Frustrations among Cumberland County commissioners over the cost of affordable housing came to a head Tuesday evening when they were given a presentation recommending the spending of federal dollars for homeless services.
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners met in a packed Room 118 of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse.
Dee Taylor, the county’s Community Development director, briefed commissioners on a proposed Community Development HOME - ARP allocation plan and asked the board to conduct a public hearing to allow for public comment on the allocation plan. However, no one showed up to speak at the public hearing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program grant allocated $1,435,021 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to Cumberland County. The money is to be used for activities that benefit qualifying individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or in other vulnerable populations.
Before the county’s DSS can spend any of the HOME-ARP money, it had to prepare a plan that details how the money will be allocated for eligible services, which include building affordable housing, rental assistance, support services such as counseling and legal advice, and paying for non-congregate shelter. The DSS had to consult with housing and service providers whose clients qualifying for the services.
Responses given by service providers and residents are being considered as to how to best use the HOME-ARP funds to meet the needs of the qualifying populations, according Taylor.
Taylor said DSS drew up a survey to get suggestions on how the funds should be used and identified priorities. The survey received 23 responses. DSS also held one-on-one virtual meetings with 10 services providers. The majority of the respondents, 44%, opted for construction of affordable housing, 20% recommended rental assistance, and 36% recommended the acquisition or development of non-congregate shelters. Non-congregate shelter is the term used for emergency shelters that provide accommodations such as motel rooms, and limits the spread of COVID 19 among the homeless.
Community Development completed a draft of the plan and made it available to the public for comment and review between Jan. 13 and Jan. 27. A public hearing on Tuesday had to be held during the comment period. After the public has had a chance to review the draft, the final copy of the plan will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners at the Feb. 6 regular meeting, where the board is expected to approve the plan to be submitted to HUD.
Commissioner Jimmy Keefe again brought up the subject of how much money the county spends on new construction of affordable housing. He suggested taking a new approach to providing homes for the homeless.
“The old way of doing things is not working,” he told Taylor.
"We’re spending a lot of money but not getting much of an impact to help the homeless. It doesn’t look like we’re making progress,” he told Taylor.
Commissioners Veronica Jones and Michael Boose agreed. Both suggested buying existing housing or apartments and foregoing new and more expensive construction. Vice Chairman Glenn Adams suggested the creation of a committee that could help determine whether the county builds new or buys existing property.
“I’d be happy to sit down and discuss this further,” Taylor replied.
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The board also voted unanimously to grant a rezoning from A1 Agricultural District to RR Rural Residential/CZ Conditional Zoning District or to a more restrictive zoning district for approximately 106.75 acres located east of Hummingbird Place and west of Maxwell Road. The applicant is George Rose who is making the request on behalf of Astrakel International LTD, the property owner.
The developers are planning to build 168 stick-built homes on the site. The first phase of the development includes 54 lots, and the second phase will be the remaining 114 lots. Initially, the builders wanted to have 232 lots measuring 15,000 square feet but opted for the lesser amount of 168 that would be 20,000 square feet each.
Rose and his attorney, Scott Flowers, spoke in favor of the rezoning; however, three area residents spoke against the proposed subdivision because of the lack of drainage surrounding the property.
Robin Bridges, who lives on Stedman Road, said the soil on the property is not conducive for a large development and would result in flooding. She presented a petition with 283 signatures against the development. “It’s a poor site and poor plan,” she told commissioners.
Donna Wilson, who lives on Maxwell Road, echoed those comments, saying the area is a swamp. Vicky Jones, who lives on Hummingbird Lane, said the flooding is so bad that she has to haul fill dirt onto her property every couple of years.
The Cumberland County Planning Board voted 6-3 to deny the rezoning request at the Nov. 15 meeting. However, the Planning and Inspections staff recommended approval of the rezoning because the request is consistent with the Eastover Area Land Use Plan, which calls for “Rural Density Residential” at this location. The planning staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest as the requested district is compatible to and in harmony with the surrounding land use activities and zoning. The planning board disagreed with the staff’s findings, according to the minutes of the meeting.
The board also voted to rezone from A1 Agricultural District to R40A Residential District or to a more restrictive zoning district for about 4.01acres located at 2140 Rich Walker Road and an abutting parcel. Bertha Elliott is the owner making the application.
In this case, the Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning request from A1 Agricultural District to R40A Residential District at the Dec. 20 meeting. The Planning and Inspections staff also recommended approval of the rezoning request. The Planning staff determined the request to be consistent with the Eastover Area Land Use Plan, which calls for “Rural Density Residential” at this location. Staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest as it is compatible to and in harmony with the surrounding land use activities and zoning, according to the minutes of the meeting.
And the board approved the rezoning from CD Conservancy District to A1 Agricultural District or to a more restrictive zoning district for about 2 acres located on a portion of the abutting parcel east of 7632 Sim Canady Road. Bradley Allee and Lynne Gralewski are the owners making the request.
The Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning request at its Dec. 20 meeting. The Planning staff also recommended approval because the request is consistent with the South-Central Land Use Plan, which calls for “farmland” at this location. Staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest as it is compatible to and in harmony with the surrounding land use activities and zoning, according to the minutes of that meeting.
The board also opted not to consider a funding agreement with Hillside - FMHA LLC for the rehabilitation of Hillside Manor Apartments. The county released a “request for proposal” in early spring of 2021 seeking applications from eligible agencies to provide public services (human services), public facilities / infrastructure, and affordable housing developments, according to Taylor.
A departmental selection committee reviewed all proposals and Hillside – FMHA was one of the agencies selected to receive funding for substantial rehabilitation of 32 units at Hillside Manor, located at 1920 Rosehill Road. Community Development wants to enter into a contract with the agency for a funding amount not to exceed $441,020, according to Taylor’s memo. Development Block Grant funds are available for this project, according to Taylor.
The staff recommended that the board approve the funding agreement with Hillside-FMHA in the amount not to exceed $441,020 for the rehabilitation of 32 units at Hillside Manor Apartments.
However, some board members balked at the funding arrangement with Adams suggesting some of the money could be coming from the city of Fayetteville. “They get a whole lot more money than we do,” he said.
Adams motioned to approve the funding agreement but could not get a second. Keefe countered with a motion to deny the funding request. The motion passed unanimously.
Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.