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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Morgan Manor, operated by the Fayetteville Housing Authority, is seen June 22 on East 12th Place in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A controversial plan to expand a Housing Authority-operated apartment complex will go on.

The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to deny an appeal of a previous Planning Commission decision. That previous decision, made Aug. 14, greenlighted the development plan to expand Morgan Manor at 324 E. 12th Place.

City Council

Next meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 7

Where: Room 219, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

Source: Staff report

The Housing Authority manages Morgan Manor under a form of Section 8 called the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which combines public and private equity to provide assistance to low-income renters. The Housing Authority board has planned to move residents living in public housing at Willow Heights, 10 S. Willow Ave., to the expansion.

The expansion would add 58 units to the 52-unit complex at Morgan Manor. The Housing Authority would sell the Willow Heights property for $1.25 million to a separate private entity, Willow Heights LLC.

Council Member Sarah Marsh of Ward 1 appealed the Planning Commission's previous decision on behalf of constituent Melissa Terry. Terry, who owns about 10 acres near Morgan Manor, was recently appointed to the Housing Authority board after leading an effort to halt the proposal.

Marsh appealed the decision on the grounds the additional units would create or compound a dangerous traffic situation. Marsh said Wood Avenue, the primary street running next to Morgan Manor, doesn't have adequate sidewalks, causing pedestrians to frequently walk in the road. Other areas in the neighborhood also suffer from substandard streets and drainage issues, she said.

Marsh also brought up how a private investor will claim 99 percent ownership at Morgan Manor. Deniece Smiley, Housing Authority executive director, said the private investor's ownership will depreciate over time and the Housing Authority still collects the rent under the RAD program.

Smiley said the decades-old Willow Heights has been in disrepair for a long time. Housing Authority board members also spoke to the council and said the decision to move residents out of Willow Heights came from a desire to better their living conditions. Residents and neighbors who spoke split on the issue.

City Planning Director Andrew Garner said the development plan would better-connect the Morgan Manor neighborhood. For example, three cul-de-sacs would be replaced with streets that go east-west into other neighborhoods. Wood Avenue also would see improvements through widening, on-street parking, a sidewalk and street lights, Garner said.

Garner also pointed out the City Council in 2008 approved a Walker Park plan that included an expansion at Morgan Manor.

Fire Chief David Dayringer said the plan would make it easier for fire trucks to maneuver. Deputy Police Chief Mike Reynolds said 13 traffic accidents were reported in the area since January 2016, none of which involved pedestrians. The area Reynolds described included Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north, 15th Street to the south, Wood Avenue to the east and South College Avenue to the west.

Council Member Matthew Petty expressed caution at denying a certain development because of potential traffic problems when larger ones in the same part of town have already been approved. The Homes at Willow Bend, an incoming project with about 80 lots, will sit just north of Morgan Manor. More single-family homes in other parts are allowed under the current zoning, he said.

"I think the safety concerns are present and legitimate but are trying to be used as a fulcrum to accomplish something else," Petty said.

Marsh said the Morgan Manor proposal doesn't meet the city's standards.

"If we are going to put all of these low-income people down in south Fayetteville further away from jobs, from services, from amenities, then we have to be serious about funding these infrastructure improvements," she said.

City Attorney Kit Williams has repeatedly said the wisdom of a project cannot be considered when deciding whether to approve a development plan in the city. Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he wasn't a fan of the project, but said it appears to meet the requirements outlined in the city's code.

"As an individual I think that project needs some improvements. I do," he said. "But as a mayor, and looking at the facts, I would have to support the Housing Authority on this."

NW News on 10/18/2017

Print Headline: Housing Authority plan continues

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