BAR HARBOR — Island Housing Trust (IHT) has an option to buy 30 acres of land near the head of Mount Desert Island for a workforce housing development with as many as 12 homes.
The property is part of a 60-acre parcel adjacent to Jones Marsh, just to the west of White Deer Circle on the south side of Route 3.
The parcel was purchased last year from a private owner by Conservation Limited Development LLC, an entity created by Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT). The purchase price was $300,000.
The LLC will sell the western half of the property, which is mostly a peat bog and forested wetland, to MCHT for conservation. MCHT is raising funds for the conservation project and recently was awarded $100,000 in North American Wetland Conservation Act funds.
The LLC has granted a purchase option to IHT for the eastern, upland half of the property at Jones Marsh. The LLC will sell the parcel at a “bargain price” if IHT determines it is suitable for a housing development and if IHT is successful in raising funds for the project, according to a joint statement from Misha Mytar, MCHT’s land project manager for MDI, and Alison Beane, executive director of IHT.
“Over the next few months, IHT will complete the initial due diligence work to determine the best configuration for development of 30 acres,” they said in the statement. “Preliminary designs … map out 12 lots.”
That would make the neighborhood at Jones Marsh – it hasn’t been given a name yet – the largest to be developed so far by IHT, which was founded in 1989. Currently, the largest is the nine-house Ripples Hill neighborhood off Beech Hill Road in Somesville.
Like the Ripples Hill homeowners, those in the proposed Jones Marsh neighborhood would have to be employed on MDI and have a household income below a certain threshold. Their deed to the property would include an affordability covenant that limits the price for which it could be resold, thereby keeping it within the financial reach of working families in the future. If the homeowner decided to sell the house, IHT would have the right of first refusal.
Ted Koffman, president of the IHT board, said that if the property at Jones Marsh is deemed suitable for development, the organization would begin raising funds to buy it and to build an entrance road and other infrastructure.
Koffman said of MCHT’s offer to collaborate with IHT, “To have an organization on the island, and such a credible one, step up and take the initiative is such a positive thing. We really want to thank them.”
Mytar said MCHT has been interested for some time in preserving the 30-acre bog and forested wetland portions of the property adjacent to Jones Marsh, but the owner wanted to sell the entire 60 acres. So, MCHT approached IHT with the idea of using the uplands half of the parcel for affordable housing.
“We try very hard to find the right balance between conservation and development, specifically workforce housing, because that is such an acute community issue here,” Mytar said.
Marshes for Tomorrow
She described the property at Jones Marsh as an important part of MCHT’s Marshes for Tomorrow initiative, which aims to protect undeveloped land surrounding Maine’s most important coastal marshes. The initiative seeks to ensure that salt marshes, which are considered crucial to marine fisheries, will survive expected rises in sea level.
“Jones Marsh has been identified as a high priority because the salt marsh butts right up against the peat bog,” Mytar said. “The interface between the marsh and the bog is exciting because of the research and education potential.”
She said the Jones Marsh property also is a high priority for conservation because it is a wildlife habitat connector in the area between Northeast Creek and the head of the island.
“It really serves as a stepping stone to connect off-island wildlife populations with the populations in Acadia National Park,” Mytar said.