Habitat Not Giving Up on Midway
Habitat for Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills may not be able to build its ideal neighborhood in Midway, but it's not leaving the community any time soon.
Elizabeth Cox, director of Habitat for Humanity, and Alan Quirion, a Habitat board member, met with members of the Midway Community Association Saturday to discuss future steps toward building a neighborhood on 12.83 acres of land in Midway.
"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but we don't plan on giving up that easily," Quirion said.
Habitat's reorganization of the project comes a month after the Aberdeen Board of Commissioners denied a rezoning request to change the property from R-20 residential to R-15 residential.
The new zoning would have given Habitat the ability to build a community of 25 homes with a minimum size of 1,200 square feet.
According to a statement of consistency issued by the Town of Aberdeen, the board denied the request, saying that rezoning was not in accordance with the town's Comprehensive Land Development Plan and that the amendment was not "reasonable and in the public interest," despite a unanimous recommendation for approval by the Planning Board.
With the property's current R-20 residential zoning, Habitat can afford to build only 1,400-square-foot homes for families of five to six people. The average Habitat family has three to four people.
"That's the worst-case scenario," Cox said. "We have to find big families that can live in Midway Gardens."
The new plans for the community include 22 homes on 20,000-square-foot lots, compared with the 25 homes initially proposed with the application for R-15 rezoning.
With the increased lot size, Habitat had to drop its plans for a community playground, create bigger yards and significantly minimize the amount of undeveloped space on the property, including the buffer between the project and the Bronwyn community.
"When you go from 10,000-square-foot lots to 15,000 to 20,000, you have to give those things up," Cox said.
The timeline for completing the project will also be extended because Habitat will need to apply for more grants to cover construction costs.
During its application process with the town, Habitat saw a lot of rezoning opposition from residents in neighboring Bronwyn, who feared devaluation in property and a potential change in the area's character due to a higher population density in the zoning.
While Bronwyn residents got the zoning they wanted, Midway residents still feel overlooked as a community in Aberdeen.
Midway, currently zoned as R-10 residential, was initially zoned as R-20 residential almost 20 years ago. The Planning Board rezoned the area to R-10 mobile home in 1991 and, after several meetings with Midway residents, rezoned the area up to R-10 in 1999.
While Midway residents believed the rezoning included the whole community, the town of Aberdeen used Midway Road as the northern boundary for the rezoning, leaving the property that Habitat currently owns as R-20.
"To our knowledge, we thought [the rezoning] was for the whole community," said Maurice Holland Sr., president of the Midway Community Association.
Despite the setback in their goal of community revitalization, Midway residents have realized the importance of grassroots mobilization and active civic participation, now that they are Aberdeen citizens.
'Business as Usual'
"After fighting to become a part of Aberdeen, to get the services, to get the vote, this, to me, signals that it's just business as usual [in town government]," Holland said.
Midway resident Brenda Simmons stressed the importance of the community's vocal presence in Aberdeen town government. "[Holland is] not the only person that speaks for Midway," she said. "He has the support of all of us."
Simmons, like most of the residents at the meeting, was confident about the chance for Midway and Habitat to regroup and reach a consensus on future plans for the project.
"We're bruised, not broken," she said. "We're still looking forward to working with the town of Aberdeen for the betterment of our community."
The Habitat board of directors will have to finalize some decisions before they can begin the town's application process for a subdivision. Cox hopes eventually to apply for variances with the town to be able to adjust some of the home sizes in the project, so that the community can have more diversity in terms of family size.
She and her board members have no plans to leave Midway.
"We will build a community," Cox said. "Midway Gardens will happen."
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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