HURRICANE – Over the last several weeks, members of the Dixie Springs Development in Hurricane have grown concerned over plans of the Five County Association of Governments to build eight “low income” houses in their subdivision. The plan was presented at Thursday’s City Council meeting with a full house of residents and representatives expressing strong and diverse viewpoints.
Opening statement on behalf of Five County Association
Five County Association’s representative Doni Pack wrote a statement to be read by Jerry Allred to the council in her absence.
Pack’s statement began by describing the mutual self-help program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development division for 40 years. Families must pass a stringent application process, and only 1 in 21 applicants are approved. Applicants must prove stable income, responsible financial choices, and an established good credit rating.
Rural Development declares a builder, who then gets appraisals based on property value, and families choose a house plan that has been pre-approved and complies with covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, governing the development.
Hurricane City Mayor John Bramall said: “If someone is going to use this program, or income housing assistance, they have to comply with all the codes, covenants and regulations that are in the area they are going to build. They cannot build, or just throw something up.”
Each family assists the others in building the houses in the program until all are completed and in certified for occupancy.
“The families are required to build 65 percent of their house,” her statement said, “dedicating over 30 hours a week of their time and energy above and beyond regular employment and family responsibilities.”
The completed homes will appraise within the midrange of absolute values for Dixie Springs, Peck’s statement said, in line with those in standard listing services for realtors.
Bramall: The median level of house that is in Dixie Springs is a requirement for this program.
Pack’s statement: The new homes will not reduce property values.
The crowd in attendance: Laughter.
Pack’s statement: Long-term ownership is also increased with owner-builder housing due to physical and emotional investment required for a self-build. Long-term occupancy by workforce families contributes significantly to the stability and health of the local economy.
The term “low income housing” is often associated with unemployment, government handouts, trash and criminal behavior, Pack’s statement acknowledged; stereotypes, she said, that are seldom accurate or helpful.
“To believe that a person unknown to you fits in a certain stereotype based solely on rumor or ignorance is malice,” Pack said. If a family fit that abused stereotype they would not qualify for the program.
Allred then gave personal testimony to the program as a builder over the past five years. He has built 43 homes in LaVerkin, Enoch, Ivins, Kanab and Mesquite Nevada, he said, nice, modest homes. They were not well-built “back in the day,” he said, but these homes today have to meet Energy Star 3.0 rating – an energy efficiency rating program of the Environmental Protection Agency – whereas, 90 percent of the homes would not have met that rating years ago.
These are private citizens purchasing homes, Allred said, and Rural Development is just acting as their bank.
Program participants respond
Dennise Lesko and her husband Rick Lesko qualified for the self-help program. Rick Lesko had recently retired from the post office, after 27 years of service, Dennise Lesko said. They were introduced to the program by a neighbor who has since built her own home in Ivins through this program.
“We chose to pursue the program because these homes are well built,” Dennise Lesko said. “We have seen them, and it helps us to put sweat equity in because we do not have the down payment anymore.”
The homes are not $400,000 houses and you can tell the difference, Dennise Lesko said; however, they are modest, and well kept up because the people who built them have invested more in them than just money. She and her husband are required to help build eight houses, and will spend 1,560 hours minimum, stressing they are not fly-by-night homes.
“We want to reside in Dixie Springs,” Dennise Lasko said. “We would like very much for everyone else to be comfortable with us living there also.”
Dixie Springs residents respond
“This is not a personal thing against the people,” Nancy Crowley said. “This is something for the people of Dixie Springs.”
On Aug. 8, they found a Web page by accident about the mutual self-help program, Crowley said. Until then, they had no idea the program was coming into their subdivision. Dixie Springs is a premier community in Hurricane, Crowley said, with many homes over half a million dollars. If you take the appraised value of the homes of Dixie Springs, you would not come close to the value of the program’s proposed homes.
The mayor has known about this project a long time, she said, and he did not tell the residents before they accidentally ran across it on the website.
“Currently there are over 100 families, or over 200 adults, who have spoken out against this project. I am getting more emails every day.”
Dixie Springs residents have four major concerns, Crowley outlined:
- The type of housing is inappropriate for the neighborhood.
- Dixie Springs residents have gone to the developments in LaVerkin and Ivins, Crowley said, and they have photos – homes that are modest and do not fit in Dixie Springs.
- Dixie Springs residents expect elected officials to make appropriate recommendations on projects, for the least negative impact on the city, and place homes in neighborhoods with comparable home values.
- People purchased homes in the community because of its high quality.
- Current homeowners should have been told before they spent their money that there would be government-subsidized housing.
- People in the program need to not only be able to afford their loan payments but to be able to maintain their property.
- These people cannot get loans through another source; the loans are subsidized and the loans are extended to 33 0r 38 years to make the payments affordable. The payments also go up as their incomes go up, Crowley said, so in many cases the house maintenance will not be possible.
- While the current homeowners understand the new owners have to comply with the CC&Rs, Crowley said, any advocacy by the mayor and council is questionable.
- This project will degrade the image of Dixie Springs.
- Dixie Springs has a great reputation, it’s why the current homeowners came there.
- Government subsidized housing in Dixie Springs will make the development a much less desirable place to live, she said, and property values will go down, and people will move out.
- The time required to build the homes is too long.
- Building a home is a great mess, Crowley said, the dirt, nails, garbage, noise.
- Eight homes being built over the course of a year is going to be quite a disruption to the area.
The median home value in Dixie Springs is not $200,000, Crowley said; to say it is, is an outright lie.
City officials respond
After a round of applause for Crowley, Bramall said:
The first time I heard about this was when it came up on my agenda for City Council a few weeks ago. If you heard about it before then, you heard about it before I did. The rumor I have heard about this for a long time is false. I had to read about what this is over the last few weeks, and what I found was, under our constitution, people are allowed to build their house, on their property, as long as they stay within the CC&Rs. For us as a city, to violate an individual’s rights or property rights – I have a hard time with that.
Hurricane City Attorney Fay Reber said:
This project does not require City Council approval. These are private people, purchasing lots and building homes. The city has no right to approve it, and no right to deny it.
The community does have the right to enforce their own CC&Rs, Reber said.
Members of the crowd began to argue with the council from their seats. Allred began rebutting the statements made by Crowley. The mayor was forced to use his gavel to bring the meeting back into order.
Bramall said that over his many years of service as a councilman and mayor, he has worked to improve Dixie Springs, and wants to keep doing so. He opened up the meeting for citizens to come to the podium one-by-one, all of who echoed the concerns Crowley had presented.
Councilman Kevin Tervort said he agreed with the citizens of Dixie Springs, and felt that the Five County Association needs to look elsewhere; but, he said, the city could not stop private citizens from purchasing homes.
The council approved a resolution to delay impact fees for vacant land used as community gardens, specifying that a community garden is a group of at least 5 neighboring families who form a board of directors and establish bylaws to regulate the plot intended for the garden. After meeting these requirements, the community garden through the landowner or one of the landowner’s agents, can get a water meter from the city.
Hurricane City Engineer Arthur LeBaron said that this process will prevent any group desiring to establish a community garden from having to attend a city council meeting for approval. LeBaron said impact fees on properties used for community gardens will be delayed until the owner files for a building permit.
St. George News Reporter Reuben Wadsworth contributed the other business portion of this report.
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- Mutual Self-Help program makes home ownership possible
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