A nonprofit organization's plan to build rental units for people with disabilities in Delaware has led to some concerns among the site's neighbors.
Del-Mor Dwellings Corp. wants to construct up to 48 one-bedroom rental units on about 3.6 acres at 250 Curtis St. The proposed development would sit just north of Firestone Drive, south of the Hidden Ridge apartment complex.
Del-Mor Dwellings plans to complete the project in two phases, with the construction of an eight-unit, one-story building and three eight-unit, two-story buildings slated first. In the second phase, the developer would raze an existing house on the site and build two more eight-unit, two-story rental buildings.
The second phase, if built, likely would not be completed until several years after the first phase, according to city records.
Delaware's Planning Commission on Jan. 17 met to discuss the organization's request for new zoning and approval of its preliminary development plan for the site.
Dave Efland, the city's planning and community development director, said the units would have an average of about 600 square feet.
"That's really related to the clientele the applicant is wishing to serve," he said. "They're not traditional clientele (who need) 1,200-square-foot apartments. They need something contained (with) supportive services."
Jim Wilson, executive director of Del-Mor Dwellings, said the mission of his organization, which was founded in 1990, is to provide "safe, decent, supportive housing" to its clients.
"Our residents live lives challenged by significant emotional, mental or physical disabilities," he said.
Wilson said before the meeting he read comments online that accused his organization of being motivated by greed -- a sentiment he strongly rejected.
"We are anything but (greedy)," he said. "We struggle to break even at times as a not-for-profit. Our mission comes clearly before financial considerations for us."
Wilson said the organization also does not and has not ever developed affordable housing for individuals without disabilities.
Jamie Cribbs, a resident of the Curtis Farms subdivision, which sits west of the proposed development, said the number of units planned concerns the site's neighbors.
Speaking on behalf of several residents, she said the density of the project would be "overwhelming."
"We're not against this type of housing going in," she said. "What we're against is the high-density (nature) of it."
Wilson said a "large, unmet need" for supportive housing in Delaware led his organization to propose the development of 48 units.
Cribbs asked the commission to delay any decision on the proposal, which she said many nearby residents were not aware of until the week before the meeting.
John Stark, a fellow Curtis Farms resident, said he did not know about the proposal until a few days before the meeting.
"There certainly wasn't a lot of opportunity for us to really learn about it," he said.
Stark said he hopes the commissioners keep in mind the site's proximity to Schultz Elementary School and its dense surrounding neighborhoods when making a decision on the proposal.
The commission ultimately decided to delay a potential vote on the project until the panel's Feb. 7 meeting. The commission may meet before that date for a work session, during which board members and residents could discuss the proposal and ask additional questions.
Commission member Jim Halter said he supported tabling the discussion because the board needs more time to review the project and supplementary material provided by the city's administration.
"This is a tremendous amount of information," he said.
Michael Shade, attorney for Del-Mor Dwellings, said no matter what the panel ultimately decides, the problem the organization is attempting to address will not go away.
"At the end of the day, we as a community have to understand these needs are out there," Shade said.