Community Council: Housing, Senior Living, Grants, Election
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Sept. 12 meeting, the Sewanee Community Council heard updates on initiatives to address Sewanee’s housing shortage and senior living needs. The council approved a $5,000 grant for repair and rehabilitation of the St. Mark’s Community Center. Six seats on the council come open for election this fall, and election officer John Solomon provided information on how to become a candidate.
Reporting on housing needs, University Vice President for Economic Development and Community Relations David Shipps said Sewanee Village Ventures was “advancing on construction of five to seven single family homes on vacant leasehold not taken by employees in the lottery.” Superintendent of Leases Sallie Green confirmed all employees who wanted a leasehold received one, with 10 lots spoken for. The lots can only be transferred to permanent residents, Green said. No more lots would be released until all the available lots had been assigned. Shipps said the homes constructed by SVV would be “as affordable as possible,” although acknowledging, “Affordability can be defined 100 different ways.”
Shipps announced the formation of two housing-focused working groups. Shipps will head a group looking at what housing policies and programs best serve the University’s goal of attracting and retaining employees. “Other Universities do creative things to provide an onramp to housing,” Shipps said, “And it’s not just university housing.” He speculated there might be a “mismatch” between new employees and how many wanted to own single-family homes. “Interest in home ownership varies,” Shipps said. The council elected Pam Byerly to serve as the working-group’s council representative.
Acting Provost Scott Wilson will chair a group tasked with addressing policy questions about who has access to University rental housing and questions about demand—the number of units needed, the type of housing, and for how long. Wilson said a survey was underway “to get a handle on demand.” He observed some employees wanted to live in rental housing “quite a while” beyond the current three-year limit. Non-university rentals “might relieve the burden on the University.”
Asked about renovation of University rental housing, Wilson said $150,000, annually, was allocated for that purpose in 2018. The pandemic and the difficulty of renovating occupied rentals has delayed progress. Plans call for renovations this coming year.
Providing an update on senior living initiatives, Solomon, who serves on the Arcadia board as well as the council, said a research firm would conduct a survey to gather information to guide design of Arcadia, the proposed Sewanee senior living facility. Area residents will be asked about location, price, and service preferences. In another initiative, the Arcadia board has partnered with Folks at Home to introduce LiveWell by Blakeford in the Sewanee community. The lifetime-care membership program offers transportation, home care, and other services for those choosing to age at home. Blakeford, which also operates a live-in facility in Nashville, recently hired a registered nurse to serve the Sewanee area.
June Weber, Sewanee Community Funding Project chair, said the Roberson Project prepared a detailed grant application requesting the funds to repair St. Mark’s Community Center. The application noted $7,000 total was needed, but the Center would seek donations from other sources, as well, and also plans to establish a fund to address future maintenance needs.
The Funding Project program has $2,643 remaining for community projects. Visit the Lease Office website for details about applying. The amount of available funds increases by $10,000 annually. Weber welcomes new Funding Project committee members, from both the council and community. Two council members serving on the committee will rotate off when their terms end in December.
Reporting on the council election, Solomon said one seat from each of the four districts is open for election and two at large seats. Election petitions are available at the lease office and must be returned by Oct. 14. Early voting is Oct. 19-Nov. 3 at the lease office; regular voting is election day, Nov. 8, at Sewanee Elementary School. All persons residing in the 37375 zip code for at least two years and registered to vote in Franklin or Marion County are eligible to serve on the council. Council members currently serving a full four-year term cannot seek reelection.