Maple Ridge residents oppose housing authority's plan for apartments

Neighbors living on Cooper Branch Road near the rear of the Maple Ridge subdivision are protesting plans by the Housing Authority of Columbus to develop a 200-unit apartment complex on land between their homes and Moon Road.

Two Cooper Branch residents came before Columbus Council Tuesday morning to oppose rezoning land in the area from single-family residential to residential multi-family, which would allow the apartments to be built.

The complex will be about 20 acres, and most of that (15.8 acres) is already zoned for apartment use. Only the 4.75-acre section that fronts on Moon Road needs rezoning for the complex to be built.

William Cox and David Woodard expressed similar concerns over the effect it would have on property values, safety, privacy and traffic.

They also expressed concern that because the housing authority is the developer, it would operate as a public housing project.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson assured the neighbors that the complex would involve no subsidized rentals.

"This is not public housing," Tomlinson said. "This is one of the questions some of the councilors had. This is commercial apartment buildings just like any other complex."

Cox and Woodard, partially mollified, remained opposed to having so many people in their backyards.

"There are other issues," Woodard said. "The layout of the area, the traffic. This is a no-outlet road that we live on, both Cooper Branch Road and Cooper Creek Road. We have Maple Ridge (nearby) and we have one traffic light leaving our area.

"There are times I have to wait 15 minutes just to take my son to school."

Len Williams, president of the housing authority, said increased traffic should not be a worry. The project would face Moon Road and have no public exit or entrance on the Cooper Creek Road side.

At the city's request, there will be a locked gate on that side to allow public safety vehicles access, he said.

Still, the neighbors contended, the development will have a detrimental effect on their homes and lifestyles.

"We believe this will drastically affect the value of our houses," Cox said. "We also have concerns about noise and the height of the apartments. Our houses back right up to these apartments."

Told that there would be a 20-foot wooded buffer between their yards and the apartments, Cox said, "Twenty feet isn't very much."

While not all housing authorities develop complexes for market value rentals, it's nothing new to the CHA, Williams said.

The housing authority has been in the apartment business for over 40 years, he said. Gentian Oaks Apartments near Columbus State University and Chapman Homes off Fort Benning Road are rented at market value, he said.

While the initial plans call for no subsidized rentals at the Moon Road complex, eventually some might be included, but only a "very, very small number," he said.

Councilors voted to delay the first reading of the ordinance until the Jan. 22 meeting so a public hearing can be held to gather more input. In other business, councilors unanimously approved the city entering into a contract to provide valet services for some events at the Civic Center.