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Commission backs 11-unit apartment complex

A small apartment complex has cleared its first hurdle despite concerns about its impact on affordable housing.

The city Planning Commission recommended approval of a special-use permit for the 11-unit complex at 1000 Monticello Road during its meeting on Tuesday.

Commissioners Rory Stolzenberg, Lyle Solla-Yates, Hosea Mitchell and Jody Lahendro voted in favor of the motion. Commissioners Taneia Dowell, Gary Heaton and Liz Russell voted against it.

Shimp Engineering is seeking the permit on behalf of Piedmont Realty Holdings III LLC to construct the 11 units on a .81-acre property. The land is currently a vacant parking lot next to an existing apartment building.

The proposal came before the commission in December, but was tabled. At the time, the project promised that nine of the units would be affordable for people making up to 80% of the area median income.

The revised proposal discussed Tuesday came with five units for people making up to 65% of the area median income. Developer Justin Shimp said the units will most likely have one bedroom. According to federal guidelines, fair market rent for a one-bedroom unit is $1,077, Shimp said.

Shimp said the number of units was reduced after the original meeting because of the mechanism needed to enforce affordability over the 10-year period. The only other significant changes were primarily with the building’s design.

Shimp said the units will be “relatively small” and Dowell said the units are not providing housing for families.

“That sounds like student housing to me. Even if it’s a single parent with one kid, they’re not going to be comfortable in one of those units,” she said. “At this point, I would almost rather see a blank parking lot than to see another unaffordable unit go up in this city.”

Shimp said the complex was targeting working-class people, not students.

Stolzenberg said having five out of 11 units affordable is “much more than the typical share that we see from a project like this.” He said units are needed for families, but single households also need more units.

Several people spoke during public comment opposing the project, saying it doesn’t do enough to address affordability and would displace long-term residents. Many of the concerns for the project have come from reports that tenants in the existing structure had to move out when it was renovated and had nowhere to go.

Shimp pointed out the commission needed to focus on the new structure, not the old one.

“There’s no displacement happening here, this is an empty piece of asphalt,” he said. “I know there was discussion about who the developer was, what’s happened in the past and all these things, but the reality is it’s about the project and moving it forward and giving people a place to live that’s close to work, close to schools.”

Russell didn’t want to ignore hardships faced by those in the existing building and said the city needs to take a stronger approach to affordable housing.

“What happened in the narrative of this property cannot just be wiped clean even if we can’t rule on it. But we also don’t have to grant it based on just it being presented to us,” she said.

The proposal next goes to the City Council for approval.


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