Citizens challenge development plans

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, April 7, 2011

He made his best sales pitch, but the crowd wasn’t buying.

A large group of Brookhaven residents, including many from WardSix, gathered Wednesday evening for a public hearing to voice theirdisapproval over the possibility of a Section 42 housingdevelopment that could be built off North Jackson Street nearMontgomery Street. The development would be called MontgomeryPlace.

Chartre Consulting is hoping to purchase the 21-acre lot in WardSix to develop 49 single family homes, which are intended for lowto moderate-income single families.

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“There is a misconception when people think this is governmenthousing,” said Chartre Vice President of Development George Glenn,whose presentation was interrupted multiple times by questions fromthe concerned audience. “It provides newer homes for a growingpopulation.”

Qualifying to live in one of the three bedrooms, two bathroomhomes or four bedrooms, three bathroom homes is based on the incomeof the number of people in each household. The houses are valuedbetween $130,000 to $180,000 based on size.

Collective household income for a three-person household cannotexceed $22,920, a four-person household’s income cannot exceed$25,440 and a five-person household’s income level cannot exceed$27,480.

Rent, which cannot exceed 40 percent of gross income, would bebetween $540 and $625. Occupants are given the option to buy theirproperty after 15 years for $50,000 to $60,000.

“Don’t think this isn’t for working families,” said Glenn.

As an incentive to construct the homes the developers will beusing government-issued tax credits. Tax credits are given annuallyto each state by the federal government based on a per capitaformula. The tax credits provide a reduction in the owner’s taxliability.

Developers apply and are given the credits based on meetingcertain requirements, which include meeting the housing needs oflow to moderate income households. Tax credits can also be sold asa means to raise capital for developments to limited partnerinvestors.

“The whole goal is to not give them a tax break, but help themsurvive,” said Glenn.

Officials and citizens are concerned that the development mayhave a negative impact on the city of Brookhaven.

With taxes helping to offset the costs of public services andcity personnel, city officials believe the tax credits will pushthe burden elsewhere.

“All those services that the city provides has to be paid for bysomeone,” said Ward Six Alderman David Phillips.

Ward Six citizens, however, were more worried that thedevelopment would hurt property values in the neighborhood and thelow-income development would bring a higher rate of crime to thearea.

“My backyard will be shared with their backyard,” one lady criedfrom the crowd.

Marc Roy, a local attorney and a former coast regional directorfor the President Bush administration, challenged Glenn over thedevelopment’s ability to actually help people who live in thehomes. Roy said his experience had shown the developments do notwork.

“None of these have been uplifted from poverty,” Roy said.

While Glenn claimed the development was on its way, cityofficials assured citizens that they were doing what they could toprevent the construction from happening.

“He has a right to come here and try to put it in and we havethe right to try to stop it,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner. “There’sone thing I firmly stand on and I don’t think anyone has the rightto devalue your property.”

On Tuesday, the board of aldermen joined the MississippiMunicipal League and the Mississippi Association of Supervisors intheir lawsuit challenging rules regarding the appraisal of Section42 property. The board also passed a moratorium to suspend activityon the possible future development until the issue has beenresolved,

“I think the general consensus is, as a community, we do notwant this project,” said Phillips. “I think we would all welcome adevelopment at fair market value.”