Gilbert’s Town Council will vote Tuesday on whether to seek bids for a downtown affordable housing project, just weeks after a longtime family blasted the town for stalling on the project for three years.
The Redevelopment Commission voted Thursday to recommend the town move forward with the legal process of seeking bids from agencies interested in building an affordable-living home on a single-family lot on the northwest corner of Park and Ash streets.
The vote comes after the Morrison family recently began urging the town to move forward with plans to allow Habitat for Humanity to build a house in the Heritage District.
“It’s been 3 1/2 years. Somebody in the city wouldn’t get off their duff,” said June Morrison, matriarch of the family who planned the Morrison Ranch community and continues to operate a ranch. “I think we may be making a little progress. But the house is certainly not under way.”
The town purchased a 6,500-square-foot property at 102 W. Park in the southwest quadrant of the Heritage District in 2001, and finalized condemnation proceedings in 2004, spending a total of $63,180 to purchase the lot and raze a dilapidated house.
The town earmarked the lot for an affordable housing project.
Around that same time, the Morrison and Neely family’s C.W. Modene Neely Charitable Foundation offered up about $30,000 to Habitat for Humanity, and began to talk with town officials about building a house on the lot. The town also has $20,000 in grant money set aside for a project on the site.
Town Manager George Pettit said the holdup was due to the town seeking to purchase an adjacent lot in order to build two houses as part of the project, but plans to purchase that property fell through.
After seeking legal advice, Pettit said the town can’t immediately negotiate with Habitat before also seeking bids from any organization that wants to purchase the land for an affordable housing project.
“It’s abundantly clear the Morrison family is ready to help out in any way they can,” Pettit said. “In my church there are a lot of people excited about working on a Habitat project in their local community.”
He also denied suggestions made by Elaine Morrison, a Gilbert Unified School District board member and daughter-in-law of June Morrison, in e-mails to Town Council members that questioned, “if the inactivity amounts to tacit financial discrimination on the part of the town against potential lower-income residents.”
Pettit responded, “We invested several million dollars in Community Development Block Grants to try to preserve the housing down there, to try to keep affordable housing available in the area.”
A preliminary timeline the council could approve Tuesday looks to accept all applications for the project by Nov. 30, and negotiations with the council for approval of a project could take place in February.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at 50 E. Civic Center Drive.