Council approves more affordable housing funding, changes police review board

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Credit: Brian Scott of Upstate Aerial LLC.

Affordable housing and changes to Greenville’s public safety citizen review board were among the issues discussed by the Greenville City Council at its Jan. 9 meeting.

Council gave final approval to using $2 million of the city’s fund balance to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city. As previously reported by the Journal, a consultant hired by the city recommended the city combine $2 million of its money with $1 million from philanthropic, corporate and charitable sources to create a housing trust fund that would address affordable housing in the city.

According to a study completed by Alexandria, Va.-based urban planning and neighborhood development consulting firm CZB LLC, the city has a shortage of more than 2,500 affordable housing units. The study found one problem is that since 2000, the number and percentage of Greenville renters with incomes below $20,000 (those who can afford rents of up to $500 per month) and incomes between $20,000 and $24,999 (those who can afford rents closer to $650 per month) has held steady. But the number of rentals going for $650 or less has declined.

The city plans to use $1.5 million of the money to assist households in renting upgraded units or improving homes they currently own. The other $1.5 million would be used to acquire or improve up to 30 acres of vacant parcels for future mixed-income housing.

Currently, there are more than 500 affordable housing units in Greenville, with 869 new units currently under construction or in the planning stages. The cost: $186 million.

 

Public Safety

Council has approved changing the name of the Commission on Fire and Police Practices to better reflect the board’s mission. The new name will be the Public Safety Citizen Review Board. Currently, the board receives citizen complaints about the police and fire departments in addition to addressing employment grievances from the uniformed personnel of the two departments.

The board will also increase from five members to seven.

Citizen review boards became an issue last July after local protests were held after the fatal shootings of black men by white police officers across the nation, including the high-profile shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston.

Greenville’s Commission on Fire and Police Practices dated back to the Civil Service Commission. Protestors said the lack of complaints received by the commission over the years indicated it wasn’t an effective means of redress.

Zoo

The Greenville Zoo will use a $10,000 grant from Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo and Aquarium, a collaboration between the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums and the Walt Disney Company, to establish dedicated areas to connect people with nature within and outside zoo boundaries. The zoo’s Nature Play Club will expand and sponsor quarterly, instructor-led nature hikes around Greenville.

STEAM Fest

The city’s Public Information and Events staff will manage, develop and operate the 2017 IMAGINE Upstate STEAM Fest. Clemson University, which owns and operates the annual event, will pay the city $20,000 to do so.

Firefighters

Greenville has received a $1.2 million SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the salaries of 12 new firefighters for two years.

The grant, which does not require any matching funds from the city, will help with staffing needs for the city’s new fire station on Verdae Boulevard. The station is expected to open this summer.

While the new station will serve the Woodruff Road, Verdae Boulevard and CU-ICAR corridor, it will impact city residents who do not live, work and shop there. Currently, the city’s Pleasantburg station is the only fire station on the Eastside and it falls well short of the national standard response times, which dictate firefighters be on the scene in four minutes or less 90 percent of the time.

QuikTrip

City Council gave initial approval to the annexation of 2.974 acres at Fairforest Way and Laurens Road where QuikTrip Corp. plans to build a gas station and convenience store. The land will be zoned C-3, Regional Commercial.

If QuikTrip does not close on the land within a year of the final reading of the ordinance, the annexation will not take place.

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