SALEM - City Council voted Tuesday to rezone two sections of a 67.7-acre tract a Cleveland housing developer plans to buy on the city's east end, with Councilman Clyde Brown lamenting the loss of a commercial strip to residential.
Brown cast the lone no vote in a 6-1 tally to approve rezoning 6.9 acres of land just south of the East Pershing Street extension to Butcher Road, from C-2 General Commercial to RA Multiple Family Residential.
All seven council members, including Brown, voted in favor of rezoning 14.3 acres just east of the dead-ends of Oak Street, Tanglewood, Kennedy and Edgewood drives from RA Multiple Family Residential to RS-2 Single Family Residential to form a buffer zone from the apartment complex planned by the NRP Group.
"We're running very short of commercial property in the city limits," Brown said, adding the city may not have any commercial land for somebody who wants it later.
Brown had remained against the 6.9-acre zoning change since last fall when NRP Group Developer Mary Hada talked about the company's plans for a three-phase housing development of apartments and single family homes on the land bordering East Pershing Street, Butcher Road and Cunningham Road and abutting the dead-ends of Oak Street, Tanglewood, Kennedy and Edgewood drives.
From the get-go, she said there was no plan to develop the section of property near the dead-end streets due to a wetlands and the topography of the land.
When a buffer area for single family was suggested, she had no problem with that. She also said the company plans to seek a conservation easement on 32 acres on the western half of the parcel where the wetlands and creek are located to ensure no development can take place.
Hada was there for council's rezoning vote and said "we appreciate them approving the zoning change."
She had previously explained that they wanted to build the Phase I apartment complex at the corner of Pershing and Butcher due to its close proximity to water and sewer lines. If they had to move the project down to the area already zoned multiple family, it would cost more money to hook into the utilities. This way, the infrastructure costs will be in line with what they submitted to the state on their tax credits application.
The vote didn't come without a few questions and comments. Councilman K. Bret Apple questioned why the project was scaled back from 120 apartments to 90 apartments with none at market rent (with no limit on income level).
Hada explained that their research showed they wouldn't be able to collect market rent in this area. She said 50 percent of the units will charge above what's considered fair market rent for the area.
A letter sent to Mayor John Berlin by the NRP Group in February regarding the Salem Pointe development explained that 10 percent of the units will be targeted at or below 30 percent of the area median gross income, with the income of the tenants ranging from $11,130 to $17,190 per year.
The outline said 50 percent of the units will be at or below 50 percent of the area median gross income, with incomes of the tenants ranging from $18,550 to $28,650. Approximately 40 percent of the units will be at or below 60 percent of the area median gross income, with incomes of the tenants ranging from $22,260 to $34,380.
A chart showing the proposed rents further broke down the numbers by allotting a certain number of units for one, two or three-bedroom units and certain income levels. Net rents ranged from $220 for the lowest income renters for a one bedroom to $699 for the highest income renters for a three bedroom. The chart also listed median market rents for the area, showing they range from $527 for a one-bedroom, to $574 for a two-bedroom and $628 for a three-bedroom.
She said the NRP rents are above what Section 8 vouchers will pay and stressed that the tax credits they're seeking are not the same as a Section 8 housing development. The tax credits go to the developer for the construction. There will be no rent subsidies.
Hada said she feels that once the apartments are built, the people of Salem will be pleased. NRP will own the complex and manage the complex.
"We have a good reputation," she said.
Before the vote, Councilman Dave Nestic stressed it was just about rezoning, not about whether they approve or disapprove of the NRP project. Apple pointed out they wouldn't be talking about the rezoning if it wasn't for the project, but he also said the zoning change protects the people who live in that area.
Both Councilman Brian Whitehill and Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who live on the streets that dead-end, voted in favor of the rezoning even though they had lots of questions in the beginning. Dickey thanked all the people who spoke to her and attended meetings regarding the project.
She admitted her vote was not easy and said it was not a vote of support for the project, but considering NRP has an option to buy enough land to build in a multiple family zone without council approval, she said she could find no reasonable evidence that her vote could change that. She said the vote was for a zoning change for a very slim piece of land from commercial to multiple family for easier access to utilities.
She said many residents in the Fourth Ward expressed their preference against commercial and also in favor of a buffer zone, then NRP offered the conservation area as even more protection for the residents.
"With a yes vote, we get whatever economic benefits follow the project, decent low income housing for people in our community, roof tops to attract future business, expansion of our TIF zone, and a permanent land buffer to protect most existing neighborhoods from property devaluation. In my opinion, this was the best Salem could expect to achieve, based on fact," Dickey said.
Only two people in the audience spoke against the NRP project. Scott and Lisa Cahill, who have been working on the Downtown Revitalization Technical Advisory Committee, both said they were withdrawing their support for the project, with Lisa Cahill mentioning the low income factor.
Hada said the Ohio Housing Finance Agency will announce what projects get housing tax credits on June 12.