Newport housing projects inch closer to reality after Selectboard meeting

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 07-19-2022 10:14 PM

NEWPORT, N.H. — Two planned housing projects took small steps forward on the financing side at the Newport Selectboard’s meeting Monday night.

The board first approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant application for Occom Properties, of Hanover, to create 70 units of mostly affordable housing in the Ruger Mill building on Sunapee Street. Later in the meeting, the board agreed to write a letter of support to Sullivan County for a block grant application that would help fund a 3,700-foot extension of the sewer line along North Main Street to serve a proposed 96-unit senior housing project near the town airport. Both projects have a long way to go before construction begins, which would not happen until next year at the earliest.

Occom Properties, which has not yet purchased the Ruger Mill property from Manchester-based 169 Sunapee Street LLC, estimates a $20 million project cost, and Newport Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said the purchaser is now assembling the “financing stack” of which the grant would be a part, along with New Hampshire Housing Authority and other sources. One-quarter of the proposed units are slated to be market-rate apartments, with the remaining units to house people who earn between 30% and 64% of the median area income. There would be 14 two-bedroom apartments, and the rest would be one-bedrooms and studios.

This will be the third attempt in the last five years to convert the four-story, 70,000-square-foot former woolen mill along the Sugar River into rental apartments. In 2017, Manchester developer Ron DeCola, the manager of 169 Sunapee Street LLC, received Planning Board approval for 66 market-rate apartments, but he decided not to move forward when he was unable to secure new market tax credits. When the property owners applied for low-income tax credits, New England Family Housing entered the picture.

In 2020, NEFH sought financing with a block grant and other sources including historic tax credits and bank loans. But NEFH CEO Kevin Lacasse said at the time they could not secure enough financing to meet the selling price of the owners.

The senior housing project proposed by Walpole, N.H., developer Jack Franks received two variances from the Zoning Board in March. The first allows a senior housing project in an area zoned rural, and the second permits a building height in excess of the 40-foot limit prescribed in zoning ordinances. The property is located on the western side of Route 10 (North Main Street) and abuts the town’s airport, Parlin Field.

Franks and Doug Campbell, who owns apartment buildings in Newport, told the Selectboard Monday they have water and power to the property but need a sewer extension to move forward. Campbell said the county has the capacity to apply for a grant, but it must have the recommendation from the municipality.

Franks told the Selectboard they are “actively” working on a site plan for the housing project to present to the Planning Board, perhaps in the fall.

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Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

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