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Councilman opposes more public housing

Construction of public housing along Washington Street West near two other large housing complexes will be discussed at a Charleston Municipal Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.

And although the ward's councilman, Bill Kirk, opposes construction of the new units so close to existing housing complexes, he will not attend Wednesday's meeting to voice his concerns.

That is because Kirk attended a meeting in June to discuss construction of 28 public housing units in the same area as the project to be discussed Wednesday.

Kirk, a Republican who represents North Charleston and parts of the West Side, opposed the units discussed in June, saying that much public housing in the area would increase crime.

However, the Planning Commission approved the plans for that project in June, and construction of the 28 units is now under way.   

 "There's no reason for me to waste my time by going to this meeting and talking to people that won't listen," Kirk said.

The 20 units being discussed Wednesday will be built beside the entrance to Orchard Manor and near Littlepage Terrace.

Mark Taylor, chief executive officer for the Charleston Kanawha Housing Authority, does not believe the new units will cause problems.  

"I think this will help decrease crime in the area," he said.

The new units will house some residents currently living in Littlepage Terrace and reduce its population density, he said.  

"I know folks will say that the units are all concentrated in one area, but they'll not be concentrated on the same piece of land," Taylor added.

The authority plans to build 20 units in what used to be an old parking lot along Washington Street West just across the bridge that crosses the stream known as Kanawha Two Mile.

The units will include 12 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments, Taylor said.

Another 11 units will be built on 7th Avenue on a plot of land where an American Legion building used to sit, he said. These units will consist of four one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments.

The entire project, including acquisition of the land at the two locations and construction of all the units, is expected to run about $6 million, he said.

About $5 million has been obtained through the sale of tax credits granted by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

The remaining $1 million will be borrowed, with the money to be repaid with rent revenue from the units, Taylor said.

The ultimate plan is to demolish the 108 original units at Littlepage Terrace, which was built in the 1940s. However, the complex cannot be demolished until new units are constructed, Taylor said.

Taylor hopes to build another 48 units on the Littlepage Terrace site once the old buildings are demolished, he said.

The availability of land on the West Side is the main reason for the housing authority opting to build there, Taylor said.

"You can't find large parcels of land that will accommodate what we're doing in other sections of the city," he said.

The Municipal Planning Commission will review the site plan for the new units to be located at 1920 Washington Street West during Wednesday's meeting.

"If there are concerns about the project that come up in the public meeting, then the Planning Commission can tweak the plans a little to address those concerns," said Dan Vriendt, director of the city's Planning Department.

The commission's decision will be final and not forwarded to city council.

The Planning Department has not received any calls or letters in opposition to the project, Vriendt said.    

The meeting will be held in the City Service Center's conference room starting at 3 p.m.  

The City Service Center is on the ground floor of a city parking building at the corner of Virginia Street East and McFarland Street downtown.   

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.


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