Two Sides Air Case Over Habitat Plan
The Aberdeen Town Board has a lot of factors to consider before it votes next Monday on rezoning property in the Midway community for a Habitat project.
At its monthly meeting Monday night, the board held a public hearing on an application from Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills to rezone 12.83 acres between Bronwyn Street and Midway Road from R-20 residential zoning to R-15, allowing a Habitat community of 25 homes.
Several Bronwyn Street residents asked the board to consider their concerns about their home values on the other side of the property.
Several Midway residents support R-15 rezoning because it will help them keep property taxes down and protect the community from development that would price residents out of their homes. But Bronwyn residents fear that the rezoning would reduce the value of their properties.
Most said that they did not mind homes on the property adjacent to the 11 lots in the Bronwyn community, but they want to maintain the privacy that the land currently provides as undeveloped R-20 residential property.
Bronwyn residents asked that Habitat build a lower number of homes and put in a privacy fence that would separate the two communities.
Habitat Executive Director Elizabeth Cox said she would support putting up a landscape barrier, but that a fence would just serve as a wall in place of transition.
Karen Vaccaro asked the board to consider the project's effect on Bronwyn Street.
"R-12 rezoning puts these homes in my backyard, literally," she said. "I did not move to Aberdeen so I could sit in my backyard and look at rooftops of low-income housing."
The homes that Habitat intends to build on the property are appraised at between $95,000 and $105,000.
Her husband, Angelo, also said that those in favor of the project in Midway do not live directly across from it on the same side of the road.
"They don't butt up to this property," Angelo Vaccaro said. "I don't think it's going to impact them like it's going to impact us." Property value was a constant issue throughout the 90-minute hearing.
Bronwyn resident Carolyn Haas spoke about the potential benefit of higher property taxes.
"When everything goes up, I always thought it makes everything better a little bit," Haas said.
Haas said she would rather deal with higher property taxes resulting from high-end development because the higher value presents a better return for her if she ever decides to sell her home.
She added that Midway is not the only community that is comprised of working-class people.
"I am a working person. I'm a waitress at Pinehurst," Haas said. "I've had two or three jobs at times to pay my mortgage with my husband."
Cox listed several Habitat communities in Moore County where the home values did not depreciate and offered tax records on the homes for people to review.
"These properties will give, and there is not enough affordable housing in Moore County," Cox said.
Improve the Community
Maurice Holland Sr., president of the Midway Community Association, reiterated the project's potential for the revitalization of Midway.
"I don't want the neighborhood to deteriorate," Holland said.
Holland emphasized the values of family, faith and community that he learned growing up in Midway.
"That's something that's being lost," he said. "All of this came out of Midway."
Holland's son, Maurice Holland Jr., also spoke to the board as both a member of Habitat for Humanity's family selection committee and a Midway resident. He explained the criteria for homeowner selection and emphasized that the types of people that Bronwyn residents worry will move in would never meet the requirements of Habitat.
"We weed people out," he said. "Troublemakers are usually not willing to put in hard work."
As a resident of Midway, the younger Holland expressed his desire to see the place where he grew up thrive.
"This is something that will be a much needed improvement for the community," Holland Jr. said.
Most of the Bronwyn residents also expressed disapproval of the fact that Habitat for Humanity bought the property as an R-20 residential zone when it needed a higher-density residential zone to build its project.
Holland and Cox explained that the decision to buy the land was made very quickly in efforts to prevent the land from being sold to a high-end developer at an auction held by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), which used the site to store mulch and other materials for its projects in the area.
The Midway community, along with the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, approached Habitat about buying the property only days before the auction, leaving little time to assess the option of rezoning.
Cox said that the community led her to believe that Habitat had support for the project.
"We had four days," Cox said. "Was it a perfect situation? No."
Cox also addressed the residents' skepticism about Habitat's intention for purchasing the property.
"We never intended to deceive you," she said.
'A Lot to Consider'
Mark Dorosin, an attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, spoke to the board about the work he had done to help Midway during its annexation process. He described the current situation between the two communities as simultaneously encouraging and discouraging.
He said he sees the Habitat project as a chance for Midway to establish itself as a community of Aberdeen.
"This project is the next step in that literal inclusion into the community," Dorosin said.
Dorosin said the hesitation expressed by most residents from Bronwyn highlighted a poorly conceived view of Midway and its intentions.
"[The Midway residents] have no intention of turning this property over to Habitat and never looking back," Dorosin said. "To think that they would really shows a misunderstanding of those who live in Midway."
Though the overall tone of the hearing projected sentiments far from that of compromise, Cox highlighted the fact that the two communities are actually coming together to address an issue.
"This is the first time this dialogue has happened, and that's healthy," she said.
As Mayor Betsy Mofield closed the hearing, she urged the board members to thoroughly consider all of the parties concerned.
"They've given this board a lot to consider," she said.
The board will vote on the rezoning at a special called meeting Monday, Nov. 16, at 5:30 p.m.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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