Bobby Apple of the Apple Company of Texas Realty Group told the City Council at a Tuesday night meeting last week that he was considering a request for a grant, based on a possible intention to provide affordable housing in the subdivision he is planning.
The subdivision will be located just north of West Corpus Christi Street and east of North Lightburne Street.
The City Council had approved a zone change for the area last summer to allow Apple to build duplexes on what he plans to call Amistad Street.
Apple has been trying to receive council approval for a grant in the amount of approximately $100,000 to install utility connections in the 8.5-acre development, but City Attorney Frank Warner has told the council that he does not think the development would qualify for public funds.
Warner said a stipulation in the city charter forbids the council from spending tax money on a private development.
Warner had asked Apple at an earlier meeting if he had intended to provide any “affordable housing” within the subdivision, hinting that might help the project qualify for the 4B sales tax funds.
Apple had suggested that he might consider that, and he mentioned that possibility again at last week’s meeting.
The developer told the council that he had conducted some research on what it would take to qualify for the assistance, and he said Apple would have to make 20 percent of the 50 units he is planning to build “affordable housing.”
Apple said that would translate to 10 of the units.
The developer said he had considered creating some affordable housing in the subdivision after hearing concerns from residents of the Beeville Housing Authority’s Emma Finke Villa.
Some of those residents, most of whom are elderly or disabled, may not be able to return to the complex after they are displaced because of a remodeling project about to begin.
But Apple contacted the Bee-Picayune not long after Tuesday’s meeting to say he had changed his mind about including what he thought would be considered “low-income” housing on Amistad Street.
“I don’t think residents there would approve of that, even if it was only 20 percent,” Apple said.
The developer was referring to residents of North Lightburne Street.
When Apple requested the zone change for the duplexes last summer, he was able to deflate opposition to the request from residents of North Lightburne.
North Lightburne Street residents have long been a tightly-knit group of single-family residence owners who take pride in their neighborhood.
Interim City Manager Marvin Townsend had recommended that the city could use about $30,000 from the city’s street maintenance fund to build a bridge over a drainage ditch just west of the Lightburne Street development. Apple has told the BEIC board and the council that he would like to see the north end of Lightburne connected to the north end of Amistad Street to allow better access to both developments by emergency vehicles.
He questioned the estimate of the construction of the bridge, saying the structure would have to be stronger than the culverts suggested by Townsend.
Apple said he was told by engineers that the structure would have to be strong enough to hold the weight of some heavy emergency vehicles, like a fire truck with a load of water in its tank.
He said the estimate he had been given suggested that a properly designed bridge would cost closer to $91,000.
Mayor David Carabajal suggested that the council could take no action on the matter at that time because there was no item on the agenda calling for action.
Townsend said he believed the council could take action on the issue if it wanted, and Warner confirmed Townsend’s opinion.
Carabajal then called for a motion to close the public hearing, and all three council members present voted in favor.
When the mayor asked for a motion to approve or deny Apple’s request for 4B funds, council members sat silently.
Carabajal said there would be no action taken on the matter.
Warner said he had been assured that it would not be legally possible to spend 4B tax money on the project when he spoke to an attorney for State Sen. Judith Zaffirini.
Warner said he would have to check with federal officials to see what the required percentage of affordable housing units would have to be in the subdivision to qualify it as an affordable housing development. Apple said he would check that with his own attorneys.
By the end of the week, Apple decided that to provide any number of affordable housing units within the development would be to go back on his word to the residents of North Lightburne Street.
Before going on to the next agenda item, Councilman George P. “Trace” Morrill made a motion to deny Apple’s request for 4B sales tax funds, and that was seconded by Councilwoman Libby Spires.
The motion to deny the request passed by a 3-0 vote.
Apple has since suggested he would seek assistance with the project in another way.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.