VISD board rejects Pedcor's apartment project
Feb. 29, 2012 at 9 p.m.
Updated Feb. 29, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.
About a dozen people turned out to Wednesday's meeting in opposition to Pedcor's proposal.
Two spoke to the board, including Jeff Lehnert, 41, who lives near the proposed project.
His concern was with the term "revitalization," which he said did not apply to the area where he lives.
"It's not a revitalization area. It's the most flourishing part of the city," he said.
He said he would support a housing proposal that he felt was approached honestly.
Pedcor, meanwhile, maintained nothing about their proposal was dishonest.
Craig Lintner, senior vice president for development at Pedcor, said the definition used in TDHCA scoring is perhaps purposefully broad to allow government bodies to pass plans like the one proposed.
Regarding community revitalization, the criteria says that its purpose is "to provide an incentive for community transformation ... by utilizing already existing capacities and providing long-term improvements to specific geographic areas as well as preserving federal or designated historical buildings."
The Victoria school board did not approve a resolution that would have helped Pedcor Investments earn tax credits for an affordable housing complex in the 5300 block of John Stockbauer Drive.
The proposal died without a motion at Wednesday night's special meeting.
"It is very short notice on something that does have a lot of community impact," board member Lou Svetlik said. "I just struggle with the haste ... and whether this board is the right board to make that decision with the limited amount of information and discussion."
Pedcor's proposal for housing tax credits is due to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs by 5 p.m. Thursday.
The Indiana-based company that specializes in workforce rental housing was seeking an endorsement from the VISD school board that would have earned the Victoria project a perfect score on the TDHCA application. With seven housing projects planned in the region - most in Corpus Christi - one more point that would come with the VISD board's endorsement could have tipped the scales in favor of tax credits going to the Victoria project.
Without a perfect score, Lee Keeling, a Victoria attorney who represents Pedcor, said the chances of earning the tax credits are slim.
The Victoria City Council last week gave Pedcor 19 of the 20 points it requested, denying one point because the council did not deem the area a revitalization project.
The proposal to the school board took a different view of "revitalization," which it said dealt with the criteria of "effectively utilizing existing capacities." It did not require VISD to deem the land an area in need of revitalization.
Essentially, the revitalization effect would be felt by a community of students whose families move around a lot, according to the proposal.
With 65 percent of Victoria students considered economically disadvantaged, affordable housing could improve academic performance and combat absenteeism by providing a more stable home, Keeling said.
While members of the board praised Pedcor's proposed initiatives - like having a homework center and awarding students for high attendance - they also disagreed that the housing complex would serve an area with the most need.
"Why not fix what we have in some of the other areas of the city?" board member Michael DiSanto asked. "We'd love to have a company like you help us. It's just, what about some of the stuff we already have that needs to be helped?"
Craig Lintner, senior vice president for development at Pedcor, explained the game of the housing tax credit system and the thin lines companies have to walk when choosing where to build. For example, to score a significant amount of points, the project has to be on a census tract with a median income level higher than the county average.
That criteria alone eliminates much of the south side of town.
Several board members voiced appreciation for the plan but ultimately could not propose a motion for something that would have been an unprecedented endorsement for VISD.
"In my mind, this is a function that should have been taken care of previously," board vice-president Bernard Klimist said. "It's a rush job. I think the proper forum in my mind was the city to have this done."
Board President Tami Keeling began the meeting by turning its leadership over to Klimist. As the wife of Lee Keeling, she did not participate in the discussions.
Pedcor still plans to submit its application to the TDHCA.