Saturday, June 25, 2022

Navassa’s plan to keep developers reined in, provide affordable housing

Big changes are planned in the small, rural town of Navassa.

The town of Navassa is set to drastically change if developers continue with their proposed plans. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
The town of Navassa is set to drastically change if developers continue with their proposed plans. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

NAVASSA — When Navassa’s two planned unit developments are fully built out, new residents will outnumber its native population 11 to one.

New arrivals to River Bend or Indian Creek could add a population of 15,215 to the small, rural community, now home to about 1,895 people.

(Author’s note: This is part two of a two-part story, covering development in Navassa. Catch up on part one: How Navassa is working to preserve its culture as one-fourth of its town is owned by developers)

When one-fourth of a town is owned by developers who intend to build, how can leaders protect the community they currently serve?

“Our concern right now is we don’t want those high-dollar, big money houses,” Mayor Eulis Willis said. 

Navassa’s longest-running mayor said his Council has a plan in place, and has for some time, to manage the onslaught of change. This plan includes: the addition of affordable housing requirements for planned unit developments (PUD), keeping new residential development contained to districts and a reliance on industrial zoning rather than general commercial zoning.

Affordable housing

Navassa’s population has a lower median income, lower education level, and higher percentage of service industry employees, compared to neighboring communities. If the town’s two PUDs are established, the changes could alter Navassa’s rural character.

“A lot of folks say you can take the taxes off one of those high dollar houses and pay for a lot of stuff,” Willis said. Still, that’s not what the town has in mind. 

Several developments are currently underway in the small town:

  • River Bend at Cedar Hill -a 10-district, PUD to bring 2,190 Units, 800,000 sq. ft. of commercial building space and 200,000 sq. ft. of industrial space. In total, the development will span over 433 acres and could add 5,673 new people, according to the project’s initial design estimate.
  • Indian Creek – a 24-area, PUD to bring 3,684 Units, and over 1.8 million sq. ft. of commercial building space. In total, the development will span over 1,036 acres and could add 9,542 new residents, according to the project’s initial design estimate.
  • Trask Land Company – The company owns approximately 386 acres in Navassa. In May, 23 of those acres were rezoned from residential to general business.
  • Lincoln Development – While no plans have been submitted, Lincoln Development owns 323.4 acres in the community. The owner told Port City Daily he has recently received inquiries from builders.

The town first approved River Bend and Indian Creek’s PUDs in 2011. Neither has submitted plans for their first phase of development, Willis said. Meaning, there’s still a chance for Navassa to ask developers to include affordable housing in their projects.

After participating in its first Affordable Housing Summit this year, Navassa is in the process of performing a housing needs assessment. A first step in the pursuit of affordable housing policy, an assessment could quantify and qualify the town’s state of need.

Once it’s completed, Willis said the assessment will help inform and develop strategies to address the decline of affordable housing options and gentrification.

An option Willis said he’d like to ask of the planned PUDs is to require 10 to 20 percent of all housing to be designated for low-income residents.

Industrial-zoned land

Another component of Navassa’s plan is to keep residential and commercial development reigned in. Land in Navassa is contained in districts, designed to keep the town’s current residents from being displaced, Willis said.

Large tracts of land in Navassa are zoned rural and industrial, moves Willis described as intentional and preventative.

(Below, swipe right to see Navassa’s land use as of 2011, swipe left to see Navassa’s future land use map, according to its 2030 plan.) 

(Above: Future land use includes significantly more industrial and light industrial land, more light office and general commercial land use and residential use. “Area 1” and “Area 2” in Navassa’s future land use plan represent the town’s two approved PUDs.)

Willis said his town prefers industrial zoning because of the jobs future industries could guarantee for area residents; that zoning is even part of the town’s mission statement, adopted in 2007.

While a majority of residents – about 30 percent – work in the service industry, Willis hopes future industries will provide people with higher-paying occupations.

“I want them to be able to take care of themselves,” he said.

As for the town’s 250-acre Superfund site, Council will have no say in who purchases parcels of the divided land in the future. Regardless, Willis isn’t worried.

“We’ve got zoning power,” he said. “That land right now where all that stuff is located on, guess what it’s zoned? Heavy industrial.”

The town of Navassa is set to drastically change if developers continue with their proposed plans. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
The town of Navassa is set to drastically change if developers continue with their proposed plans. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

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