Cecil County Commish Asked for $100K for Sidewalks to Serve Ingerman Subsidized Housing, Boys Club, in North East
Cecil County Commissioners were asked Tuesday to support spending $100,000 to add sidewalks to a multi-million dollar construction project to upgrade Razor Strap Rd. in North East, in large part because a proposed subsidized housing development would let a Boys and Girls Club use its recreation center. It was the latest example of a local development by the Ingerman Group potentially benefitting from taxpayer expenditures.
The county already has underway a three-stage $4.9 million construction project to improve Razor Strap Road, replace a bridge over Stoney Run that washed out some 20 years ago, and rebuild a dangerous intersection at Red Toad Road and Route 40. The Commissioners recently decided to delay some of the construction work in the upcoming Fiscal 2013 capital improvement budget, but the long-term roadwork is still on the county agenda.
But as planning for the project proceeds, Scott Flanigan, the county’s director of Public Works, recommended to the Commissioners that they add sidewalks to part of the roadwork because there will be many children walking from other nearby areas, including the Lakeside housing project, to the planned new Boys and Girls Club. He said there were other factors—such as increased traffic due to the upgraded Wal-Mart and other development nearby—but the prospect of children walking along busy roadways with no separation from car traffic “tipped the scales” in favor of adding sidewalks.
The county normally does not provide sidewalks in road improvement projects, and Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) said she feared the county would set a costly and “dangerous new precedent” if it paid for sidewalks on the Razor Strap Rd. project. She also said that some residents, speaking about another road project in the area, were concerned that there could be a spillover of problems because of the “crime that is taking place” in the Lakeside community.
She said developers should be required to contribute to the public infrastructure costs. Flanigan said the developer was already in negotiations with public works officials to pay some costs associated with the anticipated car traffic the project would contribute to the area. (But sidewalks were not a factor in the traffic studies and related costs.)
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said “the horse got out of the barn 20 years ago,” and the bridge should have been replaced many years ago. But he voiced concerns that installing sidewalks on portions of Razor Strap Rd. would create a new burden on many long-term property owners to be responsible for snow removal and repair of sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses.
Hodge said he preferred another option—adding wide shoulders by the side of the rebuilt road so that pedestrians would be separated from car traffic – with the shoulders plowed and maintained by the county as part of its normal snow clearing and road repair work. However, Flanigan said that option would be the most costly to build—potentially an extra $330,000– because it would require relocation of utility lines.
The commissioners made no decisions and several said they planned to inspect the area before reaching any conclusions.
The impetus for the sidewalk proposal is the planned 72-apartment New East Crossing, an $11 million subsidized housing development to be located on a 9 acre parcel, owned by Montgomery Brothers, on Razor Strap Rd off Route 40. At one point the developers, the Ingerman Group of Cherry Hill, N.J., tried to get the county to become a 20 percent owner of the project so it could qualify for special state grants. The commissioners refused to do that, but did write a letter to state housing officials saying they supported a subsidized housing project at the site; a letter of local government support is a requirement of the state housing program.
State housing officials have told Cecil Times that Ingerman was approved for nearly $1 million in federal tax credits and $2 million in state Rental Housing aid funds for the New East project. State officials added that the total value of the tax credits, which are sold to private investors to offset taxes on their other income, was worth $8.5 million to the developer. The tax credits and state rental aid cover nearly all of the costs of the project, which will be owned by the developer.
The current North East Boys and Girls Club is located on East Cecil Ave in North East. Ingerman representatives previously told the County Commissioners the developer had an agreement with the Club to lease space for $1 a year but the club would pay its own utilities. So it costs the developer virtually nothing to have the Club hold its meetings at a 4,500- square foot rec center that will also be used by residents of the project. However, inclusion of the Club helped the project score brownie points with the state when it was reviewed in a competitive process for government subsidies.
Ingerman has previously developed the heavily subsidized Elkton Senior Housing project.
[See previous Cecil Times report on Ingerman’s plan to have the county co-own New East Crossing here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/08/cecil-county-asked-to-be-co-owner-of-private-housing-project-north-east-boys-and-girls-club-center/
[See previous Cecil Times Report on rent increase controversy at Ingerman’s Elkton Senior Housing project, and state funding of New East Crossing, here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/03/cecil-county-seeks-rent-hike-limits-in-return-for-support-of-new-subsidized-housing/ ]