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Housing complex not wanted in neighborhood

ROME TOWNSHIP — The residents fighting a proposed senior housing project in the eastern end will have a chance to voice their objections face-to-face when the county commission moves its weekly meeting to Rome Township on Tuesday.

The meeting date is four days before Friday’s deadline for developers to apply for much needed tax credits to push the project forward.

On the drawing board is a 56-unit complex of affordable housing for seniors to be built across from Fairland Middle School, down from the Wyngate RiversEdge, an upscale assisted living complex that recently opened.

Originally the project, then only 50 units, was slated for acreage across from Fairland East Elementary School. But the state denied the tax credits for the $9.7 million project, a partnership between the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and PIRHL Developers of Cleveland. The reason was a $400,000 bill for a sewer line that would be needed to serve the residents. That jacked up the cost per unit knocking the county out of those credits.

Developers have chosen the second location across from the middle school.

With an existing sewer line at the new location, the per unit costs have gone down.

“When you take a look at the numbers, they are significantly lower,” Ralph Kline of the CAO, said. “We anticipate being very competitive.”

But residents in a nearby subdivision hope that won’t be the case. And for the past week they have circulated multiple petitions to keep the affordable housing out of their neighborhood.

“This came up real quick,” said Jack Nelson, who is spearheading the petition drive. “Nobody knew about it coming. We have a great neighborhood and we feel very much it is going to devalue the property. Wyngate is a welcomed one. I am not saying we don’t need this project. It is in the wrong location.”

Nelson’s major concern is that low-income housing will increase the threat of drug use and trafficking in the township.

“Most of these low-income people the police arrest and take out are because of drugs,” Nelson said. “We don’t need to put this in front of the kids. These will be the people who will rent.”

However Kline said housing regulations would prevent that from happening.

“It is senior housing,” he said. “You have policies that won’t tolerate it. You have criminal background and credit checks.”

Joining Nelson in organizing the protest is Tim Boone, who is concerned the complex will cause traffic jams and strain the township’s existing fire and police protection.

“They don’t have fire protection but for only two storeys, and the building is designed for three storeys,” Boone said. “They will have to have a ladder truck. Rome Township has no police protection. They are covered by the sheriff’s department with two deputies per shift for the county. It is directly in front of a school. The traffic will be an ungodly terrible mess.

“This is trying to be pushed in. We want public meetings before anything is done.”

That is the reason the commissioners moved their weekly meeting to the Rome Township Fire Department at 7 p.m., according to commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr..

“I want to wait to get to the meeting and get feedback and what their concerns are,” Hayes said. “That is why I requested Ralph Kline to be there, if there are any questions.”

The other two commissioners say they also want to hear the residents’ concerns.

“We want to explain about the project,” commissioner Bill Pratt said. “They have a misconception.”

Boone wants the complex built in a location that has more fire and police protection.

“This company is from Cleveland,” he said. “They are basically wanting to come in and build the units and they are back out of town.”