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Votes

Can North Hill Be A Hybrid?

Advocates of open space and affordable housing clash over vote on land use plan.

The Area Plan Review Task Force’s vote of 19-6-1 to reject any change to the county comprehensive plan applicable to North Hill. has pitted the forces for open space against those for affordable housing.

In the March 2 issue of the Gazette, David Dale, chair, Planning and Zoning Committee, Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations, attempted to explain the vote by the APR Task Force to maintain North Hill as a park rather than change the status to provide space for affordable housing. He suggested a joint effort by the two factions to find a mutual solution.

This week the Reverend Keary Kincannon, pastor, Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church, lambastes both the Task Force and the Mount Vernon Council for not changing the status of North Hill to provide for low income housing. In a letter he states that both groups, “have made it clear they prefer trees over low-income families.”

Kincannon writes, “The position of these two community groups was like rubbing salt into the wounds of the many who are, or soon will be, homeless because of rising rental costs.” He requests that the Task Force and its patron, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, “reconsider” the decision. The Council will take a final vote on the recommendation March 28.

Located on Route 1 adjacent to Lockheed Boulevard, the North Hill plot is zoned for residential development, both in terms of mobile homes and single family units with a provision for some commercial. And, it has not been added to the County’s open space inventory at this point in time.

Presently it is listed in the comprehensive plan as open space. Robert Trimble, a long time advocate of affordable housing made the nomination to allow the site to be used for that purpose. He also maintained that there is enough land to accommodate both housing and open space. This argument is also made by Kincannon.

According to the County staff both a limited number of housing units and open space could be possible. However, their recommendation addressed apartment type units not mobile homes or single family structures.

Prior to the Task Force vote on February 28, Dale speaking in his role as chair of the Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee, acknowledged the need for affordable housing but disagreed with advocates calling for the North Hill to be used for this purpose.

He maintained it was not the correct site for affordable housing.

In his letter printed in the March 2 edition, Dale urged supporters of both affordable housing and open space to “band together” to “forge a good solution and have the required popular support to move our county government into implementing the solution.”

The ultimate vote on this controversial subject will be up to Hyland. He established the Task Force to provide him with citizen guidance on the various plan review proposals. Speaking as co-chair of Ventures In Community, a multi-denominational group deeply involved in the affordable housing issue, Kincannon has urged both the Task Force and Hyland to reevaluate the use of the North Hills site.