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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 -- The City Council wants to hear from a representative of the Housing Authority's project to expand one of its properties amid concerns from the public about the proposal to move residents from another property there.

The council voted 8-0 to table a resolution that would deny the Housing Authority's application with the city for a large-scale development at Morgan Manor, 324 E. 12th Place. No one with the authority or its board, nor were the architect or engineer for the project, present at Tuesday's meeting.

Next meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 3

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

Alderman John La Tour said he felt uncomfortable voting on the development plan for the project without someone there to speak on its behalf. Alderman Matthew Petty agreed, saying he wanted ample opportunity for the authority or a project representative to answer the council's questions.

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Housing Authority Chairman Mike Emery said after Tuesday's meeting he was unaware the item was on the agenda, but a representative would be at the next meeting to answer any questions from the council.

Alderwoman Sarah Marsh appealed an earlier Planning Commission decision to approve the development plan for Morgan Manor's expansion on behalf of neighbor Melissa Terry, who lives near the property.

A proposal from the Housing Authority would have residents living in 40 public housing units at Willow Heights, 10 S. Willow Ave., move to an expansion of the already-existing Morgan Manor apartment complex. The expansion would put 58 additional units on about 3 unused acres out of nearly 10 total at the site. The complex already has 52 units.

The Planning Commission approved the development plan for the expansion with five affirmative votes, two against and two abstaining.

City Attorney Kit Williams told the council it must follow the same criteria as the Planning Commission when considering the development plan. The plan has to meet the minimum requirements under the city's development code and the wisdom of the project cannot be considered, he said.

Williams wrote a letter to the Planning Commission in August saying it appeared the Housing Authority had followed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.

A letter from HUD's Little Rock office to Williams states the Housing Authority received approval for a transfer of assistance for residents at Willow Heights to the new units at Morgan Manor. The letter also confirmed the Housing Authority's explanation for the proposal is consistent with the Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

Morgan Manor operates under a form of Section 8, known as RAD, that combines public and private equity to provide rental assistance to low-income residence. Congress enacted the program in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama.

Marsh questioned if the Morgan Manor expansion's design meets the city's standards, pointed out the lack of pedestrian safety in the area that could cause a traffic hazard and said the project appeared to be a for-profit development for a private entity. She described a lack of appropriate public process and misrepresentation of who would benefit from the project.

"Overall, it's just a bad deal for our city," Marsh said. "It deserves greater scrutiny."

The estimated cost for the expansion project is $8 million. The Housing Authority lost a major piece of the funding pie in August after the Arkansas Development Finance Authority denied it a tax credit that would have paved the way for construction. Willow Heights is under contract to be sold to a private developer for $1.25 million. The Housing Authority also was denied a $1.5 million loan from a federal program.

Terry said she was confused how the project would go on once it was denied the tax credit but asked Marsh to appeal the Planning Commission's decision after seeing the proposal was still on the table.

"That's the reason we're bringing this forward," Terry said. "To create a definitive heart stop in this conversation so we can start anew and give our community what it needs."

NW News on 09/20/2017

Print Headline: Council tables Housing Authority proposal

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