LaGrange Housing Authority updates city council

Published 8:04 pm Friday, September 28, 2018

The LaGrange Housing Authority updated the LaGrange City Council on some of the projects that it is working on during Tuesday’s city council work session.

The city council turned down a request to provide match funding earlier in the month saying there simply wasn’t money in the budget for the $1.5 million request, and at that time, a desire to hear from LHA more often was also expressed. That request had already seen progress on Tuesday.

“[On Monday, representatives from LHA and I] discussed ways to improve communication and improve the process of conveying information as well as partnership opportunities between the city and the housing authority,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “I think we agreed that [City Manager] Meg [Kelsey] was the right funnel for that [information], so we are going to develop a process by which we can have better reporting and communication between the city and the housing authority.”

The city and the housing authority do not have to share plans with each other beyond certain legal requirements, but the interests of the two often overlap, especially on topics like improving corridors into the city and addressing concerns in low-income neighborhoods.

“We are trying to work from poverty and poverty stricken areas so that we can develop that area on Whitesville Road,” said Michael Jackson, the chairman of the board of commissioners at the LaGrange Housing Authority. “When you look at Great Wolf, when you look at [the road] coming into town… that blight that is there. We are trying to do a lot of great things there.”

Some of the changes that the LaGrange Housing Authority hopes to make are at least partially dependent on the approval of Rental Assistance Demonstration funds. According to Jackson, LHA hopes to close two RAD deals in October. LHA board members pointed to some of the major developments that are expected to begin soon.

 “[The Lucy Morgan project] is a two-phase project… and we are getting ready to close phase one,” said Joseph Alford, the vice-chairman of the board of commissioners at the LaGrange Housing Authority. “So, what will happen with phase two? Phase two will be developed, and we also will have to go for financial approval.”

According to the LHA website, phase one of the project will include development of 85 units and phase two will include development of 89 units. The anticipated construction hard cost is estimated at approximately $82,000 per unit including floor replacement, upgraded interior finishes, appliance upgrades and heating and air conditioning unit upgrades. According to the website, the total development cost of the Lucy Morgan upgrade will be approximately $12 million.

There are also major plans for the Benjamin Harvey Hill homes, including the much-anticipated linear park and housing updates.

“Benjamin Harvey Hill is another RAD project that we are working on,” Alford said. 

“That is a three-phase project in that particular property. Phase one has already been financially approved, and we are sketching a closing for Benjamin Harvey Hill in 2019. So, we will have two projects going on here simultaneously. We are going to be moving dirt and putting up blocks and doing things in the same year. That is not a bad thing. It is a good thing.”

In the past, the LHA has expressed hopes that the City of LaGrange will work with the housing authority to bring businesses like restaurants and grocery stores to the area, and while where those businesses go is up to private developers, the city has asked for LHA input on some projects like The Thread. 

LHA board members reiterated the desire to continue that partnership on Tuesday.

“In order for us to be effective, it takes us and the city working hand in hand,” Jackson said. “… We need you and you need us because we want to change the community. We are going to change the entire dynamic of our community.”

Jackson said LHA hopes to host a work session in the future to address more questions from the LaGrange City Council, but the date of that work session was not set on Tuesday.

During the evening meeting, the LaGrange City Council covered several other topics, including:

  • The city council voted unanimously to approve a flow control ordinance requiring construction and demolition material from within the City of LaGrange to go to the city, county owned construction and demolition landfill.
  • The city council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance regulating farm wineries within city limits. The ordinance mirrors the state ordinance on farm wineries.
  • The city council voted to approve a property located on Pegasus Parkway and Orchard Hill Road.
  • The city council voted to appoint Ellen Harris to the LaGrange-Troup County Hospital Authority. The Troup County Board of Commissioners voted to appoint Harris to the joint position on Sept. 18.
  • A citizen brought forward a code enforcement concern regarding a home on Whitaker Street. Thornton confirmed that city code enforcement was taking steps to address the concern.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.