Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Emotions run high as Sebree rezoning ordinance vote delayed by two weeks

 “You are not going to get to talk tonight.” -          Dorin Luck, Sebree City Attorney

J-E News Editor
Sebree residents hoping for a conclusion to the debated rezoning of a parcel of land in their community will have to wait at least another two weeks. On Monday night the council met before a capacity crowd in the city council chambers, most of whom signed a list signifying that they wished to address the council, but at the urging of city attorney Dorin Luck, members voted to delay any discussion of the rezoning ordinance until a public hearing can be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 24 at Sebree Elementary School.

At question is not whether or not council member Mark Moser should be allowed to build a 32 unit apartment complex, but whether or not the city should rezone property located across Sellers Street from East Washington Street from mobile home residential to multi-family residential in order to make the construction possible.
Sebree’s planning commission met recently and recommended that the council approve an ordinance that would allow the rezoning. The council, however, is under no requirement to honor that recommendation.
City attorney Dorin Luck told the audience and the council that in this situation there were only three possible routes the council could take.
“The first option is that city council can vote on this issue without letting anybody talk,” Luck said. “The second is have an argument hearing, where one person from each side presents their case like lawyers in a trial. The third option is to hold a public hearing. That means everyone who wants to talk can have their say.”
The council unanimously approved the public hearing, which must be advertised at the location of the property in question for 14 days. Such a hearing not only provides the public with a chance to talk, it also gives the council a chance to get a transcript of the meeting, in case the decision they ultimately make is ever challenged in court.
“You’re not going to get to talk tonight, and I’m sorry about that,” Luck said following the decision. “But you want this to be done right.”
The controversy surrounding the construction seems to concern two majors issues. 1) Whether or not Sebree’s infrastructure can support a 32 unit apartment complex at that site, and 2) fears that the complex will become low-income housing.
As for the latter issue, Mark Moser, a life long Sebree resident, sat down with The Journal-Enterprise last week to discuss the construction itself. He told the J-E that the project is being handled entirely by JEM Development, a company he owns with his wife. JEM is the same company that developed the Subway restaurant in Sebree.
“We’re not taking any Section 8 or Kentucky Housing money at all,” said Moser. “The project is solely owned by JEM Development, and we’re getting our financing from one of the banks in Sebree.”
Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, often simply called Section 8, operates in the Commonwealth through the Kentucky Housing Corporation. Those entities authorize the payment of federal rental housing assistance monies to private landlords. They also set the rates and regulate who is eligible to live there.
City Attorney Dorin Luck
Moser said that he has no intention of constructing low-income housing, and he planned to follow federal housing regulations on the number of occupants.
“We’re building this for anybody and everybody who can meet the requirement to live there,” he said. “Sebree is setting in a prime location to grow. We have the I-69 development in the works and there is a new coal mine about to open six and a half miles from town. There is a need for nice housing in Sebree.”
Moser explained that Tyson previously owned the property, but they are in no way involved in the project.
“We are purchasing the property from them,” he said. “This project is not geared towards any certain industry. We have people that work at several plants around our area that drive long distances to get here. Maybe some of them would be interested in renting an apartment closer to where they work.”
The $1.5 million project, if rezoning is approved by the council, will include four brick apartment buildings that each house eight 800 square foot units with two bedrooms. There will also be a complex office, a laundry building, a picnic area and a playground. The entrance to the property will be directly across Sellers Street from East Washington Street.
“There has been some concern over the traffic these apartments would generate on a narrow city street,” Moser said. He pointed out that the complex’s entrance was only a couple of blocks from both US 41 and Highway 56. “The city would have several options. They could make East Washington and Sellers Street one-way. But it’s really up to the city to decide.”
Moser said during that meeting that anyone who wanted to look at the plans for the proposed apartment complex were welcome to see them.
Anyone wishing to speak for or against the rezoning, as well as anyone interested in learning more, is invited to attend the public hearing on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is tentatively scheduled to be held at Sebree Elementary School, pending approval from the school board.

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