Habitat project OK’dPublished 11:21pm Wednesday, October 16, 2013
City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to rezone land on the corner of White Marsh Road and Lake Kennedy Drive for a Habitat for Humanity project.
The housing organization hopes to build about 10 homes on the formerly city-owned property. It initially hoped to begin work on the site this month, but the project was held up in Planning Commission for three months over concerns by nearby homeowners.
“This was held up at the Planning Commission until it couldn’t be held up any more,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said Wednesday, responding to a suggestion from one of the three opposition speakers that the vote be delayed.
Nearby homeowners say they want commercial development on the parcel. William Goodman, who is president of the East Suffolk Gardens Civic League and also was the lone vote against the project when the Planning Commission finally approved it, suggested in Wednesday’s public hearing that a Dollar General store would be a good fit.
“That particular type of facility would provide a lot of relief to over 5,000 residents that have been faced with nowhere to shop,” he said.
He also said there are already enough vacant homes in the area and expressed doubts about the validity of approval letters that came from civic leagues in other nearby neighborhoods.
“The communities of East Suffolk Gardens and Lake Kennedy, in our opinion, have nothing to gain,” he said.
Ivory Knight, who lives on Seminole Drive, said she has seen crimes in the neighborhood such as loitering and feared they would increase with more houses.
However, Planning Director Scott Mills said the mostly-vacant shopping center across the street from the site is the proper place for commercial development. It also has opportunities for freestanding businesses on the corners of the lot, he said.
The site in question has plenty of road frontage but is not deep enough to support a commercial building, he added.
Wayne Lavender, executive director of Habitat for Humanity South Hampton Roads, said the organization chooses the residents for its homes carefully. Applicants undergo credit checks, background investigations, home visits and more to determine their suitability. They must be able to afford a down payment and the no-interest mortgage payments and must demonstrate a need of safe, affordable housing.
“These are the kind of people I would like to be living in my neighborhood,” Councilman Mike Duman said.
Councilman Roger Fawcett vowed to help drive nails when the homes get under construction.
“Someone less fortunate is going to have the opportunity to own a home,” he said. “I cannot ever find a reason I would not support Habitat for Humanity.”
Johnson also said previous Habitat projects in Suffolk have been successful and she looks forward to helping build these new houses.
“We do have something to gain,” she said. “We have 10 wonderful homeowners to gain.”