Authority studies sites for public housing units

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Two sites -- one significantly less contentious than the other -- are being eyed by Augusta Housing Authority for the authority's next public housing initiatives.

The office already has an option to purchase the former Immaculate Conception Catholic School campus and is negotiating another option on an adjoining Laney-Walker Boulevard property, authority Executive Director Jacob Oglesby told the Augusta Commission on Wednesday.

The authority envisions replacing structures, including a sanctuary, with 15 to 25 single-family or duplex units for senior citizens that "blend in" with the nearby revitalization efforts of Augusta's Housing and Community Development office, Oglesby said.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver and five commissioners who attended a joint meeting with the authority were receptive to the Laney-Walker proposal, but District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett asked when the authority would turn its efforts to other areas "in desperate need."

Rodger Murchison, the chairman of the authority board, reminded Lockett that the office still owns a $700,000 tract in District 5 on Deans Bridge Road.

When the vacant tract was slated five years ago for a mixed-income residential development, homeowners in nearby subdivisions feared the development would decrease their property values and petitioned the commission to veto the plan, which it did.

The success of new Walton Oaks, which replaces the old Underwood Homes complex, might have the effect of dispelling misinformation and "tearing down walls of mistrust" about mixed-income developments, Copenhaver said.

The east Augusta development's first phase of 75 senior units is expected to be completed in October, and three subsequent all-age units will be ready in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Oglesby said.

Lockett said he would try to broach the proposal delicately during meetings he has planned with neighborhood associations representing the area near the Deans Bridge Road tract.

"Baby steps, as long as we're stepping," Copenhaver said.

Augusta's mayor appoints members to the housing authority board, which includes its vice chairman, the Rev. Kenneth B. Martin.

Martin is a plaintiff in a recent lawsuit to stop the city from implementing a reorganization of its government. Martin did not attend Wednesday's meeting.


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