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Council hears plans for proposed housing development
City proposes 6 mill increase for FY 2020
Mayor and Clerk (W).jpg
Camden Municipal Clerk Brenda Davis (right) looks on as Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford reads a proclamation naming May 5-11 as National Municipal Clerks Week. This year marks the 50th year of the observance, and the proclamation recognized Davis’ contributions to council and the city. (Gee Whetsel/C-I)

Developers should know by late this summer whether they will be able to move forward with plans for an affordable housing development that would be located at 1000 Mill St. in downtown Camden that would be similar to Cedarbrook Apartments on Campbell Street.

At Camden City Council’s meeting Tuesday, Josh Thomason with Villages on Mill Street LP presented a brief overview of a proposed affordable housing development that will be located on 3.87 acres.

“Currently the parcel we plan to build on contains an automotive, motorcycle, pretty much any type of automotive equipment, repair shop and a music store,” Thomason said. “Those two enterprises will eventually need to be relocated to make room for the development.”

Thomason said that Villages on Mill Street has submitted an application to the S.C. State Housing and Development Authority to facilitate financing for the new construction of the development that would consist of 50 units.

Cedarbrook Apartments, near the city’s new tennis complex, was developed in a similar manner, Thomason said.

“They applied to the state Housing and Development Authority for tax credits to allow them to build a nice complex and at the same time allow them to maintain affordable rents for folks,” he said.

Thomason said units at Cedarbrook are being rented as fast as they become available.

“That’s indicative of the strong need for affordable housing in this area,” he said. “We think our proposed development will help continue to fill that need.”

He noted that Villages on Mill Street does not yet have the tax credits they need to proceed.

“We’ve applied, but it’s a competitive process,” Thomason said. “We expect to hear back from the S.C. Housing Authority sometime in August as to how we compare with other developments and see if we can obtain an award of tax credits and can move forward.”

Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford asked Thomason what determines who is eligible for affordable housing.

“We have teachers and policemen who didn’t qualify for Cedarbrook,” she said. “How is that determined?”

Thomason said the Tax Reform Act of 1986 gives private investors a federal income tax credit as an incentive to make equity investments in affordable rental housing.

“The ‘affordability level’ is defined as 60 percent of median area income,” he said. “That varies depending on where you are, but in Camden, right now, for a one-person household it’s $24,500; for a two-person household, it’s $28,000; for a three-person household, it’s $31,500, and for a family of four it’s $35,000.”

He said a law was passed in Washington last year that allows the “affordability level” number to “go up to 80 percent of median area income. S.C. Housing has not yet caught up to allowing that 80 percent, but they’re in the process of figuring it out because the law is there now to allow for greater income ranges.”

A conceptual site plan provided to council members shows two apartment buildings; a clubhouse with a common laundry area, computer center and fitness center; playground; detention pond; and 95 parking spaces.

A project narrative indicates the 50 apartments would include 10 one bathroom/one bedroom units, 24 two bedroom/one and three-quarters bath units, and 16 three bedroom/two bathroom units. The two buildings would be two-story structures.

“Villages on Mill Street will make available at least 20 percent of the units to households with rent and income limits at 50 percent or less than AMI (average median income), and eight units will be market rate,” the narrative states. “The remaining units will serve tenants at 60 percent income limits.”

Villages on Mill Street said in the narrative that none of the units will receive “project based” rental assistance; that the project will be specifically designed for individuals and/or families with children; and at least 25 percent of the lowest-income units will contain three or more bedrooms.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, council held a public hearing on the city’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget of more than $47.475 million. City Administrator Mel Pearson gave a brief overview of the budget, saying the city has “seen some growth this year in our budget.”

