“Imagine another 800 cars at this intersection.”
This summer, tourists and locals alike were exposed to the 40B Housing Development controversy at the Fairgrounds-Surfside Road intersection, with signs proclaiming this message at every corner. These signs, posted by a grass-roots organization referred to as the Nantucket Tipping Point, were in direct opposition to the project underway . The development, also referred to as the Surfside Crossing, has initiated an island-wide conversation regarding the plan’s morals and the effect it will have on both the year round and seasonal community.
The original Housing Production Plan, proposed in 2009, stated its intent as, “To develop a strategy to meet housing needs in a manner consistent with the Ch 40B statute and implement regulations to produce housing units in accordance with the HPP creating a diverse housing supply for low and moderate-income residents…” As the Inquirer and Mirror reports, the plan, which is being directed by developers Jamie Feeley of Cottage and Castle and Josh Posner, has a set aim of 96 condominiums and 60 stand-alone homes. The development is under construction at the South Shore-Surfside Road intersection.
While the construction is greeted by strong opposition at the moment, the goal of the development was to provide housing for the year round population that has been proven to struggle with affordable and comfortable living. As stated in the Housing Production Plan, “…for those who live here, the cost of living, excluding housing, is about 130% higher than the US average…making it common for year-round residents to supplement their income sometimes with secondary employment.” The same report also observes that “the average wages for Nantucket’s workforce are 48% lower than the Median income.” With this, the developers aim to create affordable housing for year-round Nantucketers, as the rising population is not properly accommodated by rising wages nor by housing prices that will be sustainable to island wages of those residents with one full time job.
The development’s main opposition comes in the form of an organization called The Nantucket Tipping Point. They tackle a diverse amount of issues that will be caused by the development, while also taking on the moralities behind its creation and what it will mean for both year-round and seasonal residents. Listed on the organization’s homepage are the consequences that could be faced by the establishment of the housing project, such as “the project’s impact on traffic, safety and emergency response issues, our sole-source aquifer, the water, sewer, and electrical supply, noise and light pollution.”
One of the strongest controversies the organization holds with directors Feeley and Posner is with the title of “affordable housing”. While an affordable housing development should mean housing within financial reach to those earning a median income, The Nantucket Tipping Point affirms that the 40B Housing Development will rear only 25% affordable housing. Of this 25%, only half of that will be available for Nantucket residents, with the other half being up for sale to any buyer in Massachusetts.
Other actions have taken place to dispute the housing development, such as a GoFundMe page to directly contribute for a lawyer on the behalf of Nantucket Tipping Point. Set up by Joan Alison Stockman, the fundraising page has a goal of $100,000, and as of September 16th, 2018, $68,808 of the aforementioned goal has been donated. Upwards of three hundred cars have been estimated to be added to the already busy intersection which takes on beach traffic to Surfside, South Shore, and Nobadeer, as well as traffic to the Nantucket Elementary School, Nantucket Intermediate School, and Nantucket High School. Another difficulty proposed by the organization is the lack of emergency exits for both the housing development and Sherburn Commons, which resides directly behind the development.
In the meantime, The Nantucket Tipping Point asks islanders to think thoroughly about the reasons for the development in this particular area of the island. Many have attributed the lack of housing developments which “override local zoning” in places such as Wauwinet and Sconset to be due to those residents being able to afford legal fees to curb such developments. Statements like these lead to the conclusion by some that Feeley and Posner are taking advantage of the lower-income families of mid-island Nantucket; however, that matter is still up for debate.
The next Zoning Board of Appeals hearing will be held at 4:30pm on October 3rd, 2018 in the Nantucket High School auditorium. For more information regarding the movement, see The Nantucket Tipping Point’s website: https://nantuckettippingpoint.org.
By Maeve Cawley