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Boone Town Council Discusses Potential Partnership with UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative

The Boone Town Council discusses a potential partnership with the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative.

By Zack Hill

The Boone Town Council met on Wednesday for a brief session that focused on a potential partnership with the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative to build housing near the soccer and baseball fields on Brookshire Road.

Currently, the DFI is looking for a soft agreement from the town to explore the possibility of constructing apartment buildings on the property. The next step would be hiring an architecture firm to evaluate the property for suitability.

A key point of contention is whether the town would be willing to run water and sewer to the property. It’s not currently zoned within town limits and would potentially need to be annexed so residents would not have to pay the standard double water and sewer rates applicable to residences tied into the town’s system that don’t fall within town limits.

The council agreed that a substantial part, if not all, of the development should be dedicated to affordable housing. The property was previously considered for an emergency communications station but the plan was scrapped as the land was deemed unsuitable for that project.

According to the Development Finance Initiative’s website the program has attracted more than 1 billion dollars in private investment into communities around the state. The DFI “partners with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finances and development expertise.”

“UNC DFI partners with communities on projects including revolving loan funds, master-planned developments, urban infill redevelopment, downtown revitalization, and neighborhood redevelopment.”

According to a packet of information distributed to the council, the town would ideally require at least 20 percent of the property to be dedicated to low income housing.

But many on the council said they would like to see more of the residences made and priced specifically for low income families and individuals.

Council members Todd Carter and Virginia Roseman both said they would like to see 100 percent of the residences dedicated to affordable housing.

“I just want to make sure if we’re going to the table to talk, I’m hoping something successful would come out of this,” Roseman said in reference to the affordability aspect. “It would be more of a concrete change to the community.”

Speaking to the suggestion that the residences could be locked in at an affordable rate for 30 years, Roseman said, “30 years could be one family staying in it to raise their children. That’s significant.”

Carter pointed out that other communities have housing that is dedicated fully to affordable homes.

“There is 100 percent affordable [housing] in other communities,” Carter said. “It’s not a foreign thing.”

Town attorney Allison Meade summed up what the council agreed to at the end of the meeting, saying, “As a soft agreement the town states that it would extend water and sewer with annexation to avoid double rate imposition on those residents; that R3 standards of our code would apply but town would consider suggestions to modifications to applicable standards to enhance affordability—on the understanding that this proposal will meet state affordability requirements—the town provides a soft commitment to extend water and sewer.”