By Debbie Adams
Staff from the Town of Vinton and the Virginia DHCD (Department of Housing and Community Development) Housing Rehabilitation Program Management Team met on October 16 to continue discussions on proposed housing rehabilitation projects for certain identified neighborhoods in Vinton.
Assistant Town Manager and Economic Development Director Richard “Pete” Peters introduced members of the management team and town staff and provided background on the town’s work to date regarding the downtown housing rehab program.
Peters explained that the town received an initial $3,000 preplanning grant for the project and then worked with Hill Studio to apply for a larger $30,000 grant (which they subsequently received). An earlier project management team met on three occasions to identify the parameters for the project.
That second grant allows the town to pursue more funding—potentially $1 million—for an eventual implementation and construction phase.
Peters explained that as a requirement of the contract with DHCD, the town was required to post a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit interest from planning consultants to assist the town with advancing the project through this planning phase. The Town issued an RFP in May and proceeded to select Summit Design and Engineering Services.
Summit visited with the town staff in August for an overview meeting and site visit of the project and returned in September to conduct a “windshield” assessment survey of the three downtown neighborhoods being proposed which include Jefferson, Cleveland and Midway.
Based on their assessment, Summit’s staff recommended eliminating the Jefferson Neighborhood and focus on the remaining two project areas for deeper analysis.
At the October 16 meeting, Craig Wilson of Summit provided maps and his team’s analysis of the Midway and Cleveland neighborhoods and explained various approaches and qualifying factors along with the pros and cons of each and his recommendations for pooling funding resources together to make a “good” and impactful project.
Wilson also spoke to project specific details of the DHCD housing program, income levels/ability to pay for participants and variances with owner occupied versus renter occupied properties.
Janet Jonas of Summit explained her assessment of the program areas and spoke to the possible FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Program that the town is eligible for according to VDEM (Virginia Department of Emergency Management) and the potential to include properties that were located within the flood plain along Glade and Tinker Creeks and within the Cleveland Neighborhood program area.
The Summit consultants explained to the Project Management Team (PMT) that a decision was needed on further defining the project area, as either neighborhood as a whole was too large and would require multiple phases.
The PMT debated and discussed the two-project area sand agreed to focus on West Cleveland Avenue, as well as the mobile homes, duplexes and triplexes that were located within the flood plain near Cedar Ave and Glade Road.
The group examined maps of the Cleveland and Midway neighborhoods provided by Summit and noted the condition of structures identified by the consultants as Sound, in need of only Minor repairs, Intermediate (with noticeable deficits), Major (repairs are still do-able), and Dilapidated (structures beyond repair).
Peters stated that it is the goal of this project to improve housing in downtown Vinton or areas adjacent to downtown. He emphasized the need for improvements since Vinton is a “built-out community.” The project will enable the town to assist home and property owners with home repairs and/or improvements to the overall infrastructure.
This project targets low-to-moderate income families. The challenge is in finding residents willing and interested in participating in the program. Some financial investment is required from the individuals involved—the lowest amount being $25/month generally up to around $100/month as their contribution to the improvements.
The PMT scheduled a Neighborhood Meeting for the defined project area on November 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Vinton Municipal Building. Committee members and targeted property owners/tenants are desired attendees, although anyone interested is welcome to attend.
Vinton planning staff agreed to gather property owner and tenant information and send letters and place door hangers inviting all to attend the meeting and to complete a participant survey prepared by the Summit consultants.
Peters emphasizes that the Urban Housing Rehabilitation Program will be a voluntary program for residents and property owners.
Attendees at the October 16 PMT meeting included Vinton resident Doug Forbes, Vinton resident and town councilwoman Janet Scheid, Kenny Sledd from Public Works, Brandon Gunn from the Finance Department, Vinton’s Principal Planner Nathan McClung, Jay Brenchik from Roanoke County Economic Development, Regional Planner Bryan Hill from the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, Vinton Code Enforcement Officer Dustin Bray, Peters, and Wilson and Jonas from Summit. Other residents of Vinton are included on the PMT but were unable to attend.