New “Workforce” Family Housing Proposed for Cecilton, a First for Southern Cecil County

August 27, 2012

A New Jersey-based developer is proposing construction of 60 apartments in Cecilton under state and federal assisted housing programs that will allow for reduced rents, the first project of its kind in the area.

The estimated 120 people expected to live in the development, to be called Parkland at Cecilton, would bring a significant boost to the town’s population, counted as 663 in the 2010 census.

As the housing market for new construction of market-rate homes has tanked in recent years, Cecil County has had a burgeoning trade in so-called “workforce housing” or rental apartments for moderate and lower income families and seniors. The projects are built under state-administered programs that provide developers with federal tax credits, which are then sold to investors who use them to offset taxes on other income. The state also provides rental assistance funds to help reduce rental fees.

Most of the new projects that have been developed in recent years have been in the western areas of the county. Southern Cecil County has two small senior citizens apartment projects – one in Cecilton and one in Chesapeake City– built many years ago under U.S. Department of Agriculture programs for rural areas.

The proposed “Parkland at Cecilton” will provide 60 units of family housing, located on vacant land between the old Davis/Cecilton Market and the town library, and would be developed by the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Ingerman Group, according to Cecilton Mayor Joseph Zang. The property is currently owned by a Delaware bank as a result of foreclosure, he added.

The Cecilton project, as well as two other so-called “workforce housing” subsidized projects, will be on the County Commissioners’ worksession agenda on Tuesday. Such projects must have local government support before the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development will consider them for aid.

Zang said town officials have been meeting with the developer since the spring and had agreed the design of the complex—with individual entries to each apartment, plank siding, and energy efficiency—will be consistent with the Victorian style of many town buildings and the nearby Frisby Meadows single-family home community. There will be six units per building, with ten buildings to be constructed, along with a community garden and a community center.

Zang said the town is working with the developer on a plan to allow other groups in the town, such as the Cecilton Lions, Ruritan and the Cecilton senior citizens club, to use part of the Parklands community center. The town currently has no place for such groups to meet and they have had to pay to hold meetings at a local church or school. He said the town might give the developer a reduced fee to hook up to the town’s water and sewer systems in return for granting broader community access to a recreation/meeting center.
In addition, the town is considering a small “land swap” with the developer so that open space areas required of such a project could be linked with adjoining town land, so as to create a unified green space and walking and bike paths that would lead to the nearby town park.

“I’ve looked at this very carefully, and I couldn’t find any negatives,” Zang told Cecil Times. The project would expand the town’s property tax base and spread around the costs of maintaining the town water and sewage treatment facilities, which were upgraded in recent years due to state environmental mandates.

For years, Cecilton’s “downtown” was decaying, with vacant business properties and the closing of the old small grocery store that had been a community institution. But in the past year, Cecilton has been undergoing revitalization, starting with construction of a new Royal Farms on the site of a vacant gas station. Currently, there has been groundbreaking for a new Dollar General store on previously town-owned land at the southern edge of town, and construction work on a Subway shop on the site of a former gas station/convenience store that had been plagued with drug problems.

“Cecilton is doing what it needs to do to survive,” Zang said.

The Ingerman Group is no stranger to Cecil County. Ingerman developed the Elkton Senior Housing apartments and is currently working on a proposed $11 million, 72-unit subsidized housing project, New East Crossing, on Razorstrap Rd. off Route 40. State officials have approved allocation of federal tax credits, valued at $8 million, and $2 million in state rental assistance funds for New East Crossing.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the County Commissioners will consider support for two other housing projects that are seeking state aid: Riverwoods at North East, and Maple Heights II, an expansion of a Rising Sun-area subsidized housing project.

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