Grace Community Church wants $2.47 million in government welfare!
Grace Community Church wants $300,000 in government welfare from the city of Tempe and $2.17 million in welfare from the Federal government.
Just what part of Article 2 Section 12 of the Arizona Constitution don't our
royal government rulers in Tempe understand? It says:
No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the of any religious establishment.
Tempe neighbors oppose plan for low-income units
by Dianna M. Náñez - May. 30, 2012 09:51 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
The Tempe City Council is expected to decide Thursday whether to allow an out-of-state developer to bypass height and density rules for a proposed low-income housing complex along the light-rail line.
More than 100 residents from neighborhoods flanking the land oppose Gorman & Co.'s request to build Gracie's Village, a four-story apartment that would replace the single-story Gracie's Thrift Store on Apache Boulevard west of McClintock Drive.
Grace Community Church owns the 2-acre site and is working with the Wisconsin-based developer to build the apartments. Several church members, who do not live near the proposed development, said they support the project because it would serve needy families.
But scores of residents near the proposed Gracie's Village want the developer to stick to the current zoning, which would allow a maximum of 40 units and a building no taller than 35 feet. Gorman is seeking a waiver for 50 units and a 54-foot building with areas that would reach 64 feet for an emergency staircase and elevators.
Nearby property owners have filed a legal protest against the proposal. The protest requires a supermajority 6-1 vote of the council for approval of the zoning amendments.
The proposed development is surrounded by several historic neighborhoods, including Borden Homes, which is nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
Residents have spent the past year fighting to protect their neighborhood and property values.
Gorman officials have argued that they have scaled back their proposal from an initial plan that called for a six-story building with 75 units. Residents have scoffed at that argument, saying that it is ridiculous for the developer to characterize the new proposal as a compromise when it still does not meet zoning standards.
The developer has argued that the complex is in line with the city's General Plan guidelines and is essential to providing affordable housing for residents who cannot pay typical rental rates in Tempe.
Gorman's Brian Swanton told residents at a recent community meeting that individuals and families earning 40 to 60 percent of the area median income -- about $18,000 to $50,000 per year -- may apply for a rental unit.
Existing older apartments and rental homes in the area, which is close to Arizona State University, already provide affordable rates, said Chuck Buss, a Tempe real-estate agent who lives in the University Heights neighborhood near the proposed apartments.
Buss said he does not oppose low-income or workforce housing. However, he said the council should not grant the developer a waiver to build a towering apartment that would harm existing homeowners.
Residents in the historic Borden Homes neighborhood are worried the project would lower their property values and damage the quaint character of their neighborhood.
"The reason we're digging our heels in on zoning is we didn't want them (Gorman) to get an exception and then set a precedent that every single project ... in the future along Apache would get extra height and extra density," Buss said.
Several areas along the light-rail line east and west of Gracie's Thrift Store are zoned for the density the developer seeks. But the pocket where Gracie's Village would sit was zoned in consideration with the proximity of mature residential communities.
Visits with council members
The fight over the past year has become so heated that residents have begun to question whether city leaders are too focused on appeasing developers.
Gail Martelli, who lives near the proposed complex, said she does not understand why the council would even consider granting an exception for a future project when hundreds of area residents oppose it.
"We're not really asking for that much. We're just asking for them (Gorman) to stay within the current zoning," Martelli said. "How does it help my neighborhood to lower the standards that we set as a community?"
Martelli is among the many residents who worried the added building height will give future residents of the apartment a bird's-eye view into their backyards. "We would lose all our privacy," she said.
Martelli thought it would help council members to visit her house to see firsthand the impact of the development on her place.
Martelli said she appreciated Councilmen Corey Woods and Joel Navarro visiting her and listening to her concerns. She said Councilwomen Onnie Shekerjian, Shana Ellis and Robin Arredondo-Savage declined her offer.
"They said they were nervous about meeting with me at my home on such an emotional issue," Martelli said.
To ease their concerns, Martelli said she offered to pay for an off-duty Tempe police officer to guard the council members during the visit, but the councilwomen would agree only to meet at a city building with staff present.
"I think they really needed to see the situation we're dealing with from our backyard," she said, adding that she accepted the meeting at the city site as it was better than nothing.
Residents have been concerned that council members may feel obligated to give the developer what it wants because more than a year ago the city offered financial backing for the project as well as written support to the state for the project.
A Tempe development director sent Gorman a letter stating Tempe would consider providing $300,000 toward the project if it meets standards and is approved by the council.
The developer also had applied for federal low-income housing tax credits, which are allocated by the Arizona Department of Housing. A low-income housing tax credit is a credit against the federal income-tax liability of the developer.
As part of the application for the tax credit, Tempe development officials supplied a form to the state saying that the city would allow 74 apartment units on the site.
"The city basically told the state, months before they even told us about the project, that the developer could ignore the (zoning) standards," Martelli said.
This month, Mayor Hugh Hallman told residents at a council meeting that the form to the state did not obligate the city to approve a waiver for the developer.
"I'd like to believe that's true," Martelli said.
If Gorman builds the project, it is eligible for up to an estimated $2.17 million in federal tax credits, which can be claimed annually for a 10-year period. The property must maintain low-income rent restrictions for at least 30 years.