The State Housing Authority has approved a low-income housing project to be located in the heart of Irmo.

The 44-unit complex known as Cooper’s Trace is planned for a site on Lake Murray Boulevard near Hillcreek subdivision.

Another proposed project proposed for Irmo, a 54-unit complex identified as Parkside at Harbison, was denied tax credits.

Low-income housing is a controversial topic in the Irmo community.

Many citizens have showed up at Irmo Town Council meetings since the two applications were revealed in May. They complained such 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. They urged the council to stop the projects with new zoning regulations.

Those protests prompted other citizens to complain that the community should not prejudge their neighbors simply because they can’t afford higher-priced housing.

To deny the right to fair housing costs is “immoral and inhumane,” Larry Haltiwanger, a former Lexington-Richland District 5 School Board member, said at a council meeting.

In an effort to stop the projects, the town considered revising town zoning ordinances to limit the number of units per acre. But the council decided not to make any changes after the town’s attorney warned that such an action could prompt lawsuits. 

The approval of Cooper’s Trace does not have Irmo Mayor Hardy King overly concerned.

“I don’t have a fear of them and I never have,” King said of  low-income housing projects.

Just because housing is low-income doesn’t mean they will harbor bad people, he said.

But the approval of Cooper’s Trace prompted the council to reconsider zoning regulations to prevent more projects from coming into the town.

Councilman Barry Walker Sr. raised the issue of zoning restrictions again at the Oct. 15 council meeting. He proposed a zoning change that would limit the allowable units per acre from 16 to four in areas zoned for multi-family housing.

But some council members said they have continued concern about lawsuits.

King offered an amendment proposal based on ordinances in other municipalities that would require buffer zones, traffic considerations and other restrictions on apartment developments. Maximum density would vary, depending on the number of units.

The council appeared favorable to King’s proposal, but agreed to defer action until the town’s planning commission had an opportunity to review the measure.

It’s the second low-income housing project approved for the Irmo area in recent years.

In 2016, the Housing Authority approved a 32-unit apartment complex for seniors known as Cinnaberry Pointe at Lake Murray Boulevard near Fork Avenue.

Town officials say that project has not created any problems for the community.

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