During a special meeting held Monday, the City of Mason listened to voices for and against the planned development of lots on Bridge Street for Habitat future homesites.
The public hearing portion of the meeting lasted forty five minutes, during which numerous speakers voiced their support for, or their opposition to the request by Habitat for a variance to lot sizes for the development. The City requires lots be 7,500 square feet, and Habitat was requesting that they be allowed to develop their homesites on lots of approximately 6,333 square feet.
Habitat President Paul Branch had led off the comments by explaining that the local affiliate is providing affordable housing to low income families in Mason County, a service not currently being provided by any other group. He explained that by allowing the variance, the $80,000 in development costs could be spread among nine Habitat homes rather than six or seven, thus keeping the final costs to the homeowners more economically attainable. He also pointed out that the houses are designed to have small square footage, while serving the needs of each family, thus keeping the house proportional to the smaller lot.
Numerous residents from the neighborhood then spoke to voice their opposition to granting the variance, with the common theme being that the development was too much for such a small area. Repeatedly, the comment was made that such intense development would change the character of the neighborhood.
Kim Jordan, owner of a Habitat home on Loving Street, less than a block away, explained that her lot, though smaller than what was being requested, was already a lot for a single mother to maintain. She felt that the smaller lots actually benefitted most families who do not have the time or resources to maintain a larger yard.
At 6:15, the public hearing ended and the regular meeting began. An earlier agenda item concernign placement of a manufactured home on Koocksville Road by Bill Chapman was quickly approved before the Commission moved on to the item concerning Habitat's request.
Building Official for the City of Mason, Greg Mitchell, detailed the steps that Habitat had followed with their development, including their request for the variance.
The Commissioners asked questions of Mr. Branch and Habitat building supervisor, Keith Kaan, regarding the reasoning behind the request. Commissioners Anna Velez and Tammy Gardner both expressed their concerns about the density of development, and the Habitat representatives again explained that they were trying to keep costs within reach of the potential Habitat applicant families.
Commissioner William Beaty noted that the area is in his district, and also noted that the planning and zoning guidelines do not recognize financial considerations as a legitimate reason for granting a variance. He noted that several of the neighbors in the area are opposed, and voiced his concern that the children would be playing in the streets since they would have such small yards.
Commissioner Bob Vacek told the Commission that, while driving around the City, he was amazed at the condition of some of the places that people were currently residing. He noted that the Habitat homes were a vast improvement over those living conditions. He also noted that children were playing in the streets in other neighborhoods, even when they had yards.
Commissioner Vacek moved to accept the variance request; but, no second was received and the motion died.
Commissioner Beaty moved to deny the request, Commissioner Velez seconded the motion. Commissioners Beaty, Velez and Gardner voted for the motion with Mayor Hinckley and Commissioner Vacek voting against, and the variance was denied.
In other action, the City voted to move their next regular meeting to May 23 in order to be able to canvas election results from the May 14 City election.