Martinez residents plan to protest proposed low-income housing



Residents upset about a low-income development under way in Martinez are planning to voice their concerns Tuesday at a Columbia County Commission meeting.

Planned within the Magnolia Trace subdivision, off Old Ferry Road, are 50 single-family rental homes subsidized through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Commissioners were not asked to rezone the property because it has been zoned R-3 since 1979, County Administrator Scott Johnson said. R-3 zoning is specified for high-density, single-family residential development with minimum lot sizes of 7,500 square feet, according to the county’s guidelines.

The neighborhood will consist of three- and four-bedroom homes that are between 1,350 and 1,600 square feet, said Commissioner Trey Allen, according to information he received from the developer, Affordable Equity Partners Inc. The development cost $9.6 million, with 2 percent of the funding coming from housing tax credits, Allen said.

Phone messages left Tuesday and Wednesday for Brian Kimes of Affordable Equity Partners were not immediately returned.

Jennifer McCray, whose home on Butterfield Court is near the site, said she found out about the development two days before Thanksgiving after a neighbor passed along a flier from the developer. A site plan was displayed on the flier, as were the words “low-income housing,” “tax credit” and “rental,” she said.

“This affects the entire school system that ... area is zoned for,” McCray said. “The crime rates affect the entire community. This has much more far-reaching effects than just my neighborhood.”

McCray and others have made plans to speak at Tuesday’s commission meeting, which is at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Evans Government Center, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive.

“I look forward to the meeting,” Allen said. “I look forward to addressing people, and I look forward to trying to clear up any misinformation.”

The development is designed to create affordable housing for working professionals, he said.

Because the development is subsidized, renters can’t make more than $40,000. Those who qualify would pay $455 to $580 each month in rent, Johnson said. Tenants must maintain a consistent employment history and credit report and must undergo a criminal background check, Allen said.

Allen, whose office has received about 50 calls regarding Magnolia Trace, said he’s been accused of taking bribes and has also received threats from angry homeowners.

Many living in subdivisions surrounding the 15-acre property received a flier letting them know that a Section 8 housing development was being built near them and to call Allen, who represents that area, to stop the project.

County officials vehemently deny that claim. While renters using home choice vouchers, known to many as Section 8 housing, cannot be legally denied from living in Magnolia Trace, Allen pointed out that there are about 200 vouchers already being used in the county.

“If they have 50 applicants without vouchers that meet the recruitments, all 50 homes may be rented, and not one of them will have a voucher,” he said.