It’s back to the drawing board for affordable housing on county-owned land on Veterans Boulevard in Port Charlotte.
A Charlotte County committee decided this week to reject the only proposal for housing on that land saying it fails to meet the minimum standards.
The proposal is from Nortstar Development USA. That proposal is not a public record at the moment, said the county’s Senior Division Manager of Purchasing Kim Corbett. It will likely be available next week, she said.
This is the second affordable housing project to fizzle this year.
The county’s Professional Services Committee — authorized to decide on the so-called Bachmann tract proposal — allowed the Sun to attend part of its meeting. During the discussion, members showed concern that the proposal offered only 68 units to begin the project. The property is zoned for up to 600 units.
It is a phased proposal, said Kurt Pentelecuc, director of the Punta Gorda Housing Authority, which was working with the developer. Other than that, he said he could not comment.
“It’s obviously a little disappointing,” Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said.
“Right now, the economy is very strong, most of the developers are very busy,” he said.
Dave Gammon, interim director of Economic Development, was critical of the proposal.
“The creative factor did not come through,” he said. “The entrepreneurial factor did not come through.”
“It’s a government solution to a government problem,” he added.
Last fall, commissioners voted to request affordable housing proposals for the 32-acre site on Veterans Boulevard near the Sarasota County line. It was property acquired following the bankruptcy of General Development Corporation in the 1990s. Commissioner Christopher Constance objected to giving up land that might be more useful for other public purposes in the future.
The idea was to give developers access to land in exchange for housing that included some options for people of low income. Market rate housing was allowed as well. Developers were encouraged to be creative. No strict rules were listed, but affordability carried the most points.
Norstar’s proposal scored high on affordability, according to the county’s Director of Human Services Carrie Hussey.
“In terms of affordability, it thrilled me,” she told her committee members.
The small number of units, however, and the long time frame to build more, was less encouraging, she said.
“I was underwhelmed with the phasing,” said the county’s Director of Community Development Claire Jubb.
Gammon also criticized the high cost per unit.
While the RFP allows developers to communicate why they did not submit a proposal, no one did, said Corbett. The county sent out notice to about 88 developers. Gammon said he sent notice to 18 that he knew of. Any developer could see the request online.
Gammon now that the RFP process is over, he may reach out to developers to find out what happened.
Corbett also recommended the county take time to figure out what to do next.
Another affordable housing project — called Verandas III — was to be in Punta Gorda and would be all subsidized housing with no market rate units. The county drew a low number in the lottery for federal tax credit financing going to the private developer. So that project for 56 units is likely off the table this year as well, said Pentelecuc.