A developer has a plan in front of the Milton City Council, awaiting approval to construct a multi-million dollar, low-income senior facility, funded by grants and private investment.
The venture is being spearheaded by Vestcor Development Corporation (VDC), a subsidiary of The Vestcor Companies, develops affordable housing for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities, according to its website. The Jacksonville-based company utilizes federal grant programs, such as the Housing Credit and Mortgage Revenue Bond program to fund developments. The Vestcor companies manage more than 5,200 units in Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina in its overall portfolio.
VDC is seeking to purchase 10.25 acres from Gospel Projects, at the corner of Dogwood Drive and Chestnut Street, to construct a 100 to 120-unit limited-income, senior living facility, according to Milton City Planner Randy Jorgenson. It is not an assisted living facility and there will be no onsite staff. The development aims to provide living for seniors on a fixed income.
"It really is a good project," Jorgenson said. "My recommendation to the City Council would be to approve the project. It will benefit the City and the citizens."
The three-story H-shaped complex is slated to be an all-inclusive facility with elevators and fully-equipped kitchens and amenities including a theater room, gaming rooms, salon and a swimming pool with handicap access and more. Sixty of the units will be one bedroom, one bath, and 60 will be two bedroom, two bath.
Rents at the location vary on the size of the unit and depend on income. Tenants must meet requirements such as being 55 years of age or older. The tax credit program requires that the tenants must make less than 60 percent average median income of $57,700. Ten percent of the tenants will make less than 33 percent of that number.
One bedroom units have two tiers, $433 and $649 per month. Two bedroom units have two rent tiers of $520 and $780, with utility allowances of $75 and $90. The one bedroom units will be 650 square feet and the two bedroom units are 900 square feet.
The Planned Development Project (PDP) is expected to cost between $15 and $18 million, and is being fast-tracked by the City, so developers can apply for grant funding, Jorgenson said. Vestcor proposed financing the project with low-income tax credits through the Florida Housing Finance Agency.
The deadline for the grant funding is Oct. 17 and requires approval from the City Council and a $20,000 gesture from a local government. Santa Rosa County is expected to pick up the tab on the gesture, providing funds from the SHIP program, according to Jorgenson.
"The PDP allows the City and the developer to work out aspects of the project," Jorgenson said. "We can discuss what we require of them and them to us, as to what they can provide to the community."
If the City Council approves the proposal, Vestcor would have six months to provide a full, detailed plan. Tentative plans have a completion date of April 2015.
Jorgenson said the project would provide a much-needed boost for local construction tradesmen, after a long slump in the industry.
Residents in the area have voiced their concerns about a large, multi-family residence moving into the neighborhood. They have been vocal about the possibility of declining property values, increased traffic and unknown aspects of the future if the property is sold to different a management company.
Robert Mullens lives in the area and says there is already a good bit of vehicular traffic in the area because of the school and baseball games held at Gospel Projects. At certain times of the day, the neighborhood is filled with cars, and he says some people use the neighborhood as a cut-through to avoid a traffic light. Many motorists do not heed the 20 mph speed limit, he says.
"We don't know how much the project is going to affect our street," Mullens said. "We're passionate about our neighborhood."
The neighborhood is comprised of mainly single-family homes, with many residents who have been there since the 70s and 80s, Mullens said. There's a few families with children.
While the residents have been told by the City that the senior population is not expected to produce a lot of traffic, Mullens is worried about the support services of the complex.
"That place will have managers, custodians and maintenance as well," Mullens said. "It's more than just the residents."
Mullens is also concerned about property values in the neighborhood declining, or the complex being sold to another management company who might take the complex in a different direction, possibly allowing it to fall into disrepair. With the proximity of the Christian school, there's an additional concern of a company in the future failing to adequately background check its residents, he said.
"Nobody can predict the future," he said. "There's just some concerns like that. We just want to know how it's going to affect the neighborhood."
Jorgenson said the facility's impact on the area will likely be minimal, save for a slight demand on first responders in the area. There will be no onsite nursing staff, leading to the possible, additional demand on EMS services.
"There are two schools of thought," Jorgenson said. "If done well, with prior knowledge of facilities and management, the development may result in a marginal increase in surrounding property value."
Jorgenson will be meeting with the neighborhood residents this Sunday to discuss the concerns and answer any questions the residents of Sherwood Park may have.
The City Council will be voting on the proposed development Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall at 6738 Dixon St.