Commission delays funding of project

An Upshur County commissioner asked Thursday that any support to any proposed housing projects be delayed until the commissioners “can see the lay of the land.”

Commissioner J.C. Raffety said that while he supports having affordable housing in the area, he hesitates in having the county commission support one project over another.

“For us to go on record to say we support one project over another is premature,” he said.

Upshur County Development Authority director Steve Foster sent a proposal to the commissioners asking that they support a housing project being developed by Joe Leighton. Leighton’s proposal to bring a 30-unit, low-income housing development to Upshur County was supported by the county commission in February, but it failed to receive low-income tax credits at the state level.

County Administrator Megan Pomeroy said the developers are planning to reapply for those same tax credits in the next funding cycle, but would need a letter of support from the commissioners to bolster the project. She said the project’s investors have already begun lining up financing for the project, should it receive the state help.

“(Our) giving approval doesn’t guarantee they are even going to get tax credits,” Commissioner Donnie Tenney said.

Three developers expressed interest in recent months regarding bringing housing projects of various kinds to Upshur County. They all said 2010 Census data indicated that the county was ripe for these projects, and that government funding to help bring them to fruition was available.

The county commission threw its support behind Leighton’s project in February, despite concerns from the local Landlords Association regarding the lack of information available on the project. But Raffety wants to wait to offer formal support until the commissioners can see how many projects will be proposed for the county.

“We want to remain neutral,” Raffety said. “We don’t know what the future holds. Mr. Leighton may be the only one. My thoughts are that we should hold off until we see what the lay of the land is.”

Leighton in November 2012 told the commissioners he wanted to build units with one, two and three bedrooms, which would rent between $350 and $500 monthly. He said it would be similar to a project his company has done in Gilmer County.