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Debate continues on apartment project

by Dolores Hamilton
A standing room only crowd filled Monday night’s city council meeting in which citizens were given the opportunity to express their views on the proposed affordable housing apartment complex to be built on Johnson Road.
City Manager Jerry Flemming told the group that this is not the first time this issues has come up. Iowa Park has been in the running for the apartment complex the last four or five years with very little input. “Now it’s come in the spotlight even though all of the council meetings have been open and the media has covered what took place in those meetings,” he said. “Some people feel they weren’t given a chance to speak, so even though it’s after the fact we’re giving them a chance to speak.” Each person who wanted to speak was given three minutes.
Many spoke up, saying they were concerned with property values, burden on the school district, traffic, and vandalism.
Courtney Hoyt said she is concerned about property values, a safe neighborhood for her child, and more students being a burden to the school district. “I don’t like what it’s going to do to the school district,” she said. There’s not enough tax benefit to pay for a teacher’s salary, so how are we going to get more teachers?”
Councilman Tim Sheppard replied, “My five kids went to school in Iowa Park and my daughter was part of a commercial for Iowa Park CISD to bring more students to Iowa Park. The school board spent thousands of dollars to get students to move to Iowa Park to go to our schools.”
Randy Catlin responded, “I’m all for people coming to school here, but I want them to live in houses that pay the same amount of taxes the rest of us do. Plus, we have business people in town that own rental properties and we pay full taxes. Why should we support somebody else coming to our community, going in competition against us, and they get all the benefit?”
“I have no problem against what type of people live here, that’s part of our world today, but I think it needs to be an even playing field when you do that,” Catlin said.
Mrs. Hoyt said, “I’m not opposed to new students coming into the school system. I think Iowa Park growing would be wonderful, but like Mr. Catlin said, I want Iowa Park to grow with people who can afford to pay the taxes to live here and who are going to make Iowa Park a better, nicer place to live.”
A city employee, James Horn, told the group he bought a house on Louisa two years ago. “If it wasn’t for my wife’s job I wouldn’t have been able to buy a house, I would have needed low income housing,” he said. “I’m a city employee and have worked here for 13 years. I have put in 80-plus hour weeks to keep the infrastructure running in this town. Low income is low income is not fair because I put 13 years of my life here.”
Karla Neal, a 27-year employee of the city, told the audience, “In 1987 I hit hard times and was without a place to live. I qualified for an apartment at Colonial Heights and lived there five years, then bought affordable housing built by Bill Swan on the south side.
“I’m here to explain how people need affordable housing,” Neal continued. “I’ve heard so many comments about what happened last week (at the county commissioners meeting). I thought just because we’re low income, we’re not low class. I just wanted to explain that it is very needed. There are a lot of people out there that need apartments and I want people to have the same opportunity I had.”
Mark Temple with Casa Tierra, the organization that is proposing to build the apartment complex, spoke to the group to explain the program and answer questions. “We don’t do subsidized housing, it is income based,” he said. Temple explained that it is a gated complex with playground, sports court and swimming pool. He said they could do further studies to try and alleviate a problem with traffic.
Temple told of the facilities they have built in Wichita Falls and said he would like to come back to Iowa Park later with a facility for seniors.
Harm Jolly asked why they couldn’t build the local apartment complex on the south side of U.S. 287 on land across from Cryovac.
Councilman Sheppard responded, “Why are folks on this end of town a lower class of citizen? Because we don’t make fifty, eighty or one hundred thousand dollars a year? Why are we a lower class citizen? That’s what I feel like is coming from you.”
“Well, you’re feeling wrong,” Jolly replied.
The council has previously approved the application for the apartment complex. If the project is awarded to Iowa Park, the developer will have to request re-zoning which will require public notices and public hearings and the public will have another opportunity to be heard.
Next on the agenda was a public appearance by Jose Perez to request permission to provide concession services at the Iowa Park swimming pool during the coming swim season. Perez said he doesn’t have a taco truck. It’s a food truck where they prepare a variety of foods. It will be located inside the pool compound, but customers will have access to the concessions without paying for pool admission.
The council approved the request and Perez will pay $250 to cover the cost of electricity.
Bids on purchasing surplus properties under the city’s trusteeship were reviewed. The bids of $3,507 for the property at 203 W. Emerald, and $1,500 for 308 N. Hawthorne were unanimously accepted. The bid of $100 for 509 E. Washington was accepted with a split (3/1), with Stephanie Wooten, Tim Sheppard, and Keith Dyer voting for and Lori Shierry voting no. The bids will be sent to the school board and county commissioners for their approval.
Mayor Ray Schultz was absent and Mayor Pro tem Sherrie Williams conducted the meeting in his absence.
Council approved May 28 as the opening day of the municipal swimming pool and spray park, and to leave the hours and user fees the same as last year.
The proposed slurry seal projects and asphalt resurface for 2016 were approved. Slurry projects include the following:
North Alcott, 400-500 blocks
North Penn, 400-500 blocks
North Saratoga, 400 block
East Bank, 400 - 1000 blocks
West Manes, 700 block
A. Saratoga, 200-300 blocks
A. Park, 900-1000 blocks
RAC, Optimist Club, Friendly Door parking lot
Magnolia, from Johnson Rd., east to Loop 370
Lincoln, from 4th St. to Access Rd.
East Garden, east from Wall St. to Richland Dr.
Asphalt resurface, rebuild Westridge Dr.