Tenants voice approval, concerns during Pecan Acres meeting

Modernization Coordinator for the Starkville Housing Authority Johnny Taylor presented details on the Pecan Acres land swap, and answered questions during one of the three meeting held at the Starkville Housing Authority office on Wednesday. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
Staff Writer

The Starkville Housing Authority hosted a triad of tenant meetings throughout the day on Wednesday, providing details on the proposed land swap to those living in Pecan Acres.

The three meetings occurred at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. The Starkville Daily News attended all three.

During the meeting, Modernization Coordinator for the Starkville Housing Authority Johnny Taylor shared proposed floor plans and further details for tenants on the proposed development on Highway 182.

Taylor also provided more thorough details to the tenants about the location, funding and how the land swap idea came to fruition.

Taylor, Executive Director for the Starkville Housing Authority Amy Bishop and Occupancy Specialist for the Starkville Housing Authority Daphane Beckum and the developer were the representatives attending. No commissioner on the Starkville Housing Authority Board attended the meetings.

The projected completion date of the new Pecan Acres is set tentatively for March 2020 and the construction is projected to take place in March of 2019.

Discussions around the proposed Pecan Acres move has generated debate and frustration in the community, with some arguing that the residents would no longer be in close proximity to a grocery store, drugstore and other businesses.

Attorney Johnny Moore, representing the developer based out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, proposed a plan to the Starkville Board of Aldermen in April where a 70,000-square foot replica of Pecan Acres could be built in an area approved by the Fair Housing Administration.

Moore said the plan would be to take Pecan Acres’ previous location and put infrastructure and an entertainment development on the property.

As for the residents, Moore said the units would be built before moving the residents in. Residents will
not be displaced for any period of time.

The Housing Authority agreed to have a public hearing about the possible new development on July 12 at the Greensboro Center.

The location, which was previously undisclosed due to a confidentiality agreement, is located on Highway 182 across from Longs Lake by Talley Ho Road.

Tenant Margaret Gandy said she has lived in Pecan Acres for 21 years and is looking forward to the potential new house she could be moving into.

"I felt pretty good about it," Gandy said. "I'm ok with it."

Out of the about 40 who attended, the room was attentive, asked questions and voiced both concerns and approval.

One concern came from Harvey Rogers, where the proposed location was not in close proximity to any grocery stores or pharmacies. Rogers said he felt the location on Highway 182 doesn't have enough businesses close by and is not in a centralized location like the current development.

Another concern about the location came from resident Brenda Gardner, who relies on walking to her destinations because she does not own a vehicle. She said with Pecan Acres' current location, she can walk to City Hall, the library, pharmacies and other businesses.

"So this is a go, whether we want to go or not?" Garner asked.

Taylor said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is in favor of the land swap, but they will take concerns of tenants into consideration.

Taylor said with the swap, the Housing Authority will be able to replace the old housing with newer materials.

"New isn't necessarily what it's cracked up to be," Garner said. "Me personally, I don't want new, because new does not give me quality."

Garner said finding out about the proposed development through the media and not through the Housing Authority was a kick to the stomach and was "inhumane" and "cruel.”

She said if the presentation was being made, members of the Housing Authority should have notified the tenants prior.

"There was no transparency there," Garner said. "We were not given the information we should have been given."

Taylor said the reason they did not present the proposed idea to tenants was because they didn't have enough information or a presentation.

Garner told the Starkville Daily News these tenant meetings were just a facade to show the Housing Authority spoke with the tenants to get their feedback for consideration.

"I think it's a done deal," Garner said. "We're asking for input, but we're going to do this deal and we're going to build this new project on (Highway) 182.’”

During the meeting, Taylor said there would be contracted and insured movers, and rent for the tenants will not increase even though it is a new development.

As for transportation, Bishop said the Housing Authority transportation vans will be restructured for all
tenants to utilize it and there will be a SMART bus stop at the new development.

Bishop said if there is a need, they can use savings from maintenance to purchase an additional van.
Taylor said he understands this will be an inconvenience, but it is extremely uncommon for residents who live in public housing to move into a brand new building.

"This is an opportunity for that to happen," Taylor said. "We have your best interest at heart."