By JOHN FLOWERS
SHOREHAM — Jeremiah Parker has spent his professional life restoring historic homes and barns to their former glory.
Now he wants to take a temporary detour from renovation to build some brand new homes — seven of them, to be precise. He is proposing those new abodes as part of “Green Woods Village,” an eight-lot subdivision that would be located on a four-acre parcel in the village of Shoreham.
Parker, the owner of Shoreham-based Jeremiah Parker Restoration, is collaborating with the Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) to find state and federal grants to make the new homes more affordable for middle-income buyers. He said he wants to market the development to people of all walks of life, who would benefit from the project’s proximity to town services, schools and churches.
“Shoreham does a great job keeping things in the center of town,” Parker said on Monday, during a tour of his property off School Street. “You lose those types of things, if you let them go.”
Parker acquired the four-acre lot three years ago as part of the old Job Howe home on School Street. Once he renovated the home — which has been nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places — Parker became intrigued with the possibility of introducing some new homes to the parcel.
He drew encouragement from two sources: The Vermont Forum on Sprawl, which in 2004 identified the School Street site as a logical spot for residential development in the community; and newly proposed revisions to Shoreham’s zoning bylaws, which tentatively recommend half-acre building lots in the village area (see related story).
With that in mind, Parker — under the corporate name JBP Properties LLC — took a hard look at the School Street parcel, and initially thought about building some elderly housing. That thinking ultimately shifted to “mixed-use” housing that could be made affordable to middle-income families through state and federal programs.
Parker enlisted the help of the ACCT, which has identified several programs that could be tapped by prospective home buyers making less than the median household income for Addison County (currently $63,100 per year for a family of four).
Those programs, according to ACCT Executive Director Terry McKnight, include:
• The state’s “Homeland Program,” through which a buyer can receive a grant of up to $40,000 to buy a home. In return, the buyer must agree to limit their profit to 25 percent on re-sale of the home, and give — in this case — the ACCT first option to buy the home to sell to a middle-income family.
• The federal “Equity Builder” program, which provides up to $15,000 in assistance to income-eligible home buyers. For each year the buyer stays in their home, 20 percent of the loan is forgiven.
Such programs, according to McKnight, give buyers that critical down-payment on a home.
The ACCT has agreed to help Parker find prospective homebuyers and link them with the appropriate grant/loan programs.
“We’re really excited to be a part of this project,” McKnight said, calling it a “smart growth” initiative.
Parker expects to have a project application in to the Shoreham Planning Commission by the end of this month. The application, for a “planned unit development,” calls for an access road to be extended into Green Wood Village from School Street. The homes — containing one to four bedrooms — would be built to resemble existing homes in the village area, according to Parker. He said as developer JBP Properties would extend Shoreham’s municipal water and sewer lines to the homes; install all utilities underground; and preserve, to the greatest extent possible, trees currently growing on the site.
A smooth permitting process would see JBP Properties begin to put in the Green Woods Village infrastructure in September.
Parker said the development could be a key example of how to avoid sprawl, or development on larger lots outside of the village. Residents of Green Woods Village, he said, will be able to walk to the school, Post Office, town offices, Platt Memorial Library, churches, local clinic and the Shoreham Inn.
“We really see the sprawl that’s been happening as a decay,” Parker said. “It’s happened to too many small towns.”