Proposed Affordable Housing project moves on to Bedford City Council

BEDFORD – The Bedford Planning Commission moved a request for a proposed affordable housing project forward to the Bedford City Council for review.

Travis Vencel requested to rezone property at the former George’s Gateway location at 2201 M Street. Currently, the property is zoned B-3 Planned Business District and requests it to be changed to R-3 Medium Density Residential District. This will allow him to build a 65 multifamily unit apartment complex.

The only stipulation for the approval of the project was to add a fence along the railroad right away parallel to M Street.

Plan Commission president Byron Buker removed himself from the chair during the discussion of the project as he is a property owner in the same neighborhood. Buker also spoke in favor of the project citing the need for affordable housing in the City of Bedford. In the final vote, Buker abstained from the vote, while the measure passed 5-0.

Byron Buker speaks at the Plan Commission meeting Tuesday.

TWG Development LLC is based out of Indianapolis, with more than 80 developments in 14 states. TWG develops and manages the properties and keeps them in a portfolio for over 15 years.

The project is Section 42 Housing which uses federal tax credit of the IRS code which is awarded through the state annually.

Once the zoning is approved TWG will apply for the tax credits, the tax credits are used by the investors to buy down the mortgage. In turn for buying down the mortgage with the tax credits, TWG is required to have the apartments affordable and lease them to renters 30 – 60 percent Average Medium Income (AMI) for a period of 15 years, with automatic renewal for an additional 15 years thereafter.

TWG is the 13th largest developer in the United States, in providing affordable housing units. They currently have several projects in Indianapolis as well as French Lick, West Baden, Seymour, and Muncie, Indiana.

Those who live in the apartments must qualify to live in the apartments and must meet those qualifications every year. Renters must prove they have income and must pay their rent and pay their own utilities. There is no government subsidy going to the residents themselves.

Travis Vencel with TWG LLC

One of the maximum income levels of 30 percent AMI, which equates for a family of 4, the maximum AMI would be an income of $26,500 annually according to Vencel.

Another maximum income level of 60 percent AMI which equates for a family of 4 maximum AMI would be an income of $34,000 a year.

This would allow prospective renters affordable housing and would provide a great place of living for first time renters or perhaps a stepping stone to transition into the community. For example, a new college graduate that may earn an annual salary of 30,000 a year could begin living in the complex . However, as their pay scale progresses they would still be allowed to stay in the properties until they reach the 60 and 80 percent AMI before they no longer qualify.

Another positive situation this complex may provide to our community and our residents would be once one would inhabit in the these apartments for four to five years, it would give them the opportunty to establish their credit to allow them to purchase their own home one day.

The proposed project will include approximately 60 units which are 39 – 2 bedroom and 1 bath apartments and 21 – 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms apartments.

There will be an on-site leasing office and residential amenities, onsite maintenance staff five days a week,a leasing office, playground equipment all under surveillance with provided security and camera systems in place.

During the public comment period Gene Abel, president of Green Hill Cemetery Association expressed concerns about the increase in children in the neighborhood who could potentially vandalize the historic graves and the plausibility of the liability that may surface should they get injured on the property.

Gene Abel president of Green Hill Cemetery Association expressed concerns about liability and vandalism.

In addressing the concerns, Vencel stated that all renters must follow strict guidelines, and if they do not meet those terms and conditions of those guidelines they are evicted. However, those terms and conditions are communicated from the beginning.

Jon Nett, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, represented the K of C, who owns a building across the street from the proposed affordable housing project spoke in favor of the project.

Sixteen property owners were notified of the public hearing, and no letters from the adjacent property owners spoke for or against the project other than those that appeared before the commission on Tuesday.

The Lawrence County Growth Council wrote a letter of support for the project expressing the housing needs within Lawrence County. The LCGC using a Regional Opportunity Initiatives study that identified gaps and opportunities in regards to housing.

In Lawrence County, the ROI study indicates that 108 low-income and affordable rental units are needed in Bedford to meet the demand.

Overall there is a total need for 362 new housing units in Bedford by 2030, 145 of those being rental occupied. In the ROI letter to support the project, it cited the apartments would be developed in an ideal location, close to amenities, and in an area that could benefit greatly from the redevelopment.

The plan commission members Angel Hawkins, Steve Kimbley, and Scott Moore asked questions and / or sought additional information.

Questions regarding if the water and sewer lines could handle the increase in demand were also expressed by commission members.

A sewer lift station on 22nd Street will have to be upgraded which will also take two years to complete should the project be approved.

Brandon Woodward, Bedford Plan Director stated the water and sewer lines could handle the capacity however a nearby sewer lift station would require some renovation that would span over two years, should the project be approved. Cost estimates were not presented at this time regarding the sum the city would have to absorb to make those improvements.

Concerns about the nearby street alignment and increased traffic were addressed.

Concerns over the alignment of 22nd and N streets were also presented. The question was posed as to whether the increase in traffic would affect the area and whether adjustments would have to be made. According to Vencel the main entrance to the complex will be off of 22nd street with a small entrance further on down.

The design is to make sure there are two entrances and exits in case of a fire.

The final concern was for pedestrian traffic crossing on Mitchell Road, with the plan commission stipulating that a fence must be erected along the railroad right of way the full length of the property.

In other business:

The Bedford Plan Commission approved William (Bill) McFadden, Johnny and Bob Fiddler, and John Ropes’ request for a minor subdivision of their properties located in the 2500 block of Oak Ridge Drive. The subdivision will include 100 feet north of lots 26,27, and 28 of the Broadview North Section 3.

Bill McFadden a member of the Bedford Plan Commission abstained from the vote, the measure moves on to a public hearing after the 5-0 vote.