By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — Greenville City Council members will have at least another opportunity to be persuaded to support or not support Greenville Planning & Zoning’s recommendation to rezone a parcel on State Route 121 North from General Business to Planned Unit Development. Although several people spoke on the proposed development of affordable housing for seniors 55 and older on that parcel, council remained in a stalemate. A simple majority is needed to accept planning & zoning’s recommendation, but six of the seven council members’ votes are needed to reject the recommendation. Only two council members voted in favor of the recommendation, Brian Brown and Clarence Godwin. Council members Jeff Whitaker, Delores Eley, Leon Rogers, Doug Schmidt and Chris Norris voted against the recommendation.
The proposed development is not a HUD (Housing, Urban Development) project, but instead sells tax credits to investors in order to make the housing affordable for seniors. There are income standards that must be followed to be able to live in the development. According to Geoff Surber, property owner, and Councilman Brown, the proposed development is similar to Fox Run, which is located in close proximity to the proposed development. In a housing study released by Frontier Community Services, the non-profit looking to develop the property, Fox Run currently has waiting list in excess of 18-months. Brown said he learned from the manager of Fox Run the waiting list is closer to two years.
Surber shared the housing study shows the senior population in and around Greenville continues to grow. In fact, since the 2010 census, persons 55 and over in Greenville Township have increased by over 12.1 percent. In stark contrast, persons 24 and under have decreased by 12.8 percent. “What you are going to find, if you mine through this data a little bit, is young people with families are leaving and they are being replaced by elderly people, I mean 55 and above,” said Surber.
Using an approximate figure for the income requirements of $35,000 to qualify for the housing, Surber said he was alarmed that 41.4 percent of households in the City of Greenville make less than $35,000 a year.
Surber said, “In the past you’ve talked about growth and a lot of activity. I’m not seeing that same thing. I wish it to be, but I’m not seeing any indications of it. As far as housing goes, I think we’ve had Benanzers, the build out at South School and the build out near Darren Leis at Driftwood. I’m very happy for those developments, but they are a small fraction of what should be in a town our size. Versailles has two developments going, Arcanum is finishing up one and has another new one coming online, Ansonia is looking at one. We should be having two new subdivisions happening right now.”
Council person Delores Eley argued that she fits into the demographic, and she has lived here all her life and doesn’t plan on leaving the home she owns. She said, “I’d be interested to know who is like me, who owns their own home? There is other criteria as well.” Surber pointed out there are individuals who may get to the point where they don’t want the hassle of owning a home and would like for someone else to take care of the maintenance issues and would sell their homes for an opportunity like the proposed development.
With a 40+ unit development, Brown reported that Fox Run’s manager said she could give them that many names right now of persons that qualify for the housing, which shows there are those that don’t want to deal with the pressures of owning a home.
Councilman Jeff Whitaker was alarmed about losing young people and insisted that finding housing for seniors “capitulates the white flag that we’re not going to go for younger people to come into Greenville.” Surber argued Whitaker’s statement was not true. He explained that when seniors sell their homes and move into a senior development, this opens up more housing for young families.
Brown was the only council person to share actual research he conducted. He is the only council person to have shared that he visited a Frontier Community Services property. Councilman Rogers shared he had talked with members of the community to form his opinion. Councilmen Schmidt and Norris only addressed the issue with their votes.
Brown said, “We have Planning & Zoning for a reason. We like to support them. We’ve supported them in the past. Previously, they didn’t want to do the one and we agreed with them on that. We talked about having a feasibility study done. That was done a couple of years ago and another one is going to be done, but at the same time, it’s been done, and it has been proven that we need it.” Brown pointed out there are only two affordable housing options for seniors in Greenville at the present time, Treaty Manor and Fox Run. Treaty Manor is a Section 8, HUD facility and Fox Run is not.
Brown addressed other issues council persons had at a previous meeting, such as the “drain on EMS.” Brown shared, “Having worked EMS for a long time, I can understand that. I reached out to the township rescue – Hunter Oaks in the year of 2022 had 22 EMS calls the entire year, Fox Run had 44, Benden Way had 68, Wayne Crossing 35, Treaty Manor had 59 and Oxford Apartments had 35. The two primary senior facilities equated to Fox Run was 1.6 percent of the calls and Treaty Manor was 2.2 percent. Of the low income, it makes up about 10 percent total of Greenville Rescue’s call volume. With 1.6 and 2.2 and although there is a call volume there, I don’t know if that qualifies as a drain.”
Because council did not reach the votes it needed to move the issue one way or another, the issue will appear on the March 7 agenda.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].