New Wilmington housing project inches forward with property sale
WILMINGTON — The town of Wilmington closed on a more than 9-acre plot of land on Tuesday, paving the way for an affordable housing development built in partnership with Adirondack Roots, formerly known as the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County.
“We’re excited, we’re moving ahead on it, and hopefully we’ll have a nice project once it’s completed,” said town Supervisor Roy Holzer.
The land was purchased for $90,000 — “well below market value,” according to Holzer — from June and Paul Coarding and Clayton Walton. The town used a $123,112 grant it received from the Northern Border Regional Commission in 2019 to purchase the property. The money was granted to the town for the purpose of buying a property where it could install a decentralized sewer system, but Holzer said the commission approved the town reallocating most of the funds toward the housing development. The remainder of the funds will go toward engineering costs, according to Holzer, and the town will “find some other funds” to implement a septic system for the development.
Holzer said last September that the town hoped to close on the land by the end of 2022. Now, a year later, the sale is final. The delayed timeline was due to the requirements of state funding, Holzer said.
“The thing with buying property through a grant, all of the Ts have to be crossed, the Is have to be dotted. It’s a very long process,” he said. “We’re excited it’s done. I’m really excited it’s done before the end of my term as supervisor.”
Though Holzer’s term expires at the end of this month, he said that he has volunteered to continue to help with this housing project, which he has been developing for about five years.
“I offered Supervisor-elect Smith my volunteer time to help see the project through because this is just the beginning,” Holzer said. “We did get grant money for putting buildings on that property, so that’s another component of that project.”
Adirondack Roots is slated to build six apartments in three townhouses on the land with a $1.3 million grant the organization received from the New York state Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Small Rental Development Initiative in October. The units, as per grant guidelines, will be rented to households at or below 80% of the area median income, or AMI. The AMI in Essex County is currently $80,100, making 80% AMI $64,080.
The six units will not take up all of the lot, which is located on state Route 86, across from the former Wilderness Inn, and backs up to the West Branch of the AuSable River. Some of the lot will remain untouched due to its proximity to the AuSable River, while the rest will remain developable. Holzer said in October that there is a possibility of single-family houses being built on that remaining land. All housing built on the land will be available perpetually to locals.
“How this will likely work, the town will probably enter into a 99-year lease with Adirondack Roots so they’ll have use of the property,” Holzer said. “The caveat with this land purchase has to be that it always has to be local housing. So, it can’t be seasonal homes, vacation rentals, anything like that. It has to be owner-occupied. It’s a perfect project for a town like Wilmington. … This might be a model for other communities, the way we partnered with other people to make it happen.”
As for the riverside land, Holzer said that he could see Wilmington eventually securing funding to build “a nice platform and walking path by the AuSable River for the whole community.”
The project will cost about $1.6 million, and the $1.3 million grant will cover most of it. Adirondack Roots Executive Director Megan Murphy told the Enterprise in October that the rest, a construction loan, will become a mortgage on the property for Adirondack Roots.
The project is still in early stages — Adirondack Roots is still waiting on some grant documentation from the state government before construction can begin.
“I would anticipate that we would be doing some of the pre-development work in 2024 and that we would be probably building in 2025, but we don’t have a lot of specifics on that yet,” Murphy said.
Wilmington has faced a shortage of affordable long-term housing for years, a crisis exacerbated by the rise in popularity of online vacation rental platforms.
The Wilmington Short-Term Vacation Rental Committee said in August that only 15% of housing in Wilmington is currently geared toward long-term renters and “the vast majority” of structures currently in use as STRs are viable LTRs. They also said that of the 414 households in Wilmington, 120 are STRs, meaning that around a quarter of the houses in town are currently STRs.
The website AirDNA, which provides STR data analytics, reported Thursday that Wilmington has 175 active STR listings, up from its tally of 169 last month. However, some of those listings are rooms in a home or secondary structures on other properties.