Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bradford neighborhood delivers scathing public hearing comments on affordable housing implementation.

We've obtained a copy of the comments delivered by the Bradford HOA president at the public hearing on the proposed planning ordinance changes.  Posting.them here for anyone who wants to review.  Does your neighborhood have similar issues?

Regardless, it was great to see citizens being active in their community.  We need more.of that.  Comments begin below..

Public Comment Regarding Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance
Delivered to Davidson Town Commissioners on Novemb!?er 11, 2014

My name is Juliet Bowden, and I am here with residents of Bradford to share our concerns related the Town’s Affordable Housing Ordinance and its implementation.
Our neighborhood has endured 6 years of troubled history with the Affordable Housing Ordinance, and the Town’s implementation of it.

There has recently been much discussion and focus on the policy merits of providing affordable housing. And there is also much focus and discussion on the impacts of such policies on developers. However, there is rarely discussion regarding the real impact of such policies on the neighborhoods subject to the ordinance. Neighborhoods, mind you, that consist of tax-paying Davidson residents like those in Bradford who ironically have had the least voice in the matter, yet have been significantly negatively impacted.

This is partly because of the stigma associated with speaking out against affordable housing. This is also because neighborhoods like ours have largely been cast aside as bystanders to business dealings between the town and the developer. Bystanders who can suffer economic damage as a result of those dealings between the town and the developer.

So as not to go down that path of stigma and social misunderstandings, we would simply like to let the facts from our experience speak for themselves to hopefully inform meaningful changes to both the ordinance as well as the manner in which the Town implements the ordinance.

Bradford’s First Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance

In early 2008 the developer started building the first of three affordable homes in Bradford up at the front of the neighborhood near the River Run entrance.
In October of that same year, Bradford residents discovered that the developer had worked with the town to revise and develop additional Affordable Housing units.
This plan entailed consolidating three adjoining single family lots and constructing there a 10 unit complex.
At the time, many of the residents who had purchased homes in the neighborhood were unaware of the material fact that more than 3 were required to be built.
Since this was drastically different from the original plan for the subdivision, residents were taken aback that no input was sought in advance of this revised proposal.
It was puzzling how just several months prior the Town had required a charrette for a proposed pool in the neighborhood, but did not seek residents’ input on significant changes to the developers Affordable Housing plan or land usage in Bradford until the residents had discovered it was in the works and pressed the issue.
As a result of pressing the issue, residents held a meeting with Town staff in which residents were invited to voice their concerns. Town Manager Lemon Brice, then Town Planner Kris Krider and Cindy Reid were present. The developer was also invited, but did not attend. Around 40 – 50 Bradford residents did attended that meeting.
At this meeting, residents brought up valid issues around building a 10 unit building in Bradford, but were instead treated with disrespect and called “NIMBYs” (not in my back yard) by the Town staff.
If there was anything constructive that came out of this episode, it was to be Bradford’ case against a 10-unit structure and building units for the lowest AMI in rural areas. Residents brought to light with the Town the significant issues such as density versus dispersal of units, access to public transportation and public services, parking issues, access for emergency vehicles and the apparent mixed messages from the Town regarding the importance of transparency and public input. The issues brought forth by residents at that meeting were dismissed by the Town and residents were told, as they have always been told, that the developer has to fulfill his obligation and it’s his legal right to do it this way.
However, Bradford just learned this year from the Town that the 10-unit building could not have been built anyway because the deed restrictions filed in 2008 broke with Bradford’s covenants which the homeowners brought to the Town’s attention back in 2009 – another interesting facet of this saga that calls into question concerns over the Town’s wherewithal to implement the ordinance.

