Citizens Urge DeSoto Council to Turn Down Low Income Housing Project

desoto city building
Photo by Kristin Barclay

More Than 20 DeSoto Residents Shared Concerns Over Housing Project

The most controversial item discussed during DeSoto City Council meeting on this past Tuesday evening was a proposal by NRP group to construct a workforce housing development at the northeast corner of Bolton Boone Road and Danieldale Road in far northern DeSoto. The property will consist of approximately 300 – 330 units for residents earning between 50% and 70% of the area median income.

In June of 2020, NRP Group met with the City Manager regarding their proposed development. On July 17, 2020, members of the City Manager’s Office and the DeSoto City Council toured several existing NRP properties in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. During the October 20, 2020 City Council Work Session, the NRP Group presented its proposed development to City Council.

This past Tuesday there were 21 comments regarding the Resolution of No Objection with only one comment in favor of the project.

Loretta Davis began by telling council “Citizens of DeSoto have been very vocal about the types of development they desire in DeSoto … I would like to encourage the city council to vote against the resolution of no objection and to continue to move toward development that DeSoto residents want to see.”

Crystal Chism then spoke about the resolution of no objection and urged council to strongly reject the development plan. She urged council to work toward attracting the type of businesses and citizens that “we want.”

Rene Edwards “I have no faith in developers who want to infringe on our community for this type of development … Please vote no on low-income subsidized housing.”

Denise Valentine, Kelvin Muse, Michelle Anderson, Ryan Hopkins, Linda Cox, Bertha Baily Watley, Bertha Benedict, Perry Norman, Sandra Jones, Restia McDonald, Ms Rance, Cheryl Benedict, Anna Williams, Lena Johnson, Judith Wright, Pierette Parker and Stacy Bennett all expressed their opposition to the resolution as well. Mattie Goldsby Jones was the only citizen to voice her opinion in favor of the development.

Councilmembers Share Their Feelings On The Project

After the citizens comments councilperson Nicole Raphiel said she felt the city would “shoot itself in the foot” by approving a development such as this when they have been striving for upscale restaurants and businesses up to this point. She said she would not be supporting the request.

Andre Byrd Sr. said when he toured the area he was impressed if it would be devoted largely to senior citizens. He said having the right product in the right spot is important. He said he tended to agree with the views expressed by Ms. Raphiel. He said the timing and location was wrong for this type of development in DeSoto.

Kay Brown Patrick said she read every email and was appreciative of the responses by citizens and noted that people feared crime, litter and other adverse situations to DeSoto. She said when she first moved to DeSoto her income was in the income bracket being discussed for this development and she did not bring crime and litter to the city.

“Everyone has to have a starting point, and I think it’s very elitist for some people to say because it’s affordable it is somehow negative or bad for our community.” She said she felt it is unfair to reject this type of affordable housing because teachers, police officers and many others could fall into the income ranges that would want these apartments. She said the target income for residents is from $43,000 to $60,000 and this is not a level that will attract crime and other bad situations. Therefore, she said she would support the resolution.

Councilmember Candice Quarles said if this isn’t the time, then when (would it be the time). “If we say no at this time, when will we put some energy toward low income housing.”

Councilwoman Dinah Marks said her daughter is in this position – just out of college and getting established. “I’m going to ask if the council would consider bringing this back a little bit later,” she said. “I really do want our residents to feel better about any decision we make. Their voices were very loud tonight.”

“My job is to lead by vision,” said Councilmember Byrd. “The reason that I can’t vote for this tonight is I have a different vision. Not that I’m trying to keep anybody out.”

Kay Brown Patrick added since no final plan would be completed until state approval and final submission, so council could decide later on the final plan. No  initial plan does not send any clear message. If council signals ‘no objection’ the project would still need to be approved by the state and then go through the entire approval process in the city.