According to figures released Tuesday for FY 2020, the city’s General Fund, which provides the resources necessary to sustain the day-to-day operations of the city, is projected at $10.7 million. The Project Improvement Fund, restricted funds used to pay for special projects, grant fund matching and capital improvements, is $488,700; the Paving Fund is $368,700; the Utility Fund, which provides resources for the electric, water and wastewater activities, is $34.8 million. The Local Source Revenue Fund, a separate fund used for promoting, maintaining and advancing tourism which comes from 2 percent Hospitality Taxes, Accommodation Taxes and permit fees issued for Sunday alcohol sales, is projected to be $1.1 million.

Pearson said the city is projecting “4.82 percent growth in usage in the utility fund. But we are not projecting any electric, water or sewer rate increases.”

In the General Fund, Pearson said the city is projecting a 4.41 percent increase in growth.

“Revenues are expected to show a slight increase,” he said. “Operational expenditures are projected to be at or near current year levels.”

Pearson said a 6 mill tax increase is included in the proposed budget.

“We have not had a millage increase since 2015,” he noted. “The costs of participation in the state pension fund and other employee benefits have been going up steadily. Our city is continuing to grow and prosper and we encourage that growth, but with that we have to provide additional services, which also cost (more).”

Pearson said the tax millage increase, if approved, will mean a homeowner “will pay $18 more per year on a $200,000 home.”

He thanked city staff for their work on the budget.

“We feel good about this budget and we’ll continue to fine tune it as we move forward,” Pearson told council. “We think you’ve had a couple of good years in the city and we want to continue that. I think this budget does that for you.”

First reading on the proposed FY 20 budget will be considered at council’s next meeting in May.

Also Tuesday, council gave first reading to an ordinance approving a rezoning request by the Health Services District of Kershaw County for the property located at 100 Knights Hill Road and 2615 Liberty Hill Road that will make up the site of a new Karesh Long-Term Care Center. The zoning will go from a planned development district (PDD) to master planned development (MPD) district.

The Health Services District of Kershaw County finalized the purchase of property located at 100 Knights Hill Road in Camden, also known as “Beechwood,” for the relocation and building of a new Karesh Long Term Care and Rehabilitation facility in December.

The district intends to seek the additional licensure of 36 long-term care beds from the state, bringing the total licensed bed capacity of the new facility to 132 beds, comprised of both long-term care skilled nursing beds and short-term rehabilitation beds. The district hopes to begin construction this summer and anticipates an 18-month construction timeline.

Graham said he is excited the rezoning will allow the property to be used for a purpose “that will serve our community for many more years to come. As we see this plan come together, I think our community will be proud. Having this facility that is sustainable by our community is powerful and I’m looking forward to see something special happen there.”

In other business:

• Council proclaimed May 5-11 as National Small Business Week.

• Council proclaimed May 5-11 as Municipal Clerks Week, recognizing Municipal Clerk Brenda Davis (see photo, front page).

• Council approved a memorandum of understanding and agreement between the city and Kershaw County concerning maintenance at Kirkwood Park. Mayor Drakeford pointed out that “this is a renewal of an agreement that was already in place but had expired.” Councilwoman Deborah Davis said she is excited that the county and city are working together to maintain the park. “Franklin Alexander, who has been putting all this together, is doing all he can to help make that park attractive and be useful as well,” she said.

• Council approved a memorandum of understanding and agreement between the city and Kershaw County concerning maintenance at Scott Park. Graham said hospitality tax funds have made it possible for the city to make investments in the community. “If you look at our budget, we have around $925,000 in hospitality tax funds,” he said. “We’ve made those kinds of investments in the city arena, tennis complex and many other great projects, like our parks.”

• Council gave first reading to two amendments of the city’s zoning ordinance. The first related to storage of boats, campers and RVs in residential districts. The current ordinance requires those types of vehicles longer than 17 feet be stored in a rear yard. The amendment allows those types of vehicles to be stored in a side yard as long as they do not extend into the front yard. The second amendment allows the side setback on a corner lot to be reduced by 25 percent and to allow the setback requirements in unusual situations to be reduced by 25 percent; and

• Council entered executive session to discuss contractual matters related to economic development. No action was taken upon return to open session.