Lack of affordable housing pushes young couples out of Wellsville

WELLSVILLE–Adjustments to zoning regulations regarding the number of multi-family dwellings allowed in a residential block were debated at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.The debate, spurred by contractor Gary Hansen’s inquiry about building a seven- to nine-family unit of town homes, was argued primarily by Realtor Brent Parker, of At Home Realty, and Wellsville city official Jay Nielson.Parker said the lack of low-cost starter homes in Wellsville is driving young people out of the community because they cannot afford to pay the cost of most of the homes currently for sale in the city.”Many sons and daughters who grow up in this community and want to buy starter homes here are basically being told to go to Nibley, Hyrum or Logan because of the unavailability of affordable new construction homes,” Parker said.Nielson agreed with Parker that young couples were facing a challenge to find affordable housing, but said rezoning was not the answer. He said altering the zoning regulations would open the community up to the construction of units that would be unfavorable to current citizens.”My advice to you is that you consider this proposal on the merit of a rezone rather than on the merit of this project,” Nielson said. “As you know, properties sometimes change hands and the rezone leads to new development and projects that might not be as appealing. Our current system for mixing multi-family units with single-family units is clearly working and shouldn’t be changed.”Hansen’s proposal is in reference to a half-acre lot that is not currently zoned for multi-family dwellings, although he believes it would be a suitable location for his project. The town homes would cost approximately $130,000-$140,000. Parker says that is the price range young couples looking to establish themselves and build equity want. He said no new houses at entry-level price ranges have been built in Wellsville since the 1990s.Parker said he is worried that people who are newly married are going to get a message from the city that they are no longer welcome in Wellsville.”Right now we’re telling these young couples that if you don’t meet a certain income level, you’re not going to be able to be live in Wellsville and they’re leaving. They’re all leaving to live in places that offer them affordable housing,” Parker said. “What we’re doing is just not working.”Nielson said he is concerned the town homes may not end up being homes for purchase if the rezone brings in different developers.”Fifty percent of the properties that were built in zones such as this in Logan were bought out by investors who now rent them, so you can see they can become rentals anyway,” Nielson said.Commissioner Carl Leatham said he could see valid points from both sides of the argument. He said he has seen firsthand the effect of unavailable low cost housing, but still has concerns about rezoning.”My own kids couldn’t afford housing here and did have to go to Logan, where one has bought a town home and the other is renting one. So that’s right in line with Jay’s statistics of 50-50.” Leatham said.Commissioner Russell Glenn said he was hesitant about rezoning because he likes the system and community that has been created by the current code.After the debate between Parker and Nielson ended, commission chairman Loyal Green said the commission would need time to think over the request and would schedule to meet with Gary Hansen again at a later date.”One message we definitely want to give you is that the original zoning plan was made with a lot of thought and reflects what the people want, so it won’t be without a lot of thought that we make a decision on this,” Green said. “It would be hard for us to give this to you.”The committee also heard a request from Leonard Mackey for conditional use of a building located at 91 E. Main St. for business purposes. Mackey sought permission to use the building, which was formerly a market, for Mackey Catering, LLC. In addition to his catering business, the building would also house a small deli and a Brazilian-style rotisserie on Fridays and Saturdays.Green expressed concern over the state of the building, which had previously been unable to comply with code, but Mackey said the necessary renovations were taking place and would be completed before business operations commenced.The commission granted Mackey’s request and many members said they were anxious for the business to open.”It’s exciting to see something new in our downtown area and hopefully it will help to revive it,” Commissioner John Spence said. “I’m looking forward to it opening.”Mackey also said he was excited for the business to open and that it was a dream he had been waiting to fulfill since 2000. He said he expected to have a customer base right away because of his following from the Cache Valley Gardener’s Market where he often sold catered food.

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