“The real question boils down to whether or not we want this project in our city in light of what we are trying to do in our strategic plan,” Mayor Pro Tem Moore stated. “How we vote says whether we want to move forward by giving the ‘no objection’ (or) to end it now and not spend time in going through that process. The question we need to ask is do we want this project in this part of our city knowing what we are trying to develop in that area.”

CM Wright said much would still need to be done for the project to actually move forward. Since the property in question is not currently zoned for multi-family and as such would have to move through P&Z to be rezoned. Following that stage it would then go through council in order for anything to be done.

Does This Fit Into DeSoto Strategic Plan?

Mayor Pro-Tem Kenzie Moore added  “I look at this as part of our strategic plan” He continued that if you were to ask him how he would vote right now, he would have to vote against the project … however, “I am totally in favor of the suggestion that Dr. Marks has made I don’t want to vote this down without more input. Councilmember Marks has asked that we table this.”

City Attorney Joe Gorfida related “when we table something we often point to a date certain to bring the subject back to discuss.” He continued that possibly the developer would want to withdraw the proposal and bring it back later. The developer said he was not on a particular time frame and would welcome more study but could not wait indefinitely.

Councilmember Kay Brown Patrick made a motion to table. Before it was seconded, City Attorney Gorfida said he would be more comfortable if the developer would withdraw it until a future date. Jason (representing the developer) agreed to withdraw the proposal. Ms. Patrick then withdrew her motion to table.

How TDHCA Projects Work

When a housing tax credit project is proposed in DeSoto, the owner/developer of the project must obtain either a Resolution of Support or a Resolution of No Objection from the City Council. Either resolution is needed for the owner/developer to make application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which is the agency responsible for allocating housing tax credits. Depending on their application type and the owner/developer’s intent for a more competitive application to TDHCA, they may ask for a Resolution of Support, which earns them more points in the TDHCA review process.

At a minimum, the owner/developer must have a Resolution of No Objection. As the names imply, a Resolution of Support signifies that the governing body officially supports the proposed application while a Resolution of No Objection signifies that the governing body has no objection to the application.

The City Manager’s Office developed a formal review process to ensure consistency in evaluating Tax Credit Housing proposals and to guide staff’s recommendations to City Council regarding Tax Credit projects. As a part of the review process, developers must do the following:

  • Complete a questionnaire regarding the proposed project
  • Conduct a public meeting with notices sent to adjacent properties within a 0.33-mile radius of the proposed location
  • Provide proof of notice to surrounding properties

NRP Group has complied with the requirements of the review process by submitting the completed questionnaire, conducting the public meeting, and providing proof of notice to surrounding properties. The public meeting was held virtually on December 16, 2020.

Project Receives a ‘D’ Favorability Score

A three-person review team consisting of the Deputy City Manager, Director of Development Services and City Planner conducted an evaluation of the proposed development based on the criteria established by the City Manager’s Office, which included:

  • Owner/Developer History and Experience
  • Proximity to Resources and Amenities
  • Appropriate Zoning
  • Feasibility and Readiness
  • Public Engagement
  • Area Income
  • Overall Quality of the Project

The highest possible score is 100 points. A minimum score of 65 points qualifies the proposed development for a Resolution of Support, while a minimum score of 80 points qualifies for a Resolution of Support.

Each evaluator assigned a score to the project. The individual scores were averaged together to determine the final score. The individual scores assigned by the evaluators were 68, 79, and 61 points for an average score of 69.3 points. Based on this average score, the project qualifies for a positive staff recommendation for the Resolution of No Objection.

In the pre-meeting discussion City Manager Brandon Wright had told council that if they did vote to approve a resolution of no objection (RNO) that was not approving the project, but was simply allowing the developer to apply to the state for approval. Councilman Andre Byrd asked if the RNO sent a signal that the council is “somewhat interested in the project”. He continued that if he has no interest whatsoever in the project that he should vote no regarding it … would there be any benefit to his voting in favor of it. CM Wright replied that he could not think of one.