Council hears concerns about Habitat house

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Soon-to-be neighbors of the Sidney Habitat for Humanity house to be built on Second Street voiced concerns during Monday’s Sidney City Council meeting.

The organization announced that groundbreaking for the new home will be April 29, at 524 Second Ave.

Monday, council revisited the previously tabled fee waiver request of Habitat for Humanity from the April 9 council meeting. Habitat’s request was for the city to waive the building permit fee of $538.30 and the utility tap-in fee of $2,431.

City Manager Mark Cundiff told council the city has previously waived the building permit fee for the organization, but not the utility tap-in fee, and asked council to give staff direction on the matter.

During the April 9 meeting, property owners Sheila and Wayne Starrett, of 528 Second Ave., voiced their opposition to a house being built at the proposed location of 524 Second Ave.

Again on Monday, they expressed concern about property damage from water rolling off the property to the south and onto their property. Sheila told council she thinks the lot is too small for a large enough home and that the new house will be too close to their home.

They told council they were under the impression from a city Zoning Board of Appeals ordinance that they were supposed to be notified by a letter from the city making them aware of the house’s being built. They said they have not been notified — nor has any of their neighbors who live within 220 feet of the property — by a letter.

“As property owners, I feel we should have a right and a say. It is our neighborhood. You people (to council members) all have your homes. You have what you want. Everybody chooses where they want to live, and they want their properties nice. We should have that right, too, but none of us … have received anything about this …,” Sheila said. “None of us have been told about anything, but yet I’m suppose to accept what you guys decide and what you want to put in my neighborhood, and I’m not supposed to have any say in it from the beginning.”

Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth explained that the letter which the Starretts were referring to is a letter that must be sent to neighbors for a notice of public hearing when there is a request made of the city for a variance. But in this case, Dulworth said, there was no request by Habitat for Humanity for a variance because the house to be built meets all city zoning code requirements.

Sheila said Habitat is “not just to get everything for free,” and that it will devalue properties, as she has seen three other times before with Habitat for Humanity.

Council member Darryl Thurber said, as was mentioned during the April 9 meeting, the discussion brought forth by neighbors of the Habitat for Humanity house and the item on the agenda before council were two separate topics. The matter before council was to decide on fee waiver requests, and the issue residents brought forth is about zoning issues.

“Would you like for a house to be built right up on your lot?” Wayne said before asking if Habitat was supposed to get a building permit before they start surveying and seeking waivers from council.

Mayor Mike Barhorst said the lot in question is a buildable lot when the plat was dedicated a long time ago. He said he could not speak as to how Habitat for Humanity chooses to do business.

“It seems to me that Habitat would have, A, been present this evening, and, B, they would have gotten the building permit before they announced they are having a groundbreaking ceremony next Sunday. But that’s the way I would do business. Obviously that’s not the way they choose to do it this time,” Barhorst said.

Two other property neighbors/partners, Larry Vehorn and James Meyer, of LMV Development, who own a rental property on Second Avenue, also expressed opposition to the house’s being built so close to the other properties.

“Why isn’t Habitat here tonight? Are they just going to shove this down our throat? Would you like it if they build a house right next to your house, right on top of your property?” Vehorn said before asking for a show of council member’s hands who would like such a situation.

Sidney resident Kim Keifer spoke up to defend recipients of the Habitat for Humanity homes. She said Habitat for Humanity benefactors must put in about 250 hours of work to “pay their way” with “their blood, sweat and tears.”

Sheila responded to Keifer that the benefactor should put in hours to getting her home, but that she should also be taught to respect the home. Sheila said she has been through three other homes that have gone under because the new owners did not respect the home or the neighbors.

At the end of the residents’ comments, Barhorst brought council’s attention back to the matter of whether to grant a waiver for the building permit fee and/or the utility tap-in fee.

Council voted 6 to 1 to waive only the building permit fee, of $538.30. Barhorst voted “no.”

When asked why he voted no, Barhorst said in an email, “Habitat for Humanity is a good program, but like all good programs, it requires good leadership. I advised their leadership of the neighbor’s concerns last week. I understood that the neighbors would be contacted about their concerns. When I was contacted by their leadership by email Monday, I specifically asked whether the neighbors had been contacted. The response was: ‘Our construction manager is taking care of it.’ When no one from Habitat for Humanity was present at the meeting to ask specific questions, it was difficult for me to support the motion on the floor.”

In other business, council posed no objections Monday to any of the city’s annual liquor license renewals.

Cundiff told council after a review of liquor permit-holders was completed by the Sidney Police Department, nothing alarming or unusual was found to object to the renewal of permits. Council exhibited silence on the matter, indicating consent for permit-holders to move forward.

Council went into an executive session to prepare for negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees, to consider the purchase of property for public purposes, discipline of a public employee and for possible investment or expenditure of public funds to be made in connection with an economic development project. No action was taken by council when members emerged from the session.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.