Janesville29.7°

Delavan shoots down low-income housing, homeless shelter

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 10, 2007
— Delavan’s homeless residents will not get a new house on Ann Street.

And employees of Delavan’s retail district will not get new apartments in their price range anytime soon.


After a three-hour public comment and council debate Tuesday night, the Delavan City Council denied, 6-2, an application for a rezone to allow a 24-unit affordable housing apartment complex and drop-in homeless shelter on the corner of Ann and Harrison streets.


Everyone agreed that something must be done to support Delavan’s homeless and low-income population, but many said Ann Street wasn’t the right place for the project.


“Location, location, location. That seems to be the theme for many of you out there,” said Alderman Dan Kilkenny. “Where these people work is typically hospitality—retail, fast food … where in the city is that located?”


The answer, Kilkenny said, is on Delavan’s east side.


Community Action Director Lisa Furseth said she has not seen a better location for the project.


“No one has proposed truly a viable option,” Furseth said. “If someone presents those options, we would consider them.


“Ultimately, in a project of this nature, the questions is, ‘If not here, where?’”


Community Action was proposing a $1.5 million complex to provide apartments in the $300 range for low-income working singles in Walworth County.


To make that price possible, Community Action needed to avoid building with a debt. To achieve that, Community Action wanted:


-- The city to donate the property, although the non-profit would have considered a lease.


-- State and federal housing grants.


-- To hold construction costs low by building 320-square-foot or smaller units.


-- A local bank or investor to purchase federal tax credits.


The proposal included a part-time social worker and a live-in manager. A community day room would have served as an overnight drop-in homeless shelter. Currently, seven churches in Walworth County manage a rotating homeless shelter.


Community Action will need to evaluate what its options are now, Furseth said this morning.


“The one thing I believe … is Community Action has a responsibility to our constituents to at least explore whether or not this project, or a project of this nature, is still a viable option,” she said. “I think we have to consider the range of options that might be available to support that.


“Whether or not it’s viable, I just don’t know at this point.”


Residents’ reactions

“I think it’s wonderful what you guys do. I, however, do have some concerns … I know that this would hurt my business tremendously.”—Tina Lendman, owner of The Dance Factory, 1013 Ann St., Delavan


“This is really a touchy situation. I’ve never felt safer anywhere I’ve lived. If this happens, I will buy a gun and have my wife buy a gun for personal protection.”—Jeff Cameron, 202 S. Harrison St., Delavan


“In my neighborhood, we do have sex offenders. But I am in favor of this proposal. You need to worry about people, but this is the only place that people are going to be checked out.”—Melinda Allen, 603 N. Terrace, Delavan



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