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Colchester Housing Project Ticks Off Neighbors

Local Matters


Published May 7, 2008 at 11:20 a.m.

Tim Riddle knew a large housing project was planned for the woods behind his house when he moved to Malletts Bay Avenue a couple years ago. What he didn't know was that the developer would sell the project to a nonprofit housing group, or that the $240,000 condominiums planned for the site would be replaced by rental housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

The land in question is 28.5 acres on the Colchester-Winooski border, at the confluence of Morehouse Brook and the Winooski River. When Riddle moved in, the property was owned by Milot Real Estate, which was planning to build 44 townhouses. But in early April, the nonprofit Housing Vermont purchased the land, which had already been approved for development. The new developers also had $6 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency.

Riddle says he and his neighbors were "resigned" to owner-occupied condos, but were caught off guard by Housing Vermont's plans to build for renters. They want the nonprofit development team to go through the permitting process again.

That's not likely to happen. For one thing, few people would deny that Chittenden County sorely needs more affordable rental housing. For another, the project managed to leverage $350,000 in federal funding to improve the quality of Morehouse Brook, which has been deemed an "impaired" waterway by the Agency of Natural Resources.

Brenda Torpy, executive director of Champlain Housing Trust, a partner on the project, says, "I don't think this is the kind of thing a private owner would be asked to do.