Workforce housing to be evaluated for Greenecroft property in Ruckersville

By Susan Gibbs

Three of Greene County’s five supervisors are tentatively supporting a workforce apartment development on the Greenecroft property on US 33 East, just west of that road’s intersection with US 29 – less than a year after the Board refused to rezone the property.

“This is not any sort of subsidized housing,” Rob Lynch, manager of Greenecroft and of Ted Corp, LLC, told the Board at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, September 11. “(Tenants) have to have good credit, and they will pay 100 percent of their rent.”

The request for the Board’s general support of the project comes on the heels of a rezone request Lynch made early this year to enable townhouses and multi-family dwellings on land that had been earmarked for commercial development.

At their February 14 regularly scheduled meeting the supervisors rejected that request with a vote of 3-2. Both Board Chairman Buggs Peyton and Board Vice-chairman Davis Lamb voted for denial of the rezoning, as did Supervisor David Cox, while Supervisors Eddie Deane and Jim Frydl were in favor of it.

“My concern is that approval of this request reduces commercial (space within the property),” Peyton said February 14. “We need commercial growth. We need to provide for employment in Greene County. Doing away with commercial development is a deterrent to what the county should be.”

The Greenecroft site, which fronts the Four Seasons Active Adult community, was originally approved for a residential development calling for homes with a minimum of 2,600 square feet for ranch homes and a minimum of 2,800 square feet for two story homes. Twenty-four of the project’s 75 acres were to be reserved for commercial development, with a maximum of 21 one-acre parcels.

But in 2009, in response to the recession, Greenecroft developers requested that the original proffers be amended to allow for smaller single-family homes. They stated at the time that reducing the square footage of the homes would provide “a more affordable selection of housing options.”

The Board approved the request, lowering the minimum for both ranch homes and two-story homes to 1,800 square feet. Residences continued to be built, but the 24 acres set aside for commercial development remained vacant.

Sample photo of workforce housing, provided to county supervisors September 11

Since then, residences have continued to be built, but the 24 acres set aside for commercial development have remained vacant.

On February 14, Lynch said: “There is so much in the Ruckersville area now that is not being developed. (That lack) is driving us to toward trying to find a more market-based solution.”

At that time, concerned about a strain on the county’s infrastructure, Board Chairman voted against the rezoning, as did Vice-Chairman Davis Lamb and Supervisor David Cox. Supervisors Eddie Deane and Jim Frydl were in favor of the rezoning.

But Cox reversed his stance on September 11 when Lynch came back before the Board on September 11, requesting “general” support from supervisors to put a workforce housing development consisting of between 40 and 60 apartment units on 5 acres of the commercial site.

According to information provided to supervisors and available for public viewing at http://www.gcva.us/dpts/admn/EBP/TedCorp.pdf, workforce housing is a federally-funded program (administered by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA)) for communities lacking below market rental rates for workforce employees.

Jen Surber Of Gem Management Inc., who accompanied Lynch to the September 11 meeting, explained that the program provides tax credits to the developer to encourage the supply of such residential units. Ted Corp. will compete with other developers in other localities for the credits, and will be scored based on several criteria deemed critical by the state agency.

The developer competes with other developers in other localities for the credits, and once they are awarded, the credits are sold to private investors or insurance companies through a syndication process, Surber said.

If awarded the credits, Ted Corp. will use the value of the credits, on the front end, to offset development costs, and so be able to offer the units to working families at up to 30% below market rental rates.

Surber said that the maximum income limit for tenants is currently 60% of the area median income. According to the 2010 census, the median income for a household in the county is $54,307 and median family income is $60,414. Based on those numbers, the income limit for a household would be $32,584, and for a family, 36,428.

However, she pointed out, even though the rental rates are reduced, the product is not compromised.

“We build very attractive, highly desirable (units) with amenities that you might find in market-rate communities,” Surber said. “We build all brick, highly energy-efficient units.”

The process for securing the credits includes four steps: county support; re-zoning; application for credits; and awarding of credits.

Sample photograph of workforce housing, provided to county supervisors September 11

 

Surber explained the “general” support requested of supervisors at their September 11 meeting: because there is competition for the tax credits, her company needs “strong” support from the host county to proceed with the application process.

Documentation required for the application process includes: a designation of the site by the county as a “revitalization area” as defined by the program; a letter from the chairman of the Board that endorses the workforce housing development; and an agreement on the part of the county to hold taxes at the current rate until construction of the development is complete.

VHDA defines a revitalization area as one on which, among other things, “private enterprise and investment are not reasonably expected, without assistance, to produce the construction or rehabilitation of decent, safe and sanitary housing and supporting facilities that will meet the needs of low and moderate income persons and families.”

Surber said that she thought the definition may fit the Greenecroft property.    “I don’t think that without the leverage credit you will find a developer … that can provide the quality of housing we are proposing without some private capital,” she noted.

The letter signed by the Chairman of the Board must certify that the property is located in a revitalization area.

As to the requested tax consideration: “We’re asking the county to consider not raising our taxes from the beginning of construction until the end, which is a period of approximately 12 to 18 months,” Surber said.  She explained that the application would be submitted in March, that credits would be reserved in June, but not allocated until November. “So we would not be starting construction until the spring of 2014.”

Prior to the vote being taken, Peyton said he was concerned with the request to hold taxes at the current level, and with residential housing on commercial property.

Surber responded: “We ask for it. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t.”

She also explained that she had been drawn to the Greenecroft property when she found it listed on a commercial Web site.

“It was not brought to me by anyone, including the owner,” Surber said. “I came by and looked at it and what attracted me to it, especially after reading the Greene County Comprehensive Plan, is that you have in the back a nearly built-out single-family subdivision. The commercial in the front really lends itself to a mixed-use, mixed-income development that is supported not only by your comprehensive plan, but is also being supported wildly all over the country as an optimum means of development.

“I’ve looked at a couple of the other sites that are already zoned – only a couple, there may be others I haven’t seen,” she continued. “We’re certainly interested in Greene County. If the Board would like to make a recommendation for a property that might be more suitable we certainly would be open to that.”

With the understanding that they were not obligating the county to approval of the project, Peyton and Lamb voted against a motion to allow Gem Management to evaluate the property for the project, and Cox, Deane and Frydl voted for it.

For more information on VHDA programs, visit http://www.vhda.com/Programs/Pages/Programs.aspx.

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