(Orange, Texas)

October 30, 2013

Residents express concerns over low-housing developments

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Residents are still worried. Questions concerning safety of children, property values and why dominated the public meetings Tuesday concerning the three low-income housing developments for the city of Orange.

Haley May, mother of a Community Christian Church School student, said she makes sacrifices so her child may attend the school located across the street from the proposed sight of Arthur Robinson II, 4030 Sikes Road.

“People here pay higher taxes,” May said. “Shouldn’t you look out for them?”

May said the situation may seem pointless but to not give in because it is not pointless.

As a mother, May is concerned for the safety of her child, one reason she chose to send her child to the Christian school instead of West Orange - Cove ISD.

May is not the only one concerned for the safety of the school children.

Business Administrator Community Christian Church School David Wagner wanted to know how to shelter those the school are accountable for.

“Our hearts are to minister these people [residents of the low-housing development],” Wagner said. “Are pedophiles screened out?”

Executive Vice President of The ITEX Group LLC Chris Akbari said there are procedures and policies in place to prevent such.

Each resident of the housing development must submit to a criminal background check, credit and rental history as well as checked against a sex offenders database.

“Do they slip through? Yes,” Akbari said. “But when it happens, we have policies and procedures to get the bad out.”

Akbari said the Housing Authority could evict those conducting illegal activities and have them removed within three days.

The Housing Authority and ITEX submitted approximately 35 plans prior to the approval of the current plans.

“Most of the plans were denied,” Akbari said. “The Housing Authority is utilizing the site [on Sikes Road] which it currently owns and has since 1998.”

LaNita Brown, executive director of the Housing Authority Orange said that the Arthur Robinson II Development will having a working preference for residents.

“The Sikes location is not a relocation,” Brown said in an interview in between meetings. “They will have to be a full-time student or working full-time to reside there.”

Several residents attending the meetings said they felt their questions were not being answered.

Leroy Perkins said he felt the development was not needed.

“The government is broke. Why add to it?” Perkins asked. “Who is paying the taxes?”

The Housing Authority will pay $8,000 a year in lieu of taxes annually.

Perkins said he did not find that fair compared to what he pays in taxes.

Dee Didyk said the number one priority needed to be for the hundreds of children and teachers.

“The fences are to keep us out,” Didyk said. “Not to keep them in.”

The two minute time limit for public comments was not enough time for Didyk who said one could not say what was in their hearts in that allotment of time.

Akbari said the applications for the developments still needed to be approved at the state level with HUD having the final approval.

Each of the three developments will have cable and data access in each room as well as Energy Star appliances and windows. The communities will have full perimeter fences with a controlled access gate.

The ITEX Group LLC has worked with the Housing Authority Orange since 2009.