City Council endorses affordable housing project; complex loses 1 point during vote
Feb. 21, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 21, 2012 at 8:22 p.m.
THE COUNCIL ALSO:
Had final readings on an ordinance that called for a charter election with one proposition affecting the age eligibility requirements to seek city office. Approved a resolution for a $100,000 agreement with CDM Smith Inc. for engineering design, bidding and construction of the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant bar screen improvements. Approved a bid to Bartek Construction Co. for a $167,440 Highway 77 Lift Station Force Main Improvement Project. Approved a resolution for a $48,000 professional services agreement with Willis of Texas Inc. of Houston, for employee benefit consulting services. Approved a resolution for $133,985 to change the order to the Downtown Water and Sanitary Sewer Replacement Phase II, projects 3 and 4 for additional improvements near St. Joseph High School Sports Complex and in Red River Street from Louis to Levi streets, bringing the contract to $2.31 million.
The Victoria City Council on Tuesday voted on two of three resolutions pertaining to an application for federal housing tax credits for a low-income, multi-family apartment complex.
The council was expected to vote on all three, but the second, which involved including the property in the 5300 block of John Stockbauer Drive in a revitalization plan, died when no one offered to second the motion.
The resolutions have been hailed by the developer, Indiana-based Pedcor Investments, as vital to the Stockbauer Landings Apartments as it competes against Corpus Christi and Ingleside for points to win tax credits. The three measures would have accounted for 20 points; with two approved, Pedcor lost one point.
The crux of the issue was how to define revitalization: either traditionally, meaning to make something new, or by the more-flexible federal definition to use pre-existing capacities and provide long-term improvements to specific areas.
"It's legal, but is it ethical? And that's what went through everyone's minds tonight," said Mayor Will Armstrong after the meeting. He supported the project.
Jeff Leonard, who lives in the subdivision that would abut the complex, spoke in opposition to the project during citizen comment portion of the meeting.
"No one can see into the future," he said. "No one knows what it would bring."
His concern was what would happen to the complex after five years, once the "honeymoon phase" is over.
"Once this is built, (Pedcor) is long-gone" when problems arise, he said.
Eddie Ganem, who owns the property, said he wants to sell, but its location in the floodplain has deterred buyers until Pedcor came along.
"One guy wanted to open a theme park there," Ganem said. "Since there's no zoning in Victoria, who knows what could come in there if this project is not approved."
He said an affordable-housing project is "not the worst thing that could happen."
Armstrong and Councilman Tom Halepaska said they were disappointed not all three measures passed.
Halepaska made the motion to approve the resolution regarding revitalization.
"That I got no support surprises me," he said. "If it's one point that's going to make or break it, we lost it."
He said the definitions are not standard.
"I was trying to go for our overarching goal" to provide more affordable housing, which is in the city's 2020 Plan, he said.
Other council members, including Gabriel Soliz and David Hagan, made it clear early on they would not support any of the measures.
"I'm going to have to vote no on all three," Soliz said, even before the first motion had been made. "It just doesn't fit in the area."
He said his concern was with the socioeconomic impact, and that he wanted to see the project built in an area that needs it, specifically calling to attention his district.
Hagan said his concern was seeing the area "stacked with one type of development." The area is home to several affordable-housing projects.
The last market-based complex built in Victoria was The Whittington, and construction is beginning for another on Ben Wilson Street.
Councilman Paul Polasek said those are the kinds of complexes the city needs.
"I would love to see everything market-based," he said, noting that he "resents the Fed for manipulating housing."