02/16/09 — Rosewood residents to oppose housing

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Rosewood residents to oppose housing

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 16, 2009 1:46 PM

ROSEWOOD -- Opponents of a low-income housing project in their community say they welcome support from anyone in the county who is concerned about such projects.

Opponents of the Rosewood Townes project will gather Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Rosewood High School to organize, plan strategies and hammer out a petition against the project.

"We don't want to come off on the wrong foot," said Joseph Hackett, one of the opposition organizers.

The 36 units of low-income to market value units are proposed by developer John Bell, who is not related to county Commissioner John Bell. They would be built just off U.S. 70 at Rosewood behind the Second Fling Consignment Shop.

Bell had the project pulled from last week's county Planning Board agenda because of the controversy.

The project was referred to the Planning Board by commissioners for review since it would require the use of septic tanks in an area where sewer lines would be preferred. Bell, the developer, said the Health Department has given preliminary approval for the use of septic tanks.

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

Hackett said a petition is being drafted and will be discussed Tuesday before signatures are sought. An electronic version will be available on the Internet as well, he said.

"Also we are working more in-depth researching," he said. "We will be making more phone calls. We have talked to Realtors who told us that in their experience when they have a house for sale in an area where there is low-income housing it does affect property values and they have to lower their price to sell."

Property vales aren't the issue, he said.

"You have to talk about schools and the possible influx of students," Hackett said. "The student-teacher ratio is already at or above capacity."

Residents are worried as well that people from surrounding counties could apply for one of the units, including people who have been "kicked out" of similar housing.

An increase in crime is a concern, too, he said.

Bell has said applicants must undergo a criminal background check. There will be on-site management as well, he said.

Hackett said Bell is not expected to attend the Tuesday meeting.

"I have spoken with John and he indicated he would be more than willing to talk to people in the community," Hackett said.

Since there is no zoning in the area, Bell could develop the project "any way he wants to," Hackett said.

This could be the way to make commissioners more aware of zoning needs, he said.

Hackett said the meeting is to let commissioners and the rest of the county know how Rosewood feels about the project.

"There has been a tremendous amount of support," he said. "Fliers have gone out and posters put up," he said. "Numerous businesses also object.

"This not just us, it is for people of all areas. We open our doors to everyone who is willing to support our petition."

Bell has asked the county to help sponsor an application to the state Division of Community Assistance for a $250,000 Community De-velopment Block Grant to help finance the project.

The project would require a letter of interest from the county since DCA 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.