Del-Mor Dwellings Corporation’s attempt to gain the necessary approvals to move forward with construction of a 48-unit affordable housing development for people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities was tabled by the Delaware Planning Commission on Wednesday. That decision was made to allow members time to digest the information and consider concerns expressed by residents in a nearby subdivision.
Del-Mor submitted four separate requests to the commission for consideration, all centering around the nonprofit’s property at 250 Curtis St. on the city’s west side. They included a request to rezone the property from PO/I (Planned Office/Institutional District) to PMU (Planned Mixed Use Overlay District); a request for a conditional use permit allowing the placement of a PMU at 250 Curtis St.; a request to approve the Preliminary Development Plan for the site; and a request for approval of a comprehensive plan amendment to change the future land use map for the property from medium density single family to mixed use.
Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said the requests on the table, which would also need to be approved by City Council, are for a two-phase development project that would result in the construction of 48 dwelling units ranging in size from 450 square feet to 650 square feet.
Phase one would leave the current home on the property untouched, but result in the development of the land behind the home to create four buildings containing a total of 32 apartment units. The second phase, which isn’t expected to take place for another three to five years, would result in the home being razed to make room for two additional buildings consisting of a total of 16 apartment units.
After reading through a detailed staff report, Efland informed commission members that staff supports the proposed requests.
“This site may arguably be the one site I can think of in the city that is surrounded by virtually every zoning district that we have,” he said. “The comprehensive plan suggests that institutional uses such as this, in the opinion of staff, are appropriate transitional uses between single family and all those other (surrounding) uses, but the details matter, and they count.”
Efland added under the current zoning, the applicant could have simply sought a conditional use permit to allow for multi-family residential on the site, but elected to seek a rezoning request to give the city more control of the development.
“The zoning request, in the estimation of staff, provides the best and most specific regulations that we can, as a community, provide with this application moving forward and into the future,” Efland said.
Residents address commission
Just a few properties to the west of the proposed site of the apartments lies the Curtis Farms subdivision. On Wednesday, residents let their voices be heard.
Sarah Lester, president of the Curtis Farms HOA, said she knew nothing of the proposed development until a few days prior to the meeting and quickly went to work trying to gather all the facts and talk to subdivision residents.
“We quickly knew we didn’t want an apartment of any kind there, so we quickly put together a petition,” she said. “There’s a lot to this, and we haven’t had the time to research and see what is good for our area.”
After learning the apartments would help serve low income individuals living with disabilities, Lester acknowledged she has a child with disabilities and the HOA has nothing against Del-Mor Dwellings or those who suffer from a disability.
Jamie Cribbs, speaking on behalf of the more than a dozen residents of the subdivision who turned out for the meeting, said, “We are not against this type of housing going in. What we are against is the high density number of it.”
She added in addition to the sheer number of units planned for the site, nearby residents are concerned with the effect it will have on their property values, whether the site will have enough parking spots, and the lack of nearby stores, etc. for those unable to drive.
Cribbs encouraged the commission to either vote “no” or table its decision to allow residents time to review the proposed plans and hire legal counsel if deemed necessary.
“This type of development is not compatible with our area,” Cribbs said. “Most of our homes are families with school-aged children. A park or green space would be more suitable for the neighborhood.”
While several others approached the commission to express their concerns over the development, there were also those who spoke out in support of more housing for those less fortunate.
Ben Powers, executive director of Family Promise of Delaware County, said, “It will meet a great need in our community.”
Gunner Cerda, chaplain at Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware added, “I believe Delaware has done tremendous work in serving persons who are vulnerable, and yet there are more who need our help.”
Del-Mor, commission members speak out
Jim Wilson, executive director of Del-Mor Dwellings, said he understands the idea of building apartment units for people with mental and physical disabilities in any community is an “emotionally-charged issue,” but in the end, the nonprofit is simply trying to fulfill its mission “to provide safe, decent and supportive housing that is affordable to our disable residents.”
He added there is a need for this type of housing as the nonprofit currently has a waiting list in Delaware County of 57 individuals.
“The thing is, the folks we house just want to live,” Wilson said. “They just want to have a quiet, normal life in this community. They just want to have a place they can count on for home just like the rest of us.”
Taking everything into consideration, the commission voted in favor of tabling the issue to allow for more research to be done on the matter.
“There’s a lot of stuff here to really think about and consider,” Vice Chairman George Mantzoros said.
The commission has scheduled a work session at 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 in City Hall to continue the discussion. A decision on the matter could come as soon as the commission’s next regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 at City Hall.
Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.