At a special meeting on Aug. 6, members of the County Bluff Estates Homeowners Association expressed their concerns to city leaders and developers regarding a low-income housing development proposed next door.
On July 25, the Branson Board of Aldermen passed a resolution of support for Branson Affordable Homes Development LLC., who are seeking to develop affordable workforces housing in the area off Fall Creek Road around Country Bluff Drive. Branson Affordable Housing LLC member Debra Hart said the development would be funded using Community Development Block Grant funds and low-income housing tax credits, according to Branson Tri-Lakes News archives.
At the meeting on Aug. 6, Hart explained the process of receiving those funds.
“So we make an application to the Missouri Housing Development Commission for an allocation of federal tax credits,” said Hart. “Those federal tax credits, if they are allocated, are then sold to a third party investor and it’s that money that’s generated from the sale of those credits that generates equity for the project, which allows us to have low rent, because we have low debt.”
When news of this potential development reached the residents of Country Bluff Estates, Property Owners Association President Richard Schoot said they knew nothing about it until hearing about it from the news.
“When it hit the news a week and half, two weeks ago. That was the first any of us knew about it. Nobody had reached out to the board or myself or anyone with our association.”
At the Aug. 6 meeting, County Bluff Estates residents were given the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the development from a panel of attendees, including Branson Mayor Ed Akers, Branson Ward III Aldermen Brian Clonts and Kevin McConnell, Property owner Dan Ruda, Branson Affordable Housing LLC Developer Riley Shantz, and Hart.
Schott explained that one of the community’s concerns stems from the residents’ opinion that Fall Creek Road is one of the least safe roads in Branson.
“Our concern is children, as they get into their teens, the first thing they’re going to do is get on that road and decide they’re going to walk someplace because they don’t have cars. There has been people killed on Fall Creek Road, we know that,” said Schott. “That is one of our biggest concerns.
“The other one is that is the amount of traffic that is going to increase on Fall Creek. The fact that it’s not prepared for that traffic or that outflow from those communities. It’s very hard for us at Country Bluff to get onto that road safely.”
While not the biggest concern of the residents, Schott said a decrease in the value of the properties in County Bluff Estates is something residents are also concerned with and was heavily discussed at the recent meeting.
“Anytime there is a possibility of homes alongside a development that has $300,000 to $500,000 homes, and you have another development that comes in, even if its market value homes at $150,000, there is a concern of ‘Will our property values go down?’ Nothing against low income, but even lower-priced homes in another development could bring on that, and that’s one of the concerns,” Schott said. “So that is certainly a concern, but for those reasons.”
Following the close of the nearly two hour meeting, Hart said they feel like they have a better understanding of the concerns expressed by the approximative 80 residents in attendance.
“I think they would like to see some movement of the affordable component to a different location on the property,” Hart said. “We also heard that they want us to go to a different piece of property, which is not viable.
“I think we’ve heard some concerns, and some of the concerns I can’t do anything about, but some of them that we can, we’re certainly willing to take a look at.”
The 50-plus acres of property owned by Ruda, 4.7 of which would be used for the potential affordable housing project, is not currently in the city limits.
This fact left many meeting attendees questioning why the city issued a resolution of support for the development. Hart said while the idea of expanding city limits to include the development has been discussed, it wasn’t the only reason they wanted the support of Branson city officials.
“The reason for city support has been because we think we’re answering a city need for affordable developments,” said Hart. “The property is currently adjacent to the city limits and would be something that would be available to serve folks that are in the service industry in the community.”
By the end of the meeting, Schott said he felt like they got a lot accomplished and the aldermen and developers did a wonderful job answering questions and addressing some of the concerns the residents had.
According to Hart, the application deadline is in September, and they’ll find out if they’ll be awarded tax credits in November, according to Branson Tri-Lakes News archives.
“If we’re funded, we go through the process of establishing a relationship with the syndicator, selling the credits and getting ourselves ready so that we can build,” said Hart. “During that time we would go through all the public notices with respect to what we’re building and the permitting process and the planning & zoning process to make sure we’re in compliance with the city rules.”
Once funding is approved, Hart said it should take around six months to finalize construction documents and be close to shovel-ready, according to Branson Tri-Lakes News archives.