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Neighbors protest housing project to assist homeless

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Residents and business owners in the Windsor Park and University Hills neighborhoods in East Austin held a rally on Manor Road Monday morning in front of the site of a proposed new apartment complex. While the Community Partnership for the Homeless is seeking to build housing for formerly homeless individuals who have graduated from other traditional housing programs, neighbors do not want the project in their backyard.


“We are not against helping people and we are not against providing affordable housing,” said Lynn Marshal, who lives near the complex. “We have to taken the time as a city and as neighborhoods to give the issue our full attention. We have to solve the problem, but we can’t expect just a few neighborhoods be the solution. A few neighborhoods in one or two parts of town don’t need to become the automatic recipients and the de facto social workers.”


To build the complex, the Community Partnership for the Homeless would need a zoning change (See In Fact Daily, June 16, 2008). Several cases associated with the tract at 5908 Manor Rd. are on this Thursday’s Council agenda. However, Paul Saldaña, who is working with the Northeast Austin Business and Community Alliance, said on Monday the neighborhoods are asking for a delay “until the city can address the larger issue of equity and placement of such services.”


Neighbors also say the zoning request should be delayed until after the Community Partnership for the Homeless goes before the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs on July 31 to request tax credits for the project. Saldaña said the neighbors would point out to officials with that state agency that while the undeveloped property is appraised at just over $144,000, the developers are proposing to pay $784,000.


 “We believe that the state can find a better return on its investment,” Saldaña said. He also said the neighbors believed one of the board members of the Community Partnership for the Homeless had a conflict of interest in the case, since their company is proposed to be the developer of the project. He provided a flow-chart showing that MoMark Development, LLC, would be the developer. Community Partnership for the Homeless Board Member Terry Mitchell is president of that company.


Neighbors say they have a valid petition against the proposed re-zoning, which is up for a vote this Thursday, meaning six of seven Council Members would have to vote in favor of the zoning change. State Rep. Dawnna Dukes and County Commissioner Ron Davis have also written letters of opposition. “We have met with most of the Council offices, with the exception of the two new Council Members,” said Saldaña. “We have already received a commitment from Council Member Martinez that he would support our position on this.”


Martinez had previously supported a separate project to assist the homeless, a mobile home park proposed by Mobile Loaves and Fishes. However, he announced earlier this summer he would be requesting a delay in the Council’s agreement to lease city-owned land in East Austin to the non-profit group for that project.


Council Member Sheryl Cole, who is co-sponsoring the requested delay on this Thursday’s agenda for the Mobile Loaves and Fishes project, told In Fact Daily “there are a lot of citizens who have been and still are concerned with where we place controversial developments or public facilities. I think we have to do our due diligence in making sure we place such items throughout the city,” she said. “We have to have equity in placing controversial developments and the resolution will allow us additional time to do that.”

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