June 10, 2015
Plans are in the works to build a $4.3 million, 48 unit low income housing development across from Catholic Church in Meadowbrook…
LOUISA, Ky. — Members of the Louisa City Council split 3-2 over free water taps for a new 48 unit low income housing project on Meadowbrook Lane where dozens of $200,000 and up homes are located.
Local developer Gene Wilson has partnered up with Gene Meyers, who already owns more than 750 such units in several states including Pine Crest and the Bay Pointe senior citizens highrise on Gene Wilson Blvd., to build the project on a vacant lot across Meadowbrook Lane from the Catholic Church.
The units will be one, two and three bedrooms and the federal government will pay about 70% average of the $850 per month rent depending on income and the renter the rest. This will make the 5th low income/senior citizens housing development in the area ironically named Gene Wilson Blvd.
City officials have no say in whether or not the project is done, but when Wilson asked, through his representative, Eric Ratliff, at last night’s city council meeting that the city “waive” the tap-on fees for both water and sewer service for the facility which would cost an estimated $7,500, Council members Gloria Johnson and Lisa Schaeffer balked on the proposal.
“I believe they can pay for the tap-on fees themselves and it isn’t our job to use the public’s money to give free hookups to privately owned businesses,” longtime council member Gloria Johnson said.
Lisa Schaeffer, an outspoken member of the council, agreed. “This is not fair to others who build rental properties and do not get the $850 per unit paid for by the taxpayers,” Schaeffer said.
Mayor Harold Slone said it is really not an expense for the city. “It’s not like we’re out any money on this, it is just that we are waiving the fees,” Slone said.
“What’s the difference,” one audience member (me) asked. “It is still $7,500 the city isn’t getting so it is an expense.”
Slone tried to explain that the waiving of the fees will help show the city’s support for the $4.3 million project in order to help Wilson and his partner get approval for it. Wilson said this morning that there is competition for the government grants to build the low income housing and the ones with the most “points” get the projects. He did not know any other ways a company gets such points.
He said he has already obtained a $100,000 no interest loan to pay for the engineering work for the project which will certainly change the flow of traffic in the area which also includes TRMC, and both Louisa Middle School and LCHS plus numerous offices and businesses.
The project will have only two tap-ons, one for water and one for sewer, Waterworks director David McGuire said.
City Clerk Kathy Compton said the facility’s owners will pay city property taxes of about $11,000 per year plus the city water and sewer bills. She did not have an estimate as to how much that will be.
“We’re also going to pay county taxes and for the water and this will bring new renters into the city and they will help boost the economy,” Wilson said.
Wilson, 77, filed a complaint about the amount of city taxes he was assessed after his Best Western Motel was annexed into the city two years ago, and was reimbursed for at least part of those taxes.
But on a motion by Ronald Cordle and second by Mitch Castle and a “yes” viote by Tom Parsons the measure passed 3-2 with council member Angie McGuire absent.
New high income housing also coming
In a similar matter brought before the council, Cordle again made the motion and Castle the second and Parsons voting “yes” to approve spending $35,000 to lay water and sewer lines to a new subdivision located less than a mile from the new low income site.
River Oak Estates, being developed by Cliff West and Jimmy Marcum, will contain 15 new homes but unlike Wilson’s project, the homes will be in the $200,000 range or be sold in lots.
“On this one the developers will pay the tap-on fees just like everyone else and the city will not be out much money when you consider the use of water and sewer fees in the future,” Mayor Slone said. “And Cliff West (county surveyor) is going to do the design and engineering work for the lines free and that helps out a lot.”
River Oak Estates is in the city limits just over the hill from another apartment complex towards Walbridge on the right side of the road where work has already begun.
Slone said paying for water and sewer lines to new developments is the usual practice for the city.
Ms. Johnson and Ms. Schaeffer again voted “no” on the motion but it passed 3-2, as well.
Will aging sewer system handle the growth?
One question that came up was concerning the added strain on the city’s aging sewer system which has been cited for being out of compliance in the past. Mayor Slone asked Waterworks director David McGuire if the sewer system can handle the added influx and McGuire said it could.
“We’re not at maximum capacity yet, we’re sort of at a tipping point right now but I believe we can handle the new developments,” McGuire answered.
There have been dozens of complaints lately about a foul sewer odor near the plant located near Food City on the riverbank.
Slone said he is having two possible solutions drawn up for fixing the situation, one would be refurbishing the old plant and the other building a new one.
“We will just have to see what we can afford and there isn’t much time to make the decision,” Slone said.
Many local citizens fear another situation like the one that saw the city be sued by the Sierra Club for not properly disposing of waste from the plant more than ten years ago in which the Sierra Club won $380,000 in attorney fees and a $20,000 fine which is still being paid off by the city. Another concern is the almost certain raising of water and sewer fees in the city.