Commission supports housing project proposal

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday agreed to endorse a builder’s plans to proceed with constructing an affordable housing project in the county.

Joseph Leighton of WV Community Builders LLC appeared before the commission at its weekly meeting to request a letter of unqualified support for a construction project he’s developing called Sunny Buck Gardens.

Leighton said he’s considering about five separate sites for the family-oriented housing development, which would likely be comprised of 35-40 units. However, he declined to elaborate on the locations of the sites at Thursday’s meeting.

Leighton said he approached the commission more than a year ago to obtain a similar letter but was back again because the project did not come to fruition.

“I was here in mid-January 2013 for the same purpose,” Leighton said. “I need to obtain a support letter from the county commission for a housing project that I am proposing to build in the county and that letter was forthcoming. But unfortunately, the fact is that the majority of our funding comes from all of the tax credits awarded on an annual basis by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

“In 2013, the project did not score high enough to be awarded the tax credits, so we were not funded. Essentially, I’m in the process of redoing the same thing.”

Leighton said he had updated the letter by adding an additional paragraph “that could have an impact on our scoring potential.”

The paragraph reads, “We (the Upshur County Commission) are also in agreement with Upshur County Development Authority’s May 2012 Strategic Economic Development Plan and its support for improved housing availability across all economic categories in Upshur County.”

“If I could receive this letter signed by the president of the county commission, I’m confident this year that we will win an allocation of tax credits and we will move forward as planned,” Leighton told the commission at Thursday’s meeting.

Commissioner Donnie Tenney wanted to know what changes Leighton had made to his blueprint that might increase his odds of being awarded the necessary tax credits to proceed.

“What have you done differently that’s going to increase your chances?” Tenney asked Leighton.

Leighton said although the question was an excellent one, the answer is complex.

“You are required to give evidence that you have funding for your complete development,” he responded. “We did that last year (using) from a tax credit syndicator, but we were not awarded the 50 points (necessary to receive the tax credits) based on a technicality in wording.

“This year, we’ve made arrangements with a tax credit syndicator to obtain a 100-point letter,” he continued. “It’s fairly technical.”

Tenney made a motion to send a letter of unqualified support – or support without reservations – regarding the proposed Sunny Buck Gardens development to the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady before passing unanimously.

In other business, the commission voted to terminate the employment of part-time E911 dispatcher Derek M. Lee at the request of E911 Director Steve Linger.

Before adjourning, the commission also:

Approved a list of poll workers, alternates and emergency ballot commissioners for the May 13 primary election.

Approved a Community Participation Grant Application for a grant that would be used to repair the Youth Camp Bridge at the Selbyville Youth Camp in southern Upshur County.

“The bridge is the sole access to the youth camp,” Commission President JC Raffety noted. “It is now in fair condition, but without attention, it will become more critical in the future, so we are taking steps to prepare for the future at the present time.”

Contact Katie Kuba by email at kkuba@theintermountain.com. Follow her on Twitter at IMT-Kuba.