BRATTLEBORO -- The fate of 152 local housing units dedicated to elderly and disable residents may take more than three years to decide.
On Thursday, members of the Melrose Place and Hayes Court Site Alternatives Study Redevelopment Committee met to continue the discussion about the relocation of two West Brattleboro public-housing properties in preparation of a public meeting scheduled for Aug. 30.
The committee was formed shortly after heavy rains from last year's Tropical Storm Irene damaged 60 of the 80 units at Melrose Place and required the evacuation of Hayes Court.
The list of 24 potential properties was dwindled down to 7, including a parcel of land in Guilford along Partridge Road, a piece of land near the parking area of the Academy School, an empty lot along Fair Ground Road and another on Town Crier Drive, after committee members reviewed the pluses and minuses of each.
Adam Hubbard, a project manager and landscape architect with Stevens and Associates, the firm selected to handle the project, led the meeting, giving an overview of each of the proposed sites and explaining why some properties would serve better than others.
"When this goes to feasibility, we're certainly not going to review 10 sites," Hubbard said.
Three of the properties included those already owned by the Brattleboro Housing Authority - Melrose Terrace, Hayes Court and Moore Court.
If all three locations were redesigned and
"There is a possibility for us not to need to build off-site, but that would be some intense development and might not be the best design," he said.
To do so would require raising the height of living space at Melrose Place and one possibility is to remove each building's roof and build above.
Christine Hart, executive director of the BHA, said by removing the roof it could provide a basement or parking garage as the original first floor.
Hubbard said one of the important things to keep in mind as the committee reviews the possible solutions is future need, especially as Brattleboro's population gets older.
The empty parcel next to Walgreens along Fair Ground Road is a part of town that could use some residential development, it's a part of town that doesn't have a lot of subsidized housing, Hubbard said.
One of the concerns brought up by those in attendance, Richard and Jean Earle, who are looking at moving to Hayes Court or Melrose, was the possibility of multi-level units in the case of an emergency.
"You're putting seniors up several flights of stairs. For a flood that's fine because there's notice," Richard Earle said. "But if there's a fire, you don't get any notice."
Ultimately Hubbard said the replacement housing project will require at least three or four locations to accommodate Brattleboro's aging population and the lack of affordable housing caused by the flood and the fire at the Brooks House in April 2011.
If the Housing Authority can't reuse Melrose, the property will most likely have to be sold, Hart said.
In addition to the meeting on Thursday, the committee is scheduled to gather twice more in September and October. A final public information meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Hayes Court.
The authority established a website - http://brattleborohousing.wordpress.com -- to help keep the public informed.