By Debbie Adams
The Town of Vinton is taking the final steps to submit a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application this spring for funding to improve neighborhoods near downtown Vinton.
If received, the grant will award $1.5 million to facilitate rehabilitation of homes and/or improvements to the overall infrastructure in the neighborhood selected, with a focus on basic repairs to keep homes “warm, safe, and dry.”
The proposal will contain at least the following activities:
- Housing Rehabilitation for 7 to 10 homes, including both owner-occupied and investor-owned units
- Acquisition, demolition, clearance and relocation of affected residents of properties in the floodplain
- Infrastructure improvements to water, sewer, and flood drainage facilities
- Infrastructure improvements to ADA Accessible Pedestrian facilities (sidewalks)
- Blight removal
The Community Development Block Grant is applied for through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Vinton has been the recipient of past CDBG grants for business district revitalization and for local innovation through the VIDA program.
CDBG grants are authorized under the authority of the Housing and Community Development Grant of 1974 with federal oversight through HUD and state administration through DHCD. The program has three national objectives: benefitting those with low and moderate incomes, eliminating blight, and meeting urgent community development needs. The program serves non-entitlement communities. Grants are awarded through a competitive process. Almost $28 million is available in CDBG funding in 2020.
As part of the grant application process the town must hold two public hearings on the proposal. The first was held on February 18. The second was originally scheduled for the Town Council meeting on March 17 which was cancelled due to precautions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The target date for submission of the grant was March 27.
According to Vinton’s Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters, DHCD has extended the application deadline for the Housing Grant to April 24. The town plans to re-advertise and host the final public hearing on April 7. This will be a virtual meeting for the public who can also submit comments by phone or email.
The project had its beginnings in a strategic planning meeting by Town Council over two years ago when members expressed a desire to do something for the homeowners and residents of the town after the completion of the downtown revitalization project in the general business district.
In 2017 the town received a grant of $3000 from the DHCD to conduct a windshield survey of several downtown residential neighborhoods to pinpoint areas for rehabilitation. They subsequently received an additional DHCD planning grant of $27,000 to prepare for the construction grant application.
Summit Design and Engineering consultants were chosen through an RFP process (as part of the grant funding) to assist in defining the project and writing the grant application. Janet Jonas facilitates the Vinton project for Summit.
Initially three areas in Vinton were considered for the grant project: Jefferson Park, Midway, and West Cleveland/Cedar Avenues, before the focus was narrowed last fall to the Cleveland/Cedar Avenue neighborhood adjacent to downtown Vinton.
Planning activities have involved Management Team Meetings, public Community Meetings, and a Neighborhood Survey to determine neighborhood interest, assess and quantify community needs (housing, infrastructure, etc.), and determine the neighborhood income profile.
Developing the final Community Improvement Grant Proposal was quite exhaustive. The proposed project area was delineated, investor/owner pre-applications and commitments were collected; a preliminary engineering report was completed; preliminary housing rehabilitation assessments were conducted; a project budget was developed; DHR (historic) and ERR (environmental) reviews were conducted; public hearings were scheduled—all leading to the submitting the Community Improvement Grant Proposal.
Several neighborhood meetings have been held since the grant process began. Neighborhood surveys were conducted from April to September 2019, some door-to-door. The Project area was updated in January 2020 with housing assessments conducted from January to March. The Preliminary Engineering Report was presented in March 2020 with DHR and EER Reviews completed this month as well.
Proposed improvements to the Cleveland/Cedar area budgeted at $1.5 million include:
- Housing Rehabilitation $403,000 (CDBG funding), $7000 (non-CDBG funding)
- Acquisition of property, clearance, and relocation, $220,000 (CDBG funds), $660,225 (non-CDBG)
- Infrastructure improvements: stormwater drainage $182,000, Pedestrian Access $478,500, Street Improvements $116,500 (CDBG), $58,300 (non-CDBG), and
- Administration and Miscellaneous $100,000 (CDBG), $18,875 (non-CDBG).
A typical grant implementation timeline once the grant is submitted in April would be awarding of the grant in late summer with a contract signed in December 2020, followed by 24 months of implementation from January 2021 to December 2022.
Council was thoroughly briefed on the issue at the initial public hearing in February and so only needs to be updated on any changes to take action on April 7.
The resolution which council plans to adopt at the April 7 council meeting, directing Town Manager Barry Thompson to submit the application, states that DHCD awarded a $30,000 planning grant in 2017 to the Town of Vinton under the Urban Housing Rehabilitation and Ownership Program Grant to determine the community’s need and to define the project area. After two years of planning, conducting housing assessments and surveying potential candidates to participate, the Management Team defined and developed a Housing and Community Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project for the Cedar Avenue and West Cleveland Avenue.
Project team members have included: a Management Team with Community Representatives including Elected Officials and “Sparkplugs,” town staff, consultants including an Engineer and Rehabilitation Specialist, and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).