blair and Evan Griswold.
In the second option, the town would have retained ownership of the land, developed a project to construct affordable housing and leased the land back to the homeowners while retaining responsibility for maintenance and property management. Fogliano said this was similar to the model used by Hope Partnership on two lots adjacent to these properties on Flat Rock Hill Road.
The commission spoke with Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut and Hope Partnership, both nonprofits with a mission of building affordable housing, Fogliano said.
He said the project was well-aligned with Habitat’s model of building single-family homes and less in line with Hope Partnership, which builds multifamily rentals.
After deciding on an approach, the Affordable Housing Commission received a $150,000 American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, grant to offset the cost of the project, Fogliano said.
He said the commission consulted with town counsel about how to fulfill the legal terms of the purchase agreement, including reimbursement of $100,000 for the lots to the Open Space Acquisition Fund and the requirements for a transparent partner selection process.
The commission recommended the appointment of a steering committee to provide oversight and coordination with the developer, as well as administer and track the disbursement of funds.
Fogliano said the committee would ideally include members with expertise in affordable housing development and project management, finance and ARPA grant administration, communication and fundraising. He also recommended the committee include representatives from the Board of Selectmen and the Affordable Housing and Open Space commissions.
At Monday’s meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to amend the agreement to reflect the expected timeline of the project and to align with the ARPA grant contract, extending the end date from June 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2026.
The next step will be a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen to designate Habitat as the development partner.
Karla Lindquist, executive director of Hope Partnership, told CT Examiner that her organization is fully supportive of Habitat taking the project. And Sarah Lufler, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut, said her organization was excited about the opportunity.
“I’m happy to say that we’re interested,” Lufler said. “I think any time there’s an opportunity to increase capacity for affordable housing, it’s a good opportunity and a challenge we’d happily accept.”
Editor’s note: The Affordable Housing Commission held discussions with Open Space Commission former co-chairs Amanda Blair and Evan Griswold, not with Greg Futoma, the current chair. This story has been corrected.