Katie Kinne

Botswick Gardens expansion plan hoping for community preservation funds

Katie Kinne
Botswick Gardens expansion plan hoping for community preservation funds

By: Eoin Higgins

GREAT BARRINGTON — The developers of an affordable housing project are hoping for a boost from the town in the form of a $200,000 grant from the town's Community Preservation Act.

"It would demonstrate we have the town's approval," said Elton Ogden, president of the Berkshire Housing Development Corp.

Berkshire Housing is working alongside Botswick Gardens owner St. James Community Housing Corp. to expand the property, located on the corner of Route 7 and Brookside Drive on the south end of town. Currently, Botswick has 29 apartments, 28 of which are subsidized for low-income seniors.

The expansion would add 31 more apartments to the complex, all for affordable housing. The new building will sit to the east of the current building along Brookside Drive, on an approximately 2-acre parcel abutting the current complex. Berkshire Housing will finalize its purchase of that land in November.

The total cost of the project is projected at $13.4 million, which includes buying the land. Financing is coming from various sources, including funds generated through federal tax credits and from the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Housing Stabilization Fund — and, Ogden hopes, the town's preservation act.

The act uses a property tax surcharge to raise funds to preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. It was approved by town voters in 2012.

In order to qualify for funding, projects must be approved by the Community Preservation Committee. Ogden this week presented the Botswick plans for questions and analysis to the committee.

Ogden was asked about the timing of costs for the project because the application showed the funding requests tied to a number of needs with start dates well in advance of the expected July 2017 release of funds.

Martha Fick wondered if that would mean the developers could use preservation act funds to reimburse current expenses.

According Town Planner Chris Rembold, the funds can't be used for expenses incurred prior to the money being available. But, he said, the committee didn't necessarily need detailed costs.

"We've traditionally allowed them to use the funding as a bucket," he said, referring to the committee allowing flexibility in the use of housing funds in the past. "An award for the applicant to spend on whatever they want is not unprecedented."

Ogden told The Eagle in his experience there's some latitude in how to spend funds like those from the money from the preservation act.

"When we get grants from a CPA or a foundation there's a broad category of what's eligible," he said.

The funding from the preservation act could be critical, Ogden added.

"I think it's safe to say it would delay the project if we were denied," he said. "The greater amount of monies committed, the better."

The committee will vote on whether to approve the project and other proposals for preservation act funding in November. All approved proposals will go to the voters at next year's annual town meeting.