BRATTLEBORO -- Officials studying the proposed relocation of two West Brattleboro public-housing properties have narrowed their search to a dozen sites.
Those proposals will be the topic of discussion tonight at a meeting of the Hayes Court and Melrose Terrace Site Alternatives Study Redevelopment Committee.
"We're sort of combing through these sites, looking at their characteristics," said Chris Hart, Brattleboro Housing Authority executive director.
Today's session -- scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Hayes Court Community Room -- along with a planned Aug. 30 public meeting at Melrose Terrace are the next steps in a long, difficult process: Officials want to move 152 units of public housing out of flood-prone areas.
The need for that move was highlighted by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Sixty of Melrose Terrace's 80 units were damaged to varying degrees, and Hayes Court, while not damaged, was evacuated when floodwaters neared.
Even before the storm, authority administrators had been planning to redevelop the aging Hayes Court because of its condition and location in a "flood-hazard area."
So now -- though all displaced residents since have returned to Melrose -- the future of both sites is a matter of a detailed assessment and planning process. Given the ongoing flooding threat, Hart said the status quo is unacceptable.
"It would have been irresponsible for the housing authority to simply reopen the
The authority has retained Brattleboro-based Stevens & Associates to assist in identifying and assessing potential alternative sites for Hayes and Melrose. Hart said a list of 25 to 30 possibilities has been whittled to 12.
And officials have not ruled out using some of the current Hayes and Melrose sites. Hart said two to three acres of land at Hayes Court is "totally out of any flood zone" and therefore safe for redevelopment.
"We still have not gotten definitive answers in terms of Melrose," she said.
In addition to this month's meetings, the redevelopment committee is scheduled to gather twice more in September and October. A final public-information meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Hayes Court.
And this is just the first phase of the relocation process.
"Then, we'll be looking for substantial capital funds to build replacement housing," Hart said.
The authority established a website -- http://brattleborohousing.wordpress.com -- to keep the public informed about Hayes/Melrose deliberations. It includes maps, schedules and other information.
A "purpose and needs statement" on that site sets forth a clear goal: The authority will "provide low-to-moderate-income residents, seniors and individuals with disabilities with a safe, accessible, affordable and appealing place to live."
All proposals must be "mutually beneficial to the residents, the community and Whetstone Brook," officials wrote.
Also represented on the redevelopment committee are the Glen Park and Mountain Home communities. While the mobile home parks are not owned by the housing authority, Hart said residents at those sites share common concerns.
"Maybe out of this will emerge something that could help address their needs," she said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.