To the editor: Nantucket’s housing crisis has wide ranging impacts across the island – from businesses and non-profits whose collective workforce has few choices for our valued neighbors in education, healthcare, construction, and more who cannot afford to live here. Homeownership is a fading aspiration and as a result retaining critical contributors to the fabric of our community is a worsening challenge.
For six years, we (Josh Posner and Jamie Feeley) have tried to bring a creative solution to bear, focusing our Surfside Crossing proposal on a condo project that creates the type and volume of housing opportunity that might not otherwise be technically possible today. Though designed more to look like beautiful summer homes than condos (see them at www.surfsidecrossing.com), they offer a distinct advantage – they are economically viable for year-round purchasers. Creating a meaningful supply of new free-standing homes is simply economically impossible, even with considerable subsidies.
During more than a year of public meetings (beginning in April 2018), the ZBA’s opposition to both the “novel” notion of condos and a denser development that expanded availability of affordable housing was quite clear. The ZBA’s approval was for just over one-third of the number of units in the original application, and it cut all of the larger condo buildings out of the approval, allowing only two quadruplexes and six duplex structures, and inverting the proposed ratio of condos to single-family freestanding homes. Reducing density decimated the goal of creating a meaningful supply of both affordable and market-rate homeownership opportunities for year-round residents.
We appealed this decision – an intentional effort to block condominiums -- and during the MEPA process chose to modify the plan to maximize the potential for year-round ownership options otherwise unavailable here on Nantucket.
We remain committed to moving this project forward. Unfortunately, the Nantucket Superior Court recently disagreed with a procedural aspect of the Housing Appeals Committee process, halting construction, delaying new housing, and adding cost to local residents who will ultimately buy the vast majority of these condo homes.
We appreciate the Select Board’s understanding that this project can be a solution and respect their efforts to find a more expeditious way forward. We both have committed many years of our lives to this island, with appreciation and respect for its unique year-round community. Yes, we are for-profit developers, but we see an opportunity to address community needs through our projects. We will wholeheartedly engage with individuals who see value in a novel, inclusive approach to creating a 156-unit home ownership community that includes ALL socio-economic households on Nantucket.
We are not, however, inclined to engage with parties outside of the mandated permitting process who are not interested in affordable or attainable housing solutions at a meaningful scale and have advanced unproductive, personal attacks. Unfortunately, this ongoing legal resistance will continue to increase costs and delay the delivery of these much-needed year-round ownership options for our community.
Equally important, after six years of the permitting process, we are not looking to reimagine the project. This project will come to fruition in one form or another and will aspire to be as inclusive as possible at that time. Maximizing that potential won’t be easy, especially while the resistance persists, but we remain hopeful in who and how it will serve in the end.
Jamie Feeley & Josh Posner
Surfside Crossing Developers