County Council majority" "No" to affordable housing

A majority of Laurens County Council tonight rejected an affordable housing opportunity near Clinton.

Council member Dr. David Pitts said people in Clinton, especially in promixity to the development on Fair Avenue, don't want it. Pitts said it would devalue his property - a half mile from the proposed site. When a representative of the development company asked if Pitts should not recuse himself from the vote, he said, "This is representative democracy."

The development is not in the Clinton city limits, so it does not fall under city zoning. Laurens County does not have zoning, or a land-use planning ordinance. The development company, listed on the council's agenda as "Woda Cooper Development, Low Income Housing," needed a letter of support from the governing body to move forward on an $8.4 million project.

A motion to give that letter failed. Council members Dianne Anderson and Garrett McDaniel voted "yes," in favor of issuing the letter. Council members Pitts, Joe Wood (chairman), Ted Nash, Stewart Jones and Keith Tollison voted "no," in favor of rejecting the letter. Woda Cooper was a late addition to the council's everry-other-week meeting agenda. 

A company representative said it's not Section 8 or subsidized housing - Pitts said people in Clinton don't want the development because it is high-density near a single-family housing area. The council was told police offficer, EMS workers, and clerks at small stores would be the people renting the moderated priced housing - it is developed in cooperation with investors leverage government affordable housing tax credits.

"Can you say these are the only people who will rent there?" Pitts asked the company representative.

When told "yes," he replied, "Don't we have a Fair Housing Law?"

Anderson proposed a motion to grant the letter of support because zoning was turned down by a majority of county residents in a referendum; and since the housing development is outside a zoned area (the City of Clinton), property owners have no restrictions on what they can build on their own land. Tollison said he did not have enough information to cast a "yes" vote for granting the endorsement letter, and he was concerned that "those people" in apartments sometimes engage in activities that devalue adjoing property.

The company representative said the tract is large enough for the 49 2 and 3BR apartments could be built with a tree buffer surrounding them - she said there is no statistical proof that building apartments lowers single-family housing values. She said a full market study was done, and it indicated apartments near Clinton could be rented successfully.

In other business, the council voted to accept 1.13 miles of roads in the Blake Heights Subdivision (near Bull Hill Road) into the county's 400-mile county maintained road system, and agreed to urge the Laurens County Water & Sewer Commission to install a water line to 5 houses on Cedar Valley Road (near Laurens District 55 High School).

Wood said LCWSC wants to be sure it can re-coup a $10,000 cost of installing the small water line, and that should be possible if all 5 property owners sign a letter saying they will tap on when the line is built, at $1,800 per tap.


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