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Waterville residents packed council chambers Monday night to voice concerns over a proposed multi-unit housing development on the city’s western edge that they said would lower property values, exacerbate parking and traffic problems, and change their community’s character.
“Waterville maintains a small-town charm with its high-quality homes,” said resident Jim Perry, whose house is across the street from where the complex would be built. “Now is not the time to dilute who we are.”
Council did not vote on the development after hearing more than 90 minutes of public comment.
At issue is Kensington Gardens, a proposed complex at 8375 Waterville-Monclova Rd., south of the Villas at Waterville Crossing condominiums, by Mercurio Developers.
Before the hearing, planning commission members met with the developer’s representatives concerning fresh changes to the proposal, including a reduction in units, increased setback distances from property lines, and more parking spaces.
“We meet every aspect of your zoning code,” said George Oravecz, consulting engineer for the project.
But the zoning accommodations failed to mollify residents who addressed council, doing so after being sworn in by a court reporter who had been brought to the hearing by attorney Jerry Parker as a representative for the developer.
Ron Brown, who said his thoughts were shared by many of his neighbors, characterized the plan changes as far from sufficient, if not disingenuous.
“It’s obvious that the developer has no intention to make it any different,” he said.
Residents requested that council change the zoning of the area from R3 to R1, changing from multi-family dwellings to single-family dwellings, but city law director Phil Dombey said the developer had purchased the land under R3 zoning and had property rights of his own to be considered.
“I don’t think that helps, but that’s some of the truth that everybody has to deal with,” Mr. Dombey said.
Residents insisted that council deal with their worries about what would happen to their community.
“When you have a rental unit like this … it tends to draw, and possibly could draw, lower-income, federally subsidized renters,” Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Oravecz said the dwellings would be rented between $1,000 and $1,100 a month.
Subsidized or not, renters would bring down the value of nearby owner-occupied homes, residents told council.
Victoria Luhring, an agent with Danberry Realtors who lives in the area, said she had lost two recent deals on condo units she was trying to sell when potential buyers heard about the planned rental development.
“Values will definitely decline,” she said.
Renters do not care about their community and do not care about keeping up the property, said resident Ana Nicholson, adding that this heightened fears about security.
Waterville is a place where people “go to sleep and not remember whether you locked the front door or the back door,” she said, while renters who would be “flying through in the government-paid rentals” are not part of the community.
Councilman Timothy Pedro said council was glad to get citizens’ input.
“You are being heard. We don’t take this lightly,” he said, asking residents to “have faith in your council” as it continued to get updated maps and plans from the developer.
“We have to take into consideration … what is right for the entire city of Waterville,” Mayor Lori Brodie said.
Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleibeomer at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786.