A Bridgeport developer said Thursday that he wants to bring affordable low- to moderate-income housing to Upshur County, but only if he can gain the support of the County Commission.
Joe Leighton, of Red Clay Development of West Virginia, said support is needed to earn a high enough score from the state's Housing Authority to qualify for tax credits. If successful, the project would bring 32 townhouse-style units to an area designated by the federal government and based upon demographic data obtained during the last Census. The area runs along Route 20 and east of the Buckhannon River, but is not located within the city limits of Buckhannon.
Leighton said tenants would be selected based on income requirements, and monthly rent for the apartments would typically run between $400 for a single-bedroom apartment to about $550 for a three-bedroom apartment. Each apartment would be furnished with a refrigerator, stove/oven and a dishwasher. There would be a laundry facility for the complex, a playground and a clubhouse. There also would be an on-site property manager and maintenance person.
"We hire a professional housing management company to do the day-to-day operations," he said during Thursday's County Commission meeting.
Upshur County Development Authority Director Steve Foster said there is a need for such housing in the county, adding that most units already in existence are full.
"There is a shortage of housing at all levels in Upshur County," Foster said. "It's difficult to get a developer to look at a rural county."
Commissioner Creed Pletcher called the idea "an excellent project," adding that it would be good for the area.
"The idea is to give people a place they can afford as they are working their way upward," Leighton added.
In other matters, commissioners approved a request from the Upshur County Family Resource Network for the commission to provide payroll services for Amanda Hayes, who will serve the agency as a part-time grant coordinator at the rate of $10 per hour.
Commissioner JC Raffety expressed concern over the move, but not opposition, because Hayes reports county government news for The Record Delta newspaper in Buckhannon. He said he did not want there to be a public perception that the commission would receive any sort of favoritism. He also didn't want to create any potential conflicts of interest.
"I want to ensure that the public is aware that this won't impact her reporting on the community," Raffety said.
Hayes said she discussed any potential conflicts with her supervisors at the newspaper, and she was given approval from them.
"If there ever is a time I couldn't fairly report on something, I would discuss that with my editor," she said.
County Administrator Willie Parker said the commission has no authority over the Family Resource Network, and the commission only serves as a financial pass-through agency. He said the grant that will pay Hayes originates in Harrison County and is distributed to other counties within the region for substance-abuse-prevention initiatives.
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