03/03/06 — Neighbors protest apartment complex plans

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Neighbors protest apartment complex plans

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 3, 2006 1:50 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- About 20 residents opposing the building of an low-income apartment complex in their neighborhood met Thursday night to discuss what they could do to prevent its construction.

The proposed Carver Ridge Apartments would be located on Old Seven Springs Road just outside the eastern town limits, between Carver Elementary School and Bell Avenue. It would contain 24 units, including one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Evergreen Construction has applied for a low-interest loan from the Housing Finance Agency and has agreed to rent to families with incomes up to 60 percent of the median income. Rents would be subsidized by the government, with rents ranging from $250 for a one-bedroom apartment to $455 for a three-bedroom apartment.

A special use permit allowing multi-family dwellings would be required for the apartments to be built. The town Planning Board approved the company's request for the permit, 6-1.

The residents met at the American Legion Post. Mayor Ruff Huggins and Assistant Town Manager Charles Brown spoke to them, explaining the town's regulations and the process the company must go through to get approval for the project.

Residents said they are concerned about traffic, safety and reduced property values. Some said they were under the impression that the Town Board had already approved the apartments' construction.

Huggins said a public hearing on the issue would have to be held before the Town Board could take any action. The board meets Monday night, but the issue is not on the agenda. Huggins said the developers have not yet requested to appear before the board.

"We had some folks come from out of town wanting to invest about $1 million," the mayor said. "They got an option on some land and will come before the town board with a request for a special use permit. But they haven't yet. At the proper time, we will have a public hearing. The planning board recommended we look at it seriously, and we'll do that, but not at the next meeting."

The apartments would be located in the extra-territorial jurisdiction area that circles the town limits. Huggins said if the apartments were annexed into the town it would add about $1 million to the town's tax base and help keep the property tax rate down.

That argument did not convince Julie Beck, who lives next to the proposed apartment site.

"Obviously we don't want taxes to go up, but why do we have to take the hit so the rest of Mount Olive's taxes can be low," Ms. Beck said.

Some residents said they would be happy to see a subdivision on the site, but that they feared the consequences of having an apartment complex there, especially apartments whose residents qualify for government subsidies.

Huggins noted that there are no apartment complexes in Mount Olive that do not have subsidized renters.

"That's the only way you can build affordable decent housing," he said. "Three times as many people drive to Mount Olive to work than live in Mount Olive."

He said people elected him to try to provide a good living community for everybody, "not just folks who live on one side of town. Decent affordable housing should be available for everybody. Low-income people are just as good people as I am. They need a decent place to live, too."