02/11/09 — Residents will oppose low-income housing

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Residents will oppose low-income housing

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 11, 2009 1:46 PM

Rosewood area residents are launching a petition drive against low-income housing in the county and in particular a 36-unit development proposed for their community.

"We are trying to voice our opinion and we hope the county commissioners and others listen and hear the voice of the people," Joseph Hackett, one of the organizers, said today.

Nearly 70 Rosewood area residents returned home Tuesday night without learning any more about the housing project after the issue was pulled from the county Planning Board's agenda.

Meanwhile, project developer John Bell said in an interview Tuesday night that he had asked for the item to be removed after learning of the residents' opposition. Bell said he would be glad to explain the project to anyone.

The project would be built just off U.S. 70 behind the Second Fling Consignment Store.

Planning Director Connie Price first delivered the message to the approximately 70 people milling around outside the locked front doors of the county administrative building prior to the start of the meeting.

"If you are here for the Rosewood Townes, it will not be discussed tonight," Price said. "It has been taken off the agenda. The developer asked that it not be discussed tonight."

The Planning Board meets on the second Tuesday of each month in the county administrative offices, 209 S. William St.

Hackett said he was concerned the issue could be "slipped back on the agenda" without the public being aware. He said he had not learned of the Tuesday meeting until yesterday morning.

The meeting and housing project were included in a story in the Sunday edition of the News-Argus. He said he did not read the paper.

"I have heard such a firestorm about it that I decided it wasn't prudent or appropriate to go before the board," Bell said. "When I found out there was so much concern over something that I think is so nice and needed I decided to take a step back and listen to those concerns."

Bell, who is not related to Commissioner John Bell, said people are naturally afraid of the unknown. He said he had received calls from people who thought he was Commissioner Bell. Some even thought the houses would sell for $11,000.

The Rosewood project would be 36 single-family rental properties ranging from low-income to market value, Bell said.

"We are very much against the project," Hackett said.

He said a "calling bank" would be organized to contact as many people as possible across the county.

"We want to get as many people as possible," he said. "Wayne County does not need any more low-rent housing. It would just increase the burden on a county already hurting in this economy."

The project, he said, would lower already eroding property values.

There also are concerns of increases in crime and demands on volunteer fire departments, he said.

Bell said the units would have on-site management and that criminal background checks also would be required of any renter.

Commissioners at their Feb. 3 referred the project to the Planning Board for review since it would require the use of septic tanks in an area where sewer lines would be preferred. The Health Department, Bell said, has given preliminary approval for the use of septic tanks.

They also wanted to ensure the project meets requirements of the county's comprehensive land use plan. There is no zoning in the area.

Bell has developed Ashbrook and Randell Place just off Central Heights Road and he has asked the county to help sponsor an application to the state Division of Community Assistance for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant to help finance the project.

The county would submit a letter of interest to DCA since the agency's guidelines specify its financial assistance is available only to units of local government.

If funded, the county would use the money to make a $250,000 loan that would be repaid over a 20-year period at 2 percent interest. The grant includes administrative fees.