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Planning commission OKs public housing units

A plan to construct 20 new public housing units on Charleston's West Side got the green light Wednesday during a Municipal Planning Commission meeting.

The Charleston-Kanawha Housing Authority plans to build 20 new units just off Washington Street West near two other public housing complexes - Orchard Manor and Littlepage Terrace.

The authority plans to build 12 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom units, housing authority CEO Mark Taylor said.

The project is being undertaken to reduce density at Littlepage Terrace and Orchard Manor.

Residents who would typically be housed in Littlepage instead will be directed to these units or ones being constructed at another site across Washington Street West, Taylor said.

The ultimate goal is to demolish the 108 original units at Littlepage, which was built in the 1940s, he said. He plans to build another 48 units on that site once the demolition is completed.

This would help reduce the density of the complexes significantly.

"We currently have 28 units per acre," he said. "When we're done, we'll have 13 units per acre."

The ultimate plan is to downsize the number of public housing units available, Taylor said. The authority will have a total of 440 units once the new apartments are completed along Washington Street West.

"We'll have 381 units when we're finished," Taylor said.

The new units will be safer than the ones built in the mid 1900s, he said.

When Littlepage Terrace and Orchard Manor were built, the trend was to build large public housing projects, Taylor said.

The new units will look like townhouses and each will have its own outside entrance. That will make it safer for residents entering and leaving their apartments, Taylor said.

"And it helps people with their self esteem because they no longer feel like they're living in the projects," he said.

The units will improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood, Taylor said.

"This is a huge investment in the city," he said.

The housing authority also plans to construct 11 new units on 7th Avenue where an American Legion building used to sit. The entire project, including acquisition of the land and installation of infrastructure, should cost about $6 million, Taylor 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, Taylor said.

No one attended Wednesday's meeting to speak for or against the plan.

Planning Department staff members recommended that the commission approve the plan.

"The plan is in compliance with existing zoning ordinances," said Dan Vriendt, planning director.

City infrastructure can support the new units, Vriendt said.

The Planning Commission also tabled a request to rezone a parcel of land on Chappell Road in Kanawha City where Good Shepherd Church now sits from a single-family residential district to a mixed-use neighborhood district.

Dr. Kimberly Rossi, who hopes to open a dermatology medical office in the old church, made the request.

Some residents oppose the proposal because a daycare is currently located in the church and they don't want it to be affected by the zoning change.

Planning Commission member Aric Margolis informed the residents who attended the meeting that the commission could not ensure that the daycare would remain at the church no matter how the area was zoned.

However, Vriendt suggested that the proposal be tabled to see if staff could draft an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would allow for a medical facility to be placed in the church without rezoning the whole parcel of land.

This would prevent anyone from buying the property in the future and building a large office space on the land, he said.

Commission members unanimously agreed to table the proposal.

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


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