JOPLIN, Mo. —
Extensive and sometimes heated opposition was voiced Wednesday night by residents to four particular proposals to build low-income or affordable housing and apartments with tax credits in Joplin and Carl Junction.
In addition to opposing the projects, a number of those who spoke criticized what they characterized as a lack of disclosure of details about the projects and said there had been no official notice of the hearing by the Missouri Housing Development Commission at Joplin City Hall.
The bulk of the opposition was expressed against:
• A project by Dalmark Development Group LLC of Lee’s Summit to build low-income rental houses in what is called the Hickory Highlands subdivision near the Northport subdivision off Zora Street in Joplin.
• A project by Gardner Development Inc. in Springfield to build 38 low-income and 10 affordable houses on scattered lots in areas largely between 22nd and 24th streets from Illinois Avenue east to Mississippi Avenue, and in the area of 28th Street and Jefferson Avenue.
• Construction of 44 low-income houses and 12 affordable houses and duplexes by Zimmerman Properties LLC of Springfield in the Briarbrook area at Carl Junction.
• A proposal by DTS Joplin LLC of Webb City to build 34 low-income houses in The Meadows at Tallgrass Estates at Duquesne.
In all four cases, residents were largely opposed because they said the projects would put smaller houses in subdivisions and neighborhoods where larger, more expensive houses exist, some in developments that carry restrictions.
Rodney Bray, who lives in the Northport subdivision, was one of about 30 people representing 26 residences that would be affected by the Hickory Highlands development who spoke to the commission. He said the houses proposed would place low-income or affordable housing in a neighborhood of houses with an average value of $200,000 to $250,000 where no rentals currently exist.
He said the type of housing proposed would be better suited to be built in storm path of Joplin’s May 22 tornado.
Another resident there, Shannon Crouch, 2924 Hickory Lane, said he was made aware of the proposal only a few days ago when a real estate agent called and advised him to put his house up for sale because of a pending proposal to build low-income housing behind his large house.
“You don’t have to go to an area of high-end homes to build these when they have a need for this type of housing in the debris area,” Crouch said.
Mike Robinson, 2808 S. Jefferson Ave., said he lived in an established neighborhood for 30 years before the tornado destroyed his house and his neighborhood. He and most of his neighbors are rebuilding larger and more expensive homes. He said that before he began rebuilding, he consulted with a Joplin City Council member who represents his zone and was assured that no rezoning would done to allow multi-family dwellings, yet now Gardner Development Inc. is proposing to build affordable houses there, and he and his neighbors knew nothing of the proposal until a day before the hearing.
“I feel duped and stupid for keeping my tax dollars in Joplin,” if the city and the state would allow lesser value houses around him to devalue the investment he has made and would subsidize homes for other people with the tax dollars he pays, he said.
“Who’s going to give me a tax break next year (when he gets the tax bill for his house)?” Robinson asked. “I also am embarrassed to be made to sound like an elitist because I do care about people who lost their homes, but that was not the type of house that was in my neighborhood.”
Realtor Doris Carlin spoke for Gardner Development Inc., saying the company was willing to help restore the historic Frisco Building downtown and convert it into apartments for senior living. She said the houses that company proposes would be affordable but not low-income, and that the company would construct quality houses.
She was called down by some in the audience who said she should sit down because the hearing was meant for residents to comment, not those with a financial interest in the outcome. She said it was her understanding of the Gardner proposal that the houses would be owner-occupied, and someone in the audience shouted, “Well, let them build them across from you.”
The proposed Briar Creek Estates in Briarbrook brought comments from 11 residents on behalf of about 40 who attended the hearing.
Ken Williams, a Briarbrook resident who is a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said Carl Junction residents were not consulted by the city before the council there voted to recommend the project to the state commission. The council has since retracted its recommendation, he said, in view of public outcry.
He said the Briar Creek developer proposes to put in lower cost housing in an area of houses that are valued at $200,000 to $400,000. He said the plan would devalue surrounding properties.
Another resident, Michael Saale, said Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he had set aside $100 million in tax credits to help rebuild Joplin housing lost in the tornado. “This money the governor proposed was meant for the disaster area. It should be spent in the disaster area” rather than Carl Junction, he said.
Several residents said they learned of the proposals from signs posted by the developers in the yards of the proposed properties rather than by any announcement or notice by the cities or the state commission.
William Ulm, director of rental production for the commission who conducted the hearing, said there likely should be more communication. He said the commission will accept written comments until it meets to decide the proposals on Dec. 16. He said information can be obtained on the commission’s website at www.mhdc.com.
“I want to assure you these comments will be taken under consideration very seriously,” he told the audience, which filled the Joplin City Council chambers.
The Joplin City Council will discuss which proposals the city will recommend to the commission at a special meeting at 5:15 p.m. Monday.
Mayor Mike Woolston said he attended the hearing because he received questions and comments from some residents, and he wanted to hear people’s concerns at the hearing.
“Given my council experience, I can tell you that public input carries a lot of weight” with the commission, he said.
COMMENTS regarding tax credit proposals may be emailed to William Ulm at firstname.lastname@example.org.