Low-income housing gets nod from town | RecordCourier.com
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Low-income housing gets nod from town

by Sharon Carter

In a compromise which could lead to settling a lawsuit and the withdrawal of a federal Fair Housing complaint against the county, the Gardnerville Town Board Thursday gave a tentative nod to an affordable housing project proposed for the Elges Lane area at the town’s southeast border.

At a special meeting, town officials unanimously voted to reconsider the 40-unit Crestmore Village Apartments affordable housing complex as a part of the neighboring Oakwood Homes’ conceptual plan.

Including five-acre Crestmore in the larger, 50-acre Oakwood development would allow Crestmore to share Oakwood’s drainage and free up space for Crestmore to create six 12,000-square-foot single family residential lots along the east side of Elges.

It is a compromise deal put together by development coordinator Bob Lomas of the Affordable Housing Group of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

“What would make this work for you?” Lomas asked the town board and Elges residents Thursday night. “We’re here to cut a deal.”

An overriding reason town officials had denied Crestmore a needed zoning overlay in April was that Elges Lane residents told officials they feared the project would lower their property values by surrounding their homes with apartments.

Adding the row of single-family homes on large-size city lots is regarded as a compromise move by Picerne Development Corp., Crestmore’s builder. Crestmore, which was awarded federal income tax credits by the Internal Revenue Service, must meet strict time lines and have the complex built and occupied by Dec. 31, 1999. Picerne hopes that by providing a buffer between Crestmore and Elges Lane and resolving traffic issues, the residents will withdraw their objections.

n Traffic issues. To resolve the traffic issues, developers propose to eliminate through traffic on Elges by ultimately making it a cul-de-sac. Access for Crestmore Village and Oakwood residents would be from a developer-built Waterloo Lane extension from Highway 395.

The Oakwood Homes development plans a total of 254 units and incorporates a gradual transition of densities in its design – 142 single family homes would lead into 72 townhomes, and the townhomes would abut 40 apartments. Some of the homes, Oakwood developers said, would qualify as affordable housing.

Members of the Gardnerville Town Board said they had some reservations with several aspects of Oakwood’s overall plan.

They took issue with Oakwood’s proposed average 6,000 square-foot single-family home lot sizes, saying such lots were too small. They directed town engineer Andy Burnham to work with Oakwood engineer Keith Ruben to increase and vary the development’s lot sizes, even if adding to residential lot space reduced community open space.

Town officials asked Burnham and Ruben, who represents Crestmore as well as Oakwood, to bring the resulting changes back to the them for approval at the town board’s next regular meeting, Oct. 1. If the changes meet with the town’s approval, the board will recommend that planning officials and county commissioners waive the open space requirement when they hear Oakwood’s request in October.

n Waterloo extension. Lomas, who acted as a facilitator in compromise efforts between the residents and Picerne, is also coordinating any concessions which will come from Oakwood. As it currently appears, Oakwood, with its greater number of units, would bear the brunt of the $500,000-$700,000 expense of the Waterloo Lane extension.

When Picerne brought the Crestmore project forward this past spring, the county planning commission approved it. Gardnerville officials, however, sided with the Elges Lane residents who feared not only lowered property values, but said if the development went forward as originally presented, increased traffic on Elges would make an already bad traffic situation worse. The Douglas County Commission sided with the residents and the town, and denied the zoning request, citing the county master plan which calls for a mix of residential uses throughout the county.

It was that denial which precipitated the lawsuit and the Fair Housing complaint brought by Picerne against the county. Lawyers for Picerne and Douglas County are scheduled to argue the case before Judge David Gamble Oct. 27.

If Crestmore, as a part of Oakwood, progresses through the various town and county hoops as Lomas hopes, and county officials approve the joint development, the Crestmore lawsuit would simply disappear.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle said both he and Picerne attorney Bill Huss were fully briefed and ready to argue their cases before the judge.

n Start over. “We’re not involved in any type of settlement negotiations and can’t make any formal offer – that would have to come from the county commission, and it would have to be agendized,” Doyle said. “But another way to do it is to start over at the bottom and work up, which appears to be what the developer is doing. Understand that in zoning litigation, a court order is a resolution of last resort – then it’s all (for one side) and nothing (for the other).

“Generally the better solution is a compromise somewhere in between. If the developer does a redesign or submits a different development pattern and it’s approved, then everyone could take something away that’s positive.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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