Twice now, Wendell town commissioners have denied requests to make changes that woul allow a site near downtown to be developed.
The land of West Academy Street, which is now currently vacant, is zoned for residential use, but it is handicapped on several fronts by factors beyond the property owner’s control. For instance, the site is bounded on one side by the town’s cemetery. It is located near a new cell phone tower which, though necessary, may not be what a new homeowner wants to see when they look outside the kitchen window.
The first set of developers sought to reduce the size of the lots so they could fit more homes on the property. While we are not huge fans of houses built one on top of the other as today’s small lots allow, we also understand a developer’s need to create enough buildable lots that they get their money out of the project. To do otherwise would be the mark of a development company that won’t stay in business for very long.
The second proposal put before commissioners would have allowed a senior housing apartment complex. Opponents battled furiously against that proposition in part because the developer, Lucius Jones, is seen as a money-grubber who’s only out to make a dollar. Of course that flies in the face of his decades of service to the community as a town commissioner and later mayor of the town. Opponents voiced their concern about the use of tax credits that will accrue to the developer if the project were to move forward. But the truth is that really shouldn’t matter one bit when making a land use decision. If their is a demand on the market for senior housing as the waiting list at the town’s other senior apartment complex suggests there is, then the fact that someone is looking to meet the need should be welcomed with open arms.
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We have a suggestion for Wendell commissioners: Before someone else comes to bat with an idea for the property, perhaps they could outline verbally for residents what they believe the highest and best use of that property is. We realize there is a Comprehensive Growth Plan in place, but commissioners have twice now seemed to suggest that the uses outlined for that property aren’t really what they want to see.
It helps no one to reject idea after idea without offering some guidance on what would be acceptable.