BC Council pulls plug on Canal Place
By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record
A standing room only crowd got what it came for on Tuesday night as City Councilmembers voted unanimously to not approve a resolution on a proposed low-income housing development.
City Hall in Bridge City was at capacity for the second consecutive week as dozens of concerned citizens attended the council meeting to hear what their elected officials would vote in regards to a proposed $12 million low-income, single-family housing development to be called Canal Place.
The Park Companies, the group behind the proposed 55-house residential neighborbood, was seeking a resolution from City Council in order to pursue tax credits which would be used to help fund the construction of the development.
The meeting proved to be anti-climatic as David Rutledge, Place 1 councilman, made the motion to not approve a resolution to support the single-family development. The motion received a second from Terri Gauthier, Place 5 councilperson.
In contrast to the Feb. 9 council meeting, only a handful of residents spoke out at Tuesday night’s meeting. All three asked council to hear the concerns of their citizens and to vote against the resolution. The council listened and voted unanimously to not approve the development.
“We are definitely trying to do the right thing for the city,” said Mayor Kirk Roccaforte to the audience. “It’s not an easy job being (on council), but we always try to do our best for the city and its citizens. We have the best citizens in the world, and we appreciate it when everyone is involved.”
Eric Andrus, Place 4 councilman, agreed.
“Having our citizens here makes our job easier,” Andrus said. “We like it when the community gets involved and shows their support, or, even if they don’t support, what’s going on. I applaud all of you for being here and would like to see everyone be more involved.”
A workshop was held on Tuesday, Feb. 9 in front of a standing room audience as dozens of citizens attended the event to speak out against the construction of the low-income housing neighborhood, which would be known as Canal Place, behind Bridge City Intermediate School.
The purpose of the workshop was to gather information so council could make an informed decision on whether to adopt a resolution approving the Park Companies pursuit of tax credits to construct the development.
Many of the residents who spoke at the meeting on Feb. 9th expressed fears of a rise in crime, which is commonly associated with some low-income areas, while others expressed concerns with increases in traffic in this area near the Intermediate School as well as concerns of an influx of additional students to what some have claimed to be already overcrowded campuses and classrooms.
At the Feb. 9 workshop, Cliff Bates, one of the five owners of The Park Companies, stated the proposed project would consist of 55 houses built to accommodate low-income single-families. All houses would consist of three or four bedrooms which would be available as lease-to-own for potential renters.
Each house would cost approximately $150,000 to build and, pending fees and other items, would be valued as much as $200,000 each and rent was expected to vary between $700 and $775 per month.
The proposed $12 million project would reportedly include a clubhouse, a business center with computers and fax machine, a fitness center, playground and more, along with an on-site superintendent and on-site maintenance personnel as well.
According to its official website, The Park Companies was established in 1994 for the purpose of developing, constructing, owning and managing residential rental properties that qualify for Federal income tax credits through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (“LIHTC”) program, or Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Park has helped make the provision of affordable housing a reality for thousands of individuals and families. Since 1994, over 10,000 affordable units have been developed in seven Southeastern states with aggregate project costs totaling over $800 million. It also claims to have provided more than 30,000 low-income families, elderly, veterans and disabled residents an affordable place to live.
Bates stated at the workshop meeting on Feb. 9th that, if council did not approve the resolution for The Park Companies to pursue tax credits, then it would not proceed with the development.