Zoning board nixes complex
Residents on Graham Avenue swayed two members of the Henderson Board of Zoning Adjustment Tuesday to oppose a permit renewal that would have allowed construction of a $4 million, 32-unit townhome complex for low-income families.
Without the required 80 percent approval margin, the request by Lucy P. Cooper, Heirs, the property owner, and Connelly Development, applicant, was denied. Those voting for the renewal were board chairman Arlene Richardson, Sara Coffey, Ruxton Bobbit and Rick Brand. Horace Bullock and Thomas Badger voted against.
Project leaders said they are planning quality living conditions for working families, and careful background checks against drug use and criminal histories will help ensure good neighbors for the neighborhood.
Andy Rosen, representing property owners, said the renewal would give the project a second chance at receiving competitive housing tax credits, which they tried but failed to get after their permit approval last year.
“We don’t know if we will be successful,” Rosen said. “We do want another bite at the apple.”
Residents opposing the apartment complex told members the traffic on Graham Avenue is already too congested, and the proposed residences would roughly double the residential population.
“We don’t need any more traffic,” said Jackie Glover, a resident of the area for 45 years.
Kelcie Ann Peoples said she doubted the marketability of more temporary rental properties as hundreds of places elsewhere in the city remain vacant.
“We don’t want low-income housing,” Peoples said. “As a zoning board, would you compensate us for the devaluing of our properties?”
Peoples added that crime and blight problems have some areas of the city living in fear, underscored by extremes such as recent carjackings, “even rape in front of children,” she said. “All of our residents are against this project. We are willing to pull out all the stops if we have to.”
“Trying to get into my own driveway is already horrible,” Marie Pegram said. “The traffic is my main concern.”
Some speaking on behalf of businesses located nearby on Dabney Drive said that they would have some concern about persons wandering to loiter and perhaps engage in criminal activity at some retail and banking establishments.
In response to concerns, Kevin Connelly of Connelly Development said that he placed his main office near two similar successful developments. He said low income does not mean no income, and certainly not criminal element.
Connelly said that there is a zero tolerance for criminal behavior for residents at his properties. There would be buffers and fencing, plus video surveillance, but the protection is for shielding his residents from problems outside, not monitoring residents within.
“Affordable housing does not mean we will move in a bunch of thugs,” Connelly said. “We find that about 90 percent of any problems are from people coming from outside our properties. Our residents contribute to the community just like everyone else.”
The complex would include a playground, clubhouse/computer center, every unit wired for high speed Internet, plus adequate parking for all residents, according to Connelly. He added that his rentals are more than 90 percent occupied at all times.
The current special use permit for the project is set to expire April 3. Funding for construction would not materialize until the fall, pending approval of the housing tax credit incentives.
The board voted in favor of permit renewal on a 4-2 margin of city members present, which was short of the 80 percent margin needed to pass.
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