A lot of neighbors weren’t happy with an item on the Douglas County Commission’s agenda Wednesday night. But, with a little explaining, the commissioners moved the project forward anyway.
Homeowner Jean Affalter led the opposition of a project to build rental homes for seniors near the United Way building at 25th Street and Ridge Court. She and five others spoke out, and she gave the three commissioners a petition with 57 signatures from homeowners around the area, especially in the 2500 block of Cedarwood Drive, where the housing block might be built, and where neighbors said existing water main issues would reach crisis levels if more occupants moved in.
The commission didn’t have the option to approve or reject the project, which has been in the works for several months, on Wednesday.
Instead, the governing body voted on its plan to give the land to Tenants to Homeowners with the intention that TTH would move forward in getting city approval of a rental 55-and-up community development. The county owns the land and the United Way building, which once was a retirement home, though the land around it is used by many neighbors as a park-like greenspace.
Commissioners voted unanimously to go forward in giving the roughly two-acre parcel to TTH. It doesn’t have the authority to approve rezoning inside the city limits, but all three commissioners expressed support for the project, aimed at increasing the level of affordable housing for seniors.
Affalter’s petition cites concerns about overpopulation, increase in traffic and strain on utilities in its opposition to the plan. She expressed frustration in not knowing about the project sooner, though Commissioner Jim Flory said that handing over ownership didn’t require notification and that the city would be responsible for infrastructure improvement.
Tenants to Homeowners will now own the property and be responsible with going forward — or not — in the process to inform surrounding homeowners and get city approval for its planned development.
Other business from Wednesday’s meeting:
• Public comment on the proposed 2013 budget was less vigorous than that of the Tenants to Homeowners plan.
Steve Nowak, executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society, spoke to thank the commissioners for financial support of tourism and historical activities.
Each commissioner then gave comments on his or her take on the budget, with Flory saying he opposed the cuts to the capital improvement project, chairman Mike Gaughan emphasizing the compromise of it and Nancy Thellman thanking the commission for its support of social service agencies.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he was comfortable with the budget, though “the difficulty comes in two to three years” with what he sees as state budget cuts and reduction in property values. The commission unanimously voted to approve the budget, making it official law.
• County commissioners unanimously voted to further extend the burn ban, which went into effect July 25 and will continue again at least until the commission’s next meeting, which will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.