Second Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance

In 2008 the Bradford developer attempted to build three homes for the Affordable Housing Program.
The first of these homes was purchased for $203,500 within the Affordable Housing Program by a family who works in Davidson. A month after moving in, a mechanics lean was placed on the property because the developer had not paid his sub-contractors.
The other two of these three affordable homes were not finished by the developer, foreclosed on, and sat unfinished with building materials laying on the property among weeds and debris until they were finished and sold in 2011 and 2012.
One of the foreclosed affordable homes was purchased by the Town in 2011 and sold to an Affordable Housing homeowner for $120,000 – although identical the home that had sold for $203,500 under the Affordable Housing Program.
The other foreclosed home was released from the Affordable Housing Program and was sold by the bank for $112,000 and is now for sale on Craig’s list for $225,000.
This was the first of a few significant Affordable Housing failures that Bradford residents suffered from.
Third Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing and Other Ordinances
After attempting to build three affordable homes in Bradford, coupled with the failing housing market, the developer packed up in 2010 and called it quits. Leaving the 75 residents of Bradford with a string of bills and unfinished work that required the homeowners to take up special assessments and raise dues in an effort to pay for approximately $83,000 of developer debt: $22,000 Duke Power contract, the electricity bill, the developer’s annual contribution of $11,000 per year for mowing his lots and common areas, and in 2012 Bradford Homeowners received a foreclosure notice and tax bills totaling $17,000 for the back taxes the developer owed on the common areas which coincidentally the developer deeded to us with the assistance of his attorney Rick Kline.
What do these have to do with affordable housing? This is evidence of a ripple effect that can occur when a poorly conceived and poorly implemented ordinance places a burden on both the Town and the developer – a burden that is however born to a great extent not by the Town nor the developer, but passed on to the residents who have had little say or representation in the matters.
In addition, the Town endeavored to reduce its losses in Bradford by requiring the developer to sign an agreement to deposit $25,000 for each lot sold into an escrow account for street repairs. Once again, the Town with its attorney Mr. Kline along with the developer’s attorney Mr. Kline managed to mitigate risks for the developer and town, but passed the developer’s debt for the residents of Bradford to shoulder. What has recently come to bare once more in Bradford are the repairs to the streets that satisfy the developer’s obligation and satisfy the Town’s requirements, but ultimately residents shoulder the burden of this deal. This is just one more debacle that has left residents significantly distressed over the appearance of our streets.
Take a look at the work that was recently completed on the streets in Bradford. It reflects and underscores our statements that the Town’s implementation of its ordinances can cause additional harm to a community.

Lessons Learned from Experience

We know that a one-size-fits all approach does not work as each neighborhood has different attributes that affect the feasibility of affordable housing, such as proximity to public infrastructure, developer wherewithal, etc.

We know that implementation is just as important as what’s written in the ordinance.

We know from experience that developers will knowingly or unknowingly pass an unfair economic burden of compliance onto residents.

We know that it is unacceptable to have a continuing lack of transparency into agreements between developers and the Town and selective adherence to policies aimed at seeking citizen input, etc.

Bradford residents learned a lot about the ordinance over the past 6 years and learned a lot about their own neighborhood. We know that while we may not meet the AMI housing perfectly, in the spirit of the Town’s mission and the Affordable Housing Ordinance, Bradford is the kind community that Davidson seeks to encourage with its Ordinance. We have economic diversity, ethnic diversity, single family homes, town homes, garage apartments and homes that a lot of people would consider affordable.


We need relief. We’re not asking for relief for the developer. We, the residents who have been harmed the most by the administration of the Ordinance, are the ones who need the relief. We have naively assumed that a town of our size, a town where the mission statement and ordinances are written to promote the wellbeing of its citizenry, would do the hard and necessary work to ensure that its citizens are not mishandled and crushed in the process of achieving those goals.

We ask for the sake of Bradford that the town stop instituting any changes to Bradford using the same attorney as the developer’s attorney as we know this to be unfair to the homeowners of Bradford.

We know that our difficulties are not what was intended when these ordinances were written, but the Commissioners need to take a very hard look at not just the ordinances themselves, but how staff go about implementing them. We request that the Commissioners take a step back and give the process of creating ordinances that support the ideals of our community more time and public input.

Lastly – We believe that a community that makes provisions for and cares the smallest, weakest and most vulnerable of its citizens is one worth supporting and living in.

Thank you.

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