Chilewich zoning change denied

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By Elizabeth Troutman

La Grange council members knocked down a zoning request for an “affordable” apartment complex Monday, arguing the city needs to end its reputation as the core of low-income housing in the county. Council members unanimously denied a zoning change for Chilewich Apartments, a 34-apartment development proposed for 5.6 acres off Ky. 146 with 11 units designated for people with physical and mental disabilities. The apartments would rent for $450 to $500 per month.Council based their decision on the number of low-income developments already in the city, and determined the current commercial zoning was appropriate for the area. While neighbors in Quail Run and Woodland Lakes subdivisions asked the council to consider the concentration of low-income housing in La Grange, designer and owner Mark Wright said an independent market study showed a need for affordable living in the community. “We are trying to do a project where it will benefit the community and there is a need,” Wright said. About 10 residents spoke against the development. Wright offered testimonies from disabled people who said they benefit from other developments he has designed. He said management staff would conduct background checks for prospective tenants.Wright said the development, which would have housed residents earning less than 60 percent of the median income, was ideal for a teacher, fast food restaurant manager, research assistant at The Rawlings Group or Kroger employee – workers who earn $25,000 per year or less. Tadd Ellsworth, a Woodland Lakes resident who has followed the progress of Chilewich Apartments since September, said he believes apartment complex residents would push La Grange Elementary above capacity. The information Ellsworth presented to the council showed La Grange is home to 78 percent of low-income housing offered in Oldham County. “It is irresponsible to segregate and isolate low-income housing into one area of Oldham County – it would behoove the county to do a needs-assessment study,” Ellsworth said. Ellsworth organized a petition against the development and said he collected 254 signatures.But while residents asked council members to stop approving low-income housing, representatives from Seven Counties Services, a group teaming with Oracle Design to place disabled individuals in affordable housing, stressed a need for the development. Angela Casey of Jeffersonville, Ind., who has been paraplegic since she was 17, attested to the benefits of offering affordable housing for people with a disability. She said many people fear disabled and low-income people. “People are so uneducated about disabilities,” Casey said. “People think the worst when they hear the word ‘disability.’” Casey said rural areas often don’t offer accessible housing for disabled people. According to Sandra Mlinarcik, vice president of operations for Seven Counties Services, more than 5,000 people with disabilities live in Oldham County. Council member Lucy Ricketts agreed with representatives from neighborhoods surrounding the site that low-income housing should to be dispersed to other areas in the county. “There’s been good growth, and growth I wish hadn’t happened,” Ricketts said. “But that’s what we get for having good schools.” Council member Debbie Pollard requested the motion to deny the zoning amendment.

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