WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Homeowners in the Sunset Park neighborhood near Greenfield Lake are fuming over a future assisted housing development behind Legion Stadium that they say is too close for comfort.
The site previously housed a former Armed Forces Center, which was operated by the federal government. According to City officials, when the federal government decommissioned the center, they required the city to use the property for "homeless assistance."
Good Shepherd Executive Director Katrina Knight said city council members debated back and forth and held various public hearings before making the decision in 2011.
"This property could not be auctioned," Knight said. "This property could not be given over to somebody for some other economic activity. It has to be used for homeless service use. That's the only way it becomes available to anyone. We think the right thing to do is not add another shelter."
Knight clarified that the affordable housing is not an overnight shelter that provides meals; it's a rental property.
"Permanent supportive housing, which this would be an example of, is considered a best practice around the country. It combines an affordable unit that you rent from a landlord, in this case Good Shepherd, with some on-site support," Knight explained that the development will house disabled veterans and elderly people who cannot afford a full-price apartment in Wilmington.
She said Wilmington doesn't need another housing shelter, and this development will help fill the void in the City's homeless problem among its veterans and elderly.
However, resident Chuck Carter said he thinks City officials made a big mistake when they agreed to the terms of the property-use, pointing out that hundreds of children use Legion Stadium for sporting events.
"It really makes me question city council, county commissioners. Does anyone care about where our money's being spent," Carter questioned. "That they think this is the appropriate location for a homeless shelter?"
Carter said that the binding agreement between the Federal Government and the city set in place years ago, will not stop him from putting up a fight.
"It's like the train that can't be stopped and that's what they've told all of us, it's going to happen. I disagree. This is America," Carter said proudly. "We're going to pursue filing an emergency injunction to prevent it, to stop it dead in its tracks until a higher court gets a chance to look at it."
Carter claims the City did not adequately publicize the project and several of the neighbors he spoke to had no idea about it. However, City spokesperson Malissa Talbert said the city mailed letters, posted signs, and advertised in the newspaper.
Tuesday's public hearing during the City Council meeting was only discussion of rezoning the property; however, Carter and several neighbors spoke about the project as a whole.
Knight said project managers requested the city to consider rezoning the land to allow for 40 single-individual units instead of the original 24 that housed a variety of one, two, and three bedroom dwellings. Knight explained that their proposal will actually house fewer tenants than the original plan.