The Lawrence Housing Authority, much to the displeasure of a group of vocal Breezedale residents, approved design plans Monday night for a three-bedroom, 1 -story, Cape Cod-style house to be built on a vacant lot on Winona Avenue.
Several residents in the Breezedale area, which is just south of 23rd and Massachusetts, oppose the house, which will be rented to a low-income family under the LHA's scattered site housing program. Opponents, who said low-income government housing in their neighborhood will decrease their property values, accused the LHA of not being willing to work with the neighbors over their concerns, and vowed that their fight to stopping construction is not finished.
"These people did exactly what they wanted to do without listening to our concerns," said Bill Bell, a spokesman for the Breezedale residents opposed to the LHA house.
BELL SAID HE had gone into Monday's meeting of the housing authority hopeful that the LHA would consider a request from Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm and the Lawrence City Commission. The commission, which heard from Bell at its Oct. 10 meeting, voted to ask the housing authority to work toward reaching a compromise with opponents.
Housing authority members made it clear they thought they had compromised enough on the issue.
"I don't know that anything we could say or do would have satisfied them," said Jean Collins, who chairs the LHA.
Collins noted that the housing authority directed the redesign of the house from a four-bedroom unit to a three-bedroom unit to alleviate neighborhood concerns. In addition, the house was redesigned to be more aesthetically complementary to the neighborhood. The authority also addressed questions such as screening from neighboring properties and parking.
"WE'VE REALLY gone out of our way and spent a lot of money on this," she said. "We have listened."
Barbara Huppee, LHA executive director, agreed with Collins' assessment.
"There was no place for the housing commission to move, except to abandon our plans. It was quite clear that is all they wanted," she said.
Bell and others opposed to the LHA's plans vowed they would not abandon their battle. Attorney Ed Collister accompanied them to the meeting, and Bell said the group would consult with Collister on possible legal action.
"We refuse to accept it," Bell said of the LHA's decision. "After consulting with our attorney, we'll know more about what to do."
IN ADDITION to their expressed concerns about the scattered site project's effect on neighborhood property values, Bell and other neighbors said they aren't convinced the redesigned house fits in with the neighborhood. They especially took exception to a plan to finish the house with masonite siding.
"Those are old homes, some are made of stone," Breezedale resident Meg Babani said. "I have pecan floors; nobody can build those these days."
Added Nancy Wilson, a Winona Avenue homeowner and opponent to the LHA plans, "It's never going to improve the neighborhood."
Huppee, however, said the house will fit in well with the neighborhood.
"I think the design is terrific. There's nothing that can be argued about the design," she said.
The LHA now will forward the plans for the Winona Avenue house, along with the plans for 24 other scattered site units it plans to build in the city, to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. Huppee said that if HUD follows the same timetables as on past scattered site projects, ground would be broken on the sites next June.