Friday, July 18, 2008


Jul. 17, 2008
THE LAKE HILL HOUSING DEVELOPMENT project is being planned by Garrett County Community Action Committee to help low- and middle-income workers buy homes. Located near the proposed McHenry Business and Technology Park and the county airport, the development will feature a variety of housing types and prices on about 50 acres. Adjacent ball fields, trails, and picnic sites will preserved as "green spaces" for Lake Hill and other residents. The Garrett County commissioners recently transferred 50 acres of county-owned property known as the White Face Farm for the development project. This week, Community Action president Duane Yoder provided the architectural renderings pictured and discussed some of the details about the project.

Affordable workforce housing for low and moderate income people may soon be available at a proposed development called Lake Hill. Spearheaded by the Garrett County Community Action Committee, the community will be located near the proposed McHenry Business and Technology Park and the airport.
Community Action president Duane Yoder recently reviewed the Lake Hill development for the Garrett County commissioners, who approved the transfer of about 50 acres of the White Face Farm property for the project.
This week, Yoder provided more details about the project for the media, along with two architectural renderings of the proposed community.
Yoder called the commissioners' support for Lake Hill "a great demonstration of how teamwork can be used to create affordable workforce housing in the McHenry area, close to where jobs are located."
The president also noted that despite unemployment dropping in the county, the cost of housing has made it very difficult for young working families and even middle income persons to acquire a home in a market where the median home sales exceed affordability ratios of median household incomes by 10, when generally accepted rates are between two and three.
Yoder also pointed to the fact that existing employers seeking to expand or recruit workers for new businesses are increasingly expressing concern over housing affordability.
"Housing is a critical economic development issue" stated Jim Hinebaugh, director of the Garrett County Department of Economic Development.
He also noted that because of the importance of housing to employers, the Garrett County Development Corporation and the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce have both made housing a priority.
Community Action's proposal will utilize 40-50 acres and yield over 200 homes, according to Yoder. Approximately 170 additional acres will be placed in a permanent development ban as either a conservancy or a buffer around the airport. Additionally, softball and soccer fields adjacent to the development will be improved, and trail and picnic sites will be preserved as "green spaces."
Yoder describes the appearance of the Lake Hill development as "an attractive and pleasing small town."
"The uniqueness of this initiative is that it builds an attractive, sustainable community in an area rich with amenities," Yoder said. "At the same time it builds a trust fund that will enable sustained work throughout the county."
He added that the commissioners' land transfer action was a state model for "Smart Growth."
The Lake Hill plan calls for a mix of house types and prices, with the primary market being persons earning less than 150 percent of the area's household median income, which is currently $60,000.
Only persons earning less than 150 percent of the median income will be eligible for reduced home prices. Higher income buyers will pay the full appraised market value, Yoder said.
The county's land transfer, as agreed upon by the commissioners, will be made into a nonprofit land trust that will hold title to the property and provide land lease agreements to buyers.
"The cost of the land is removed from the price of the house, making the home more affordable to buyers," Yoder said.
Additionally, development income will go to the land trust to rehabilitate or develop housing in other parts of the county.
The Lake Hill project grew out of local efforts to find solutions to the problem of affordable workforce housing. The Development Corporation and Community Action led a three-year effort through a task force of more than 30 people to devise such a plan, Yoder said.
According to Development Corporation chair Criss Kepple, the core of that plan describes strategies on how the community can work together to build and maintain housing that is affordable to people who work in the county and for young residents getting careers started in the community.
"The plan specifically recommends that the county look for ways it can provide land and infrastructure to achieve that goal," Kepple said. "I believe Lake Hill provides an almost perfect site for a workforce housing community and clearly is consistent with the plan recommendation."
She pointed out that the McHenry area is a major employment center, where workers living in the new housing development will not have to travel far to work.
"There is access to public utilities, and the area is designated as a growth zone," Kepple added. "It also provides our workers who help make Deep Creek Lake a very attractive place to also enjoy its amenities while saving on energy and transportation."
Yoder said he expects it will take several years to obtain the necessary funding and approvals for the Lake Hill project. He added that he anticipates a number of realtors and builders will participate in the build out and marketing of the development.
"The McHenry Business and Technology Park is expected to eventually attract businesses with higher wages," Yoder add. "The Lake Hill housing development will not only support the county's efforts to build the employment center by creating attractive housing for these future jobs, but will also create housing for those already working in McHenry and at Garrett College as well."


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