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Lewes, Delaware
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December 24, 1998     Cape Gazette
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December 24, 1998

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16 - CAPE GAZETTE, Thursday, December 24-December 30,1998 Milton Landing issues launch emotional exchange at meeting By Ro, anne Pack "I did not give you those figures apartment complex opened in May a mortgage, receives a form of the bill," he stated. "Don't tell me Milton Town Council members at the Dec. 15 workshop heard good news of a strong financial picture reflected in the annual au- dit and routine news regarding a quitclaim deed for property on Park Avenue, but the agenda topic that stirred up emotions dealt with news of the 48-unit housing com- plex, Milton Landing. At one time or another during discussion between town officials and representatives of the proper- ty management firm that oversees Milton Landing, tempers flared, the council table was drummed for emphasis, eye glasses were tossed in frustration and accusa- tions and denials of prejudice were exchanged. The stated issue is a misunder- standing/disagreement over the numbers relating to income levels of those who rent apartments in Milton Landing. It has come to the attention of town officials that the income level of approximately half of the residents is lower than what they believed the minimum income of tenants would be in the apartment complex built by Mil- ford Housing Development Cor- poration (MHDC). Minutes of a public hearing conducted on Sept. 10, 1997, recorded that the in- come level of prospective resi- dents would be between $16,000 and $25,000, varying according to the number of people in each fam- ily unit and the size of apartment rented. Milton town officials ac- cepted that information as mean- ing that there would be no one earning less than $16,000 living in the apartment complex. According to council members present at the Dec. 15 workshop, they would not have voted to ap- prove a minimum square-footage zoning variance for the apartment units if they had known that some tenants would be earning less than $16,000 a year. Income level confusion Financing for Milton Landing included participation in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit pro- gram which grants developers a tax credit but requires an income ceiling for tenant eligibility. For two-person households, the ceil- ing is $16,100 and the allowed maximum income goes up to $24,120 for four-person house- holds. The program is intended to help provide quality housing for those of low to moderate income. Speaking for F & S Property Management Inc., Pat Batchelor explained that MHDC and the company that oversees the opera- tion of Milton Landing would not be in compliance with federal and state regulations if they set a mini- mum annual income of $16,000 for tenants. She said that the con- fusion must have arisen from the $16,000 figure being given as a cap for the income that a two-per- son household could earn. The actual income amount for 26 households in Milton Landing is in the $9,600 range. since we had no role in the permit- ting stage, but I will tell you that we cannot set the minimum at that level. According to government regulations, there is a maximum allowed income in tax credit prop- erties, but we would be operating against the law if we set a mini- mum income as high as $16,000/' Batchelor said. "To set income levels for those that are eligible in tax credit h9using, average in- comes in the area are used, and the incomes of our tenants are indica- tive of incomes here." As Batchelor explained that there is a table of incomes, house- hold sizes and rents for each coun- ty in Delaware, council members repeated that the minutes showed that they were given the income figures of $16,000 to $25,000. P.D. Camenisch, council mem- ber, said, "We don't care what you're saying, what we voted on is a minimum of $16,000." Crime issue enters The issue of crime in the devel- opment was also introduced with council members expressing the opinion that police have been called to Milton Landing with some frequency lately. When Batchelor stated that there are 26 families that are not making $16,000, Jackie Moore, town clerk, produced minutes from the 1997 public hearing and said, "We lowered our standards for you." Moore referred to the zoning variance that was approved for Milton Landing. The Town of Milton requires a minimum square footage of 1,200 feet for a residential dwelling; there are no variations for detached single homes, apartments or townhouses. Any variation from that zoning code requires approval of the town's planning and zoning com- mission and town council. MHDC applied for and received a variance for the Milton Landing units that are 880 square feet. Responding to Moore, Theresa Walker, of F & S Property Man- agement, asked, "If you make less money, you cause more prob- lems?" Batchelor said, "Income level has nothing to do with crime." is not a bad record, Milton Police Officer John Miller attended the workshop; he said that police had been involved in some activity at Milton Land- ing. He confirmed that the proper- ty management firm and MHDC officials had been misled by one criminal background search com- pany that they used. Even as Batchelor and some council members reminded each other that the property manage- ment firm had no role in giving in- come ceiling or minimum infor- mation to the Town of Milton, questions regarding how the issue was to be resolved were repeated- ly put to Batchelor and Walker. References were made to subsi- dized housing and Batchelor re- minded those present that tax credit housing is not subsidized housing and that no one who lives in such developments are welfare or subsidy recipients. She also commented that any- one, including the mayor, who has subsidy in tax credit on the inter- est paid on the mortgage. Emotions surface At that point, Mayor Jack Bushey struck the table with his fingers as he told her that he did not have a mortgage. 'Tin not subsidized, I'm footing what you don't know about." Pointing at Councilwoman Leah Betts, he continued, "This woman here is footing the bill." After a pause, Bdshey said that Neil Essick of MHDC needed to be addressed regarding the misun- derstanding over income levels. Continued on page 17 A SRccid for You We hope your holiday season is as good to you as you've been to us. Wishing you health, hope and joy. BOZIE'S PRODUCE Highway One Dewey Beach 227-6370 J Overnight Lodging Intimate Meeting Space. Free Sunsets. A welcome change to the holiday pace. Misleading information She told council members that all applicants for tax credit pro- gram housing must submit to criminal background checks, and credit, job and landlord refer- ences. She said that F & S has re- cently learned that one criminal background checking company is not giving reliable, up-to-date in- formation and use of that compa- ny led to Milton Landing renting to a few tenants who have crimi- nal records. She said that one tenant had al- ready been evicted and three oth- ers had been given notice and would be out within the week. Later she commented that four problem tenants since the 48-unit