Habitat to return to Planning Board

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WHITESBORO – The Habitat for Humanity of Cape May County plans to return to the Middle Township Planning Board for approval to build more homes in Whitesboro.

Earlier this month, the Planning Board denied an application from Habitat to subdivide the Sumner Street property into lots for four single-family homes. The move came less than three months after Habitat announced at a reception in Dennis Township its plans to construct four homes in Whitesboro.

In an interview this week, Planning Board member Susan Copson said some residents fear the ramifications of having an open space area on Sumner Street, which would have been used for recreation.

So the Planning Board respected their wishes, she said.

"Although a common area was initially proposed by the Middle Township Housing Advisory Committee, Habitat is not wedded to any particular layout, and we are committed to proposing a configuration for the property that is safe and practical for the neighborhood," said Habitat executive director Shawn Lockyear in a prepared statement.

Habitat's new proposal will be favorable to everyone involved, including Middle Township, Whitesboro community and Sumner Street neighbors, she said.

Lockyear said she believes residents are concerned over any type of development on that street. She said wants to involve neighbors in helping to decide what should be built on Sumner Street.

“We have already invited the neighbors on Sumner Street to tour the house Habitat is currently building at 703 Reeves St., and to review and discuss ideas for developing the Sumner property,” Lockyear said in a prepared statement.

Residents also had worries over the number of homes proposed for the property, Copson said.

But she said two duplexes could be built on the property without a variance.

With four homes, however, Habitat needs a frontage variance, Lockyear said.

In the end, if four homes cannot be built, Lockyear isn’t concerned. The likely option, she said, would have one of the homes be constructed on Wildwood Avenue in Whitesboro.

Habitat has other homes in Whitesboro, on land donated by Middle Township. The organization is an affiliate of the Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry.

 “We’re not going to not build,” Lockyear said.

As of Monday morning, neighbors have not visited the Reeves Street home that is expected to be dedicated in August. Construction on that stick-built home began in January.

“Ultimately, we have to reapply for something,” she said.

Lockyear did not want to speculate as to what the plans could be on the Sumner Street property.

“We’re obligated in having that property donated to us to utilize it for affordable housing,” she said.

Lockyear said she hopes Habitat will be in front of the Planning Board again within a month or so.

“We look forward to presenting another application to the planning board in the near future, which we hope will leverage the property donation from Middle Township in a way that best benefits the local community,” Lockyear said.

For more information about Habitat, see www.habitatcapemaycounty.org. 

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