A divided Ashland Board of City Commissioners on Thursday voted to support a housing project a previous commission killed seven years ago because of citizen concerns.

By a vote of 3-2, the commission agreed to give the developers of Terrace Park Townhomes Ltd. a letter stating essentially that the city is in favor of the $4.3 million project, which would involve the construction of 12 four-unit townhouse apartment buildings on a seven-acre lot on Kirk Street.

The developers need the letter to apply to the Kentucky Housing Corp. for project funding, Richard “Gene” Myers, one of the partners in the venture, told the commission.

The project is identical to one proposed in 2001. The commission in office at that time scuttled it after residents of the neighborhood voiced opposition to it. Much of the concern was over the additional vehicle traffic the development would create on Kirk Street and whether the narrow thoroughfare could handle it.

Presiding Commissioner Kevin Gunderson and Commissioner Larry Brown, both of whom were on the board in 2001 and voted against the project then, reversed course on Thursday and voted to issue the letter, as did the board’s newest member, Tom Cantrell. Commissioners Paula Hogsten and Cheryl Spriggs both voted no.

“If there was citizen concern in 2001, I don’t know why that would change,” Spriggs said. “The road hasn’t been widened.”

Spriggs and Hogsten both said they thought the issue had been sprung on the commission and they believed citizens should be allowed to have input before the board made a decision on whether to endorse the project.

However, Gunderson and Cantrell both stressed that residents will still have a chance to air their views about the project when it goes before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, as required by city ordinance.

“This in no way knocks the neighborhood out of the process,” Cantrell said. “They’ll still have the opportunity to speak to the BZA.”

Cantrell also said, even with the city’s support, the developers “still have a lot of hoops to jump through” to make the project a reality.

“Even if we approve it tonight, you’re still going to have a struggle,” he told Myers and his partner, Eric Ratliff.

The complex would be near the Pollard Mills revitalization area. Even though it would technically be outside of that zone, Gunderson said he thought he would make a nice companion to it.

Myers told the commission the goal of the developers was to provide affordable housing for moderate-income, working families. Studies have shown there is demand for that type of housing in Ashland andthe local housing market is under-served in that particular category, he said.

The complex will have mostly two-bedroom apartments, although there will be a few three-bedroom units. Each unit will have a private patio out back and its own individual storage space. Rents will start at $465 a month, Myers said.

Myers also said he was confident that problems with the development, including the narrowness of the street, could be resolved.

“We’re very familiar with working with local communities and addressing their concerns,” he said. “We want to be a good partner.”

Myers said time was of the essence in obtaining the letter of support. He said the developers were facing an Oct. 20 deadline to submit their funding application to the KHC.

One of the reasons the project is being revived, Myers said, is that Ashland has been designated as a “difficult develop” area by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That makes the developers eligible for federal tax credits, he said.

Myers said Ashland had not received that designation since the last time the project was proposed and he didn’t know when, or if, it would again.

He said the developers should know by Dec. 20 whether their request for KHC funding is approved. If everything falls into place, construction could begin in the spring, Myers said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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