Middlebury officials approve new Habitat for Humanity homes

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) has given final approval to a Habitat for Humanity of Addison County plan to build two affordable homes on property at 51 Seymour St.
Ashley Cadwell, Habitat’s Building Committee leader, said the first of the two homes should be completed by next summer, with the second ready for occupancy by the spring of 2020. Plans call for a two-bedroom home containing around 900 square feet and a three-bedroom home with about 1,100 square feet.
Per Habitat’s tradition, many people helped design the homes, and many more will help build them. John McLeod of Middlebury College’s Architecture Department involved his students in the planning process.
Both homes will have a single story, with attic space over the bedrooms. They will feature conventional gable-end overhangs, minimum four-inch eave overhangs, and window and door trim similar to neighboring homes. These homes will be highly energy efficient, noted Cadwell, with the potential to become net-zero. Side walls will be of a metal standing seam material.
The homes have already been more than a year in the making. The Addison County Community Trust — the county’s largest affordable housing organization — previously owned the 51 Seymour St. parcel, which formerly hosted three rental apartments known as John Graham Court.
The ACCT stopped renting out the apartments in 2015 because they had fallen into disrepair and the agency couldn’t leverage funds to repair them, and announced in September 2017 it would convey the property to Habitat as a site for affordable housing.
Addison County’s Habitat group was founded in 1998 and has built around 10 homes thus far, including a four-home subdivision off Cornwall’s DeLong Road.
Habitat for Humanity International is an organization that builds basic, affordable homes in partnership with families who cannot obtain a dwelling through conventional means. The organization sells the new homes to the partner families at a cost  kept low by using volunteer labor.
Also, construction supply stores also often sell materials to Habitat projects at a reduced price, and the partner families are expected to help build their homes, a practice known as “sweat equity.”
Cadwell is pleased the DRB has green-lighted the project.
He credited Lou Colasanti, who owns property at the rear of the 51 Seymour St. lot, for selling around 3,000 square feet of land to Habitat in order to give the parcel the 20,000 square feet it needs under Middlebury zoning laws to host two homes.
“The economics now play to our advantage,” Cadwell said.
He praised McLeod and his students for designing homes that will be “simple, but elegant.”
“They really did a great job,” he said.
Ripton resident Calder Birdsey was one of the college students on the design team. He enjoyed the hands-on experience and knowing his contribution will culminate in affordable housing.
“The project as a whole has been an incredible experience,” he said.
“Simply being an architecture student where so much of my academic experience is theoretical, it’s been amazing to see the development of a project from the very early stages all the way through to the physical construction. More importantly though, as a Middlebury student and someone who has grown up in Vermont, it’s been more special for my academic experiences to intersect with the work of an organization like Habitat for Humanity. Rarely do we, as college students, get to work on projects and make decisions that will result in tangible changes within our local community, and that’s exactly what this project has done.”
Habitat builders, many of them local retirees, are anxious to begin construction next spring.
“We don’t move as fast as we used to, but at the same time we take great pride in our work,” Cadwell said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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