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County refuses project density

by Sheila Gardner
Staff Writer

Town and county officials turned down a density bonus for a proposed affordable housing project at the entrance to the Westwood subdivision, arguing extra units would have an adverse impact on the upscale Minden neighborhood.

Mahogany Court, at 894 Mahogany Dr., is the site of a proposed 17-unit housing project for low- to moderate-income families.

Last week, about 60 neighbors to the property attended the Minden Town Board to hear about the proposal for the 1.42-acre site.

Caleb Roope, key principal of The Pacific Companies, told residents his company has developed 80 affordable housing projects, including a complex in Indian Hills on Mica Drive.

He said the company does not sell the project once it’s complete.

“We have all disciplines: Contractor, developer, owners,” Roope said.

Roope sought a four-unit density bonus that would have meant a total of 21 two- and three-bedroom units at the property at the south end of Douglas High School and west of Highway 88.

Roope said the units rent for $730 a month for a two-bedroom and $844 for a three-bedroom unit.

To qualify for residency, tenants can earn from $30,300 annually for a single person to $46,800 for a family of five.

“What kind of people live here?” Roope asked. “Child care workers, retail sales people, bank tellers, restaurant and casino employees, caregivers for the elderly and disabled and many, many others, including people of Minden. They need a good place to live.”

Westwood homeowners told the Minden Town Board they had been unaware of the proposal until the board first heard it in October, and objected to the density bonus.

“You’re changing the character of the neighborhood, of what Westwood is,” said Jim Hales, whose home is closest to the site.

“It’s not good planning or you’d see them all over the county,” he said.

Hales said he was concerned about the impact of increased traffic with young drivers at the high school.

“Combine that with the type of people occupying these homes ” young families with kids ” in and out of there three times a day,” Hales said.

“These projects may be good, these may be good people. The owner said he wouldn’t sell, but you can’t restrict that,” Hales said.

Westwood resident Michael King said he believed the project was a good idea, but located in the wrong place.

“I think we need quality affordable housing. I have two sons who would qualify for this, but it’s in the wrong place. I can’t believe you’re going to try to cram that (complex) into that piece of property. It doesn’t work. You would have miniaturized housing.”

Opponents doubted Roope’s contention that the project wouldn’t lower property values.

“Anytime you have high-density housing adjacent to single-family housing, you lower the property value,” said Westwood resident and real estate broker Mitch Aragon. “A mixture in density lowers property values.”

Jackie Reyes said she chose the area to purchase her house because it was close to school for her children.

“I wouldn’t have bought here if I’d known,” she said. “People are accused of being snobbish or ‘not in my back yard.’ I qualified for low income housing in San Jose and I only lived there for three months. It’s not the environment I wanted to raise my children in.”

Roope said the complex has 24-hour management and tenants are screened for criminal records, rental and credit histories.

“We have strict house rules and lease provisions and we enforce them,” he said.

“We find it doesn’t make sense to let folks in who don’t take care of the property. We’re after folks who will pay rent,” he said.

The land use is compatible with existing zoning, obtained in 1994 when the site was proposed as a high-end condominium project by developer Greg Lynn.

Since the project doesn’t require a zone change, neighbors weren’t notified by the county, a sticking point with the town board.

The density bonus was denied Nov. 6 by the Douglas County Commission. The project goes before the Douglas County Planning Commission today for a variance to waive the requirement to provide three recreational vehicle parking spaces and reduce the amount of open space from 25 percent to 15 percent.

Mahogany Court would face the Carson Valley Swim Center and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse and back up to the south end of the Douglas High School parking lot.

Architect Douglas Gibson, representing Pacific West Communities Inc. of Eagle, Idaho, said the area was identified by the state as needing low- to moderate-income housing. He said state regulations dictated the number of units.

The complex would include a 1,500-square-foot community center, outdoor barbecue area, “tot lot” and on-site laundry facilities for residents.

The “overall amenity package” includes after-school programs for residents’ children and computer access.