SOUTH HARWICH — There is a tremendous need for affordable workforce housing in town, and the community development team will be looking at a proposal this week to utilize the Stone Horse Motel property to provide those accommodations.
Trish Kennedy, CEO of Zudy, the South Harwich-based software company, said on Tuesday she and her husband, Tom, have a purchase and sales agreement on the 2.61-acre Stone Horse Motel property on Route 28 and they will be meeting with town staff on Thursday to discuss using it for workforce housing.
“I think the town realizes there is an extreme shortage of safe and affordable workforce housing,” Kennedy said. “We see a major demand here and this will give them a respectable, safe place to live.”
The former motel units have not been used for several years and the buildings are becoming run down. Kennedy said their concept includes removal of the motel units and retaining and renovating the main building.
On the right side of the main building they propose constructing a pair of two-story buildings with 45 rooms in each. The dormitories would provide double occupancy in each room with shared kitchens. Kennedy said the land to the left of the main building would not be developed, but would be converted to accessible green space. The final project would have less square footage than currently exists, she said.
Local businesses rely heavily on an off-Cape workforce, and Kennedy said many workers who come here and end up living four to a room in conditions that are not safe. She said the couple will stand by their reputation for building quality facilities, and there will be large rooms using innovative designs and providing very comfortable living quarters.
There will be a live-in manager, Kennedy said, with an apartment for the manager in the main building, where there will also be a recreation room, a place to play pool or ping-pong, but in a controlled environment.
The site is ideal, Kennedy said. It is on a bus route and there will be a spot where a bus can pull off the road. Too often these summer workers get out of work late at night and ride bicycles along dimly lit roadways, which she said isn't safe.
The rooms would be heated and insulated and available on a year-round basis. There will be flexible lease arrangements so people can rent as needed. WiFi and cable would be provided, she added.
A lot has happened between the property owner, Outer Cape Health Services, Inc., and the Kennedys over the past year. OCHS concluded the Stone Horse Motel site was not ideal for a new medical center in Harwich and worked with the Kennedys to convert their former BackOffice building across from Saquatucket Harbor into medical facilities and offices. They have entered into a 30-year lease arrangement are presently doing major renovations on the building (see related story).
“(OCHS's new CEO) Patricia Nadle is a practical, focused individual,” Kennedy said. “She negotiated the idea and us buying the Stone Horse from them.”
However, over the past year, when there was no movement on the initial proposal, Kennedy said some zoning protections were lost. Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh said the motel could have been converted to other types of housing, but she believes after two years zoning protection was lost. Greenhalgh said the workforce housing proposal may require either a special permit or a use variance. Those issues will be discussed in Thursday's meeting.
“The town is struggling with what to do with it,” Kennedy said. “We have put a contract on it contingent upon getting the permits in place. It's a big win for the community. It's what you want – people. They're going to restaurants and shopping in the community.”
Kennedy said they will work with the town and see what has to be done to move the project forward.
“Maybe it will work and maybe it doesn't,” she said.
If the permits are approved, Kennedy said the project could be developed over a nine-month period.