Since its inception in 1989, Delaware County Habitat for Humanity has built 36 homes for qualified low-income families.

Since its inception in 1989, Delaware County Habitat for Humanity has built 36 homes for qualified low-income families.

Habitat officials would like to increase that number significantly. They have submitted concept plans to the city of Delaware for a proposed 20-home subdivision on 7.56 acres near the south side of the city.

The Liberty Village subdivision would be built on land now owned by the Oak Grove Cemetery Association, between Pickaway Street and the Delaware Bible Church baseball field.

Concept plans were reviewed by the city's planning commission earlier this month.

Habitat wanted to get the commission's take on the proposal before returning with complete site plans that would require approval of the commission and city council, said city planning director Dave Efland.

The project would help "expand affordable housing opportunities in the city," city planner Jason Bechtold told the planning commission. The land is zoned R-3 (single-family residential). It was subdivided in the 1920s into more than 20 lots. Habitat plans to build only 20 homes in styles compatible with existing residences, he said.

Habitat for Humanity board president Tom Whitney and other organization officials met with neighbors of the project area in late August.

Nearly 75 people attended that meeting, Whitney told the planning commission, "and I got the feeling if we solve the access problem, then we are in good shape with the neighbors."

The neighbors were adamant that they wanted access to the property off Liberty Road and not off Magnolia Drive or Pickaway, said Tony Ireland of Floyd Brown Group, a Delaware design and engineering firm.

That is doable, he said, but a second access, with a "knock-down barrier" will be required for emergency vehicle access, probably off Pickaway.

To satisfy the city's requirement for a park as part of the development, Efland said Habitat might be able to partner with Delaware Bible to expand its park next to the proposed development.

Habitat would contribute money toward the cost of that park, Whitney said.

Jim Harrington lives on Magnolia Street next to the vacant property and expressed some concern about water run-off onto his property. Whitney said storm basins would be constructed to keep stormwater on the site.

Harrington said he "is not against Habitat" but expressed concern that the lower-valued homes would affect property values in his neighborhood.

Homes in that area are valued between $150,000 and $200,000, he said. "My home is well over that. ... How much is this going to drop my house value?"

While Whitney didn't have an answer for Harrington, he did say most of Habitat's homes are valued between $130,000 and $150,000.

Harrington's wife, Pam, expressed gratitude that Habitat proposed only 20 homes, not the 36 homes that could be built under the current zoning.

Habitat must next submit a new subdivision plat to the city for review and approval by the planning commission and council, Efland said.