News of two new proposed low-cost housing projects in the Irmo area has fired up a lot of Irmo residents who sounded off at the April 2 Irmo Town Council meeting.
“How did this happen?” asked Irmo resident Susan Pope. “What is the process for this? Is it an inside job? We deserve better.”
A Greenville developer has applied to the state Housing Tax Credit Program to build a 54-unit complex on 8.75 acres in the College Street area behind First Citizens Bank. The project is identified as Parkside at Columbiana.
Another developer has requested tax credits for a 48-unit low-income housing development on a 3.9 acre tract on Lake Murray Boulevard across from Hillcreek Subdivision and Wendy’s.
Several citizens showed up at the Irmo Town Council meeting and complained that the projects would bring in hundreds of new residents who would overwork the resources of the Irmo community, including the police and fire departments and local schools
“If you bring in low-income housing it will be bad for property values,” said resident Marie Hutchison.
Irmo resident Jerome Fitch said one of the projects would be “right in my back yard” in the Settlers Station area, which already has traffic problems.
But town officials were quick to point out that the Town of Irmo does not have supervision over development of low-cost housing projects, which are undertaken by developers seeking tax credits from the State Housing Authority.
The two projects are among several in Richland and Lexington Counties that will be reviewed by the authority during the next few months. Only a few are likely to be approved.
None of the council members spoke in favor of the projects.
“This came out of nowhere,” said Councilman Mark Pouliot. “This is not what we want for our town.”
Councilman Barry Walker said he wants the developers to meet with the town council and discuss the projects.
While some council members questioned whether local zoning ordinances would allow the College Street project, Town Administrator Bob Brown reviewed the town codes and determined multi-family housing is allowed.
Among the citizens opposing the project was Lexington-Richland County School Board member Beth Hutchison, who lives on Archer’s Court in Irmo. She said the town should revisit zoning codes and consider lower density populations to address future problems.
Councilwoman Kathy Condom promised to fight the projects. She said she plans to voice her opposition to the Housing Authority and hopes to have local school officials join her.
Local lawmakers have also been contacted and are expected to communicate their opposition.
Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Lexington, addressed the issue on his blog.
“As I’ve shared before, it bothers me when developers from out-of-our-area come do this. In the past it has been developers from Florida. 'Parkside at Columbiana' looks like a developer from the Upstate. Those developers don’t have a footprint here, live here, shop here, go to schools or churches here, and — in my opinion — don’t consider the impact on the community as much as perhaps a local developer would.”
It’s not the first time Irmo has sparred with the state over housing projects.
In 2016 the Housing Authority approved a low-cost housing complex for seniors known as “Cinnaberry Pointe” at the intersection of Lake Murray Boulevard and Irmo Drive despite heated opposition.