By Ryan Richardson
The Joplin Globe
DUQUESNE, Mo. —
Strong words were exchanged Monday night at the Duquesne City Council meeting over a proposed apartment complex that would offer subsidized rent for low-income residents.
The proposed 48-unit apartment complex would be built on two acres between 13th and 18th streets along Katherine Avenue. The property is owned by Midcontinent Equity Holdings LLC, of Stockton, which has built other low-income housing around the state.
Officials with the company did not return calls for comment.
Duquesne officials in July signed a letter of intent stating that as long as the project complies with local codes, they would support it.
A petition opposing the complex has been circulating since late last year and has 60 signatures so far, said Christina Low, a Duquesne resident who started the petition.
Low said she started the petition primarily because of safety concerns that she believes would result if the apartments are built.
“That’s too many people on that small of land,” Low said after Monday’s meeting. “The only access to it is from Katherine, and the traffic and safety issue is too great. What if a fire broke out there? ... The fire department that services us is in Duenweg, and if they got here in time, they still have to contend with getting to the complex. It’s dangerous.”
Geneia Morgan, of Joplin, is a former Duquesne resident who said she moved to Joplin after she was unable to find affordable housing in Duquesne.
During her comments at the meeting, Morgan said she thought the petition was aimed at low-income residents who would qualify for the apartments. She said the opponents fear that more low-income residents would lead to more crime.
Morgan specifically addressed Councilwoman Lisa Daugherty, who opposes the apartment project.
“I’m not asking you to bring crime into the city,” Morgan said. “But who is to say that we can’t make this city better just because we have less money than other residents?
“This is discriminatory against me. I’m a single parent just trying to make a living. She (Daugherty) has called us ‘those people’ or ‘them people,’ and it’s just pure prejudice against us.”
Daugherty responded: “I have never been on record on saying ‘those people’ when referring to someone in low-income housing. I do support not bringing low-income housing to Duquesne, but I did not bring ahead a petition. That was brought by the citizens of Duquesne.”
Low did not formally present the petition to the council. She said she is still gathering signatures.
The council did not make any decision on the housing issue.
The issue is similar to one that arose in 2011, when Daugherty opposed a proposed low-income housing project that she said could lead to more crime and could change the city. That dispute involved a proposed development of 40 homes on land along 20th Street across from East Middle School. That project never came to pass.
Daugherty led a petition drive opposing placement of the development in Duquesne. She implied that people living in Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile homes in Joplin and Webb City would be likely candidates to move into those houses, and she listed statistics she said she obtained from the Webb City and Joplin police departments regarding calls for service and crime related to FEMA housing.
Daugherty, who with her husband was planning to rebuild in Duquesne, also said people who live in subsidized housing have no vested interest in the community.
FEMA representatives disagreed with the characterization that there is a high crime rate among those living in temporary housing.
In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Denny White said a petition at this point would do little to change the issue.
“It is a moot point now because the property in question is zoned properly, and there is no way for us as a council to go back and have it rezoned. Only the property owner can ask for it to be rezoned,” White said. “We stick to our letter of intent, and that’s where we stand. We have asked several times to see the petition, and it hasn’t been presented to the council. It’s hard to act on something that we haven’t seen.”
White said he expects work will begin on the apartments once funding for the project is secured.
MAYOR DENNY WHITE said Duquesne lost nearly 250 homes and 55 businesses in the tornado on May 22, 2011. More than 40 of those businesses and 150 homes had been rebuilt by late 2012.