by Andrea Salina Fleming for the Fairmont News
It’s nearly summer, which means that many of us are spending time working on home improvement projects or kicking off some sort of construction development. At any given time, driving through the community you can see roofs being repaired, decks being built and equipment digging up dirt. Regardless of the size or scope of your project, solid planning and preparation are keys to any project’s success.
As someone who specializes in housing and community development, I would highly recommend approaching the municipality where the work will take place to ensure property permitting is obtained in advance. The city of Fairmont has a user friendly website which can guide developers through the process. Many communities in Marion County do not have formal zoning or code enforcement, but a building permit may still be required. In any event, contacting the local municipality to let them know of the proposed work is a common courtesy. Also it is the law to call Miss Utility (811) before you begin digging no matter where your project is located to ensure no gas lines or other underground utilities are breached.
Step one prior to putting the shovel to the dirt within Fairmont city limits would be to schedule a meeting with the Design Review Committee. This group is made up of various department heads in the City Planning Department, Utilities, public works and fire department. This meeting is free of charge, but must be scheduled in advance. The DRC meets each Wednesday at 10:00am in the City Planner’s office on Jackson Street. The website offers the application and other helpful materials. The group will vet any preconceived issues with a proposed project and provide suggestions for the plan to be both feasible and within the city’s permitted land uses and can be found at https://fairmontwv.gov/360/Site-Plan-Review
Step two would be to review the city’s planning and zoning code to be sure your project fits into the appropriate zoning and is within code requirements. For example, if your plan is to construct multi-unit rental housing, you must make sure the neighborhood is zoned appropriately or you would have to ask for special permission or a variance to have the property rezoned to fit the need. This also applies to lot sizes and square footage of the structure(s) you intend to build. Once again, the city’s website provides all the current codes, zoning and ordinances for review, as well as the required applications and forms if variances are needed. You can review prior Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting agendas and minutes to have an idea of what you can expect. Some requests are heard by the Planning Commission while other requests go before the BZA depending on the breadth of the request.
Some folks ask “why zoning?” In 1916, New York City responded to the emergence of high-rises, factories and warehouses which encroached upon neighborhoods and retail spaces, by passing the country’s first comprehensive zoning code. That effort was spearheaded by lawyer Edward Bassett, who went on to invent the freeway and parkway. The notion of zoning is not a new or unnecessary concept. The chief principal of zoning is to isolate uses that are thought to be incompatible. Additionally zoning is applied to prevent new development from interfering with existing uses and/or to preserve the “character” of a community.
The forthcoming city of Fairmont comprehensive plan is slated to be released sometime later this summer. The plan has moved to the public hearing stage in order for the community to voice any concerns or proposed changes to the plan. Several elements of land use planning are addressed in the updated plan. A draft copy is also on the city of Fairmont’s website for review.
Remember to plan, review and reach out to get all the pertinent information to make your project a success.
by Andrea Salina Fleming for the State Journal
One thing that most small communities in West Virginia aren’t short of is abandoned and blighted properties. Some larger cities, like Fairmont, Wheeling, Bluefield and Huntington, have several vacant commercial properties in or around their downtown vicinities that could use some TLC. Not only are these properties vacant and not up to code, but they are also very old and dated. The million-dollar question that gets asked by developers is, “How do we fund this?”
The typical answer in the past has been to subsidize these types of larger projects with traditional financing mechanisms, such as loans. But more recently, tax credits, particularly New Markets Tax credits (NMTC), have been the buzzword at many community and economic development forums as a means for buying down the cost of redevelopment. The federal New Markets Tax Credit program has proven itself to be an effective way to drive much-needed investment capital and commercial development into distressed communities across the country. Credit allocations help attract and grow small businesses, revive blighted manufacturing sites, build new health centers, develop grocery stores within food deserts, launch new schools and child-care centers and attract and retain skilled workers in low-income areas. All of the above are high priorities in efforts to attract new businesses and families to our state. Locally, community development organizations, economic development entities and private investors need to get serious and collaborate around utilizing this virtually untapped resource in West Virginia. The process of obtaining NMTC is complicated, extremely competitive, and the proposals take a great deal of creativity to package, but it is well worth the effort if a project is awarded the credits.
So how does the NMTC program work? Essentially, Community Development Entities (CDEs) are delegated NMTC allocation authority from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund that must be capitalized by third-party investors and lenders. The proceeds are used to fund investments in qualifying businesses or commercial real estate developments. Often, these proceeds are structured as low-interest, convertible loans. Then the CDEs search for these qualifying business and real estate developments to provide NMTC-subsidized financing, which is a very competitive process. Feeling like a deer in headlights yet? Don’t worry. I was, as well, at this point in the informational session I attended. It is, however, a feasible way to redevelop properties in low-income areas.
For example, the Fairmont Community Development Partnership (FCDP) owns a vacant building within a qualifying Census tract. A bonus is that the former YMCA building in Fairmont, Marion County, also qualifies for federal and state historic tax credits.
The increase of the state historic tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent by the Legislature is certainly a step in the right direction. That decision will help West Virginia’s stock of historic buildings have more potential for renovation. If you couple this credit with the federal historic tax credit, you’ve bumped to 45 percent in tax credits toward a project. Tack on NMTC, and voila! You’ve managed to finance well over half of the project, which can limit the amount of traditional gap financing a developer has to take on.
by Andrea Salina Fleming for the Fairmont News
Leaders from all over the state of West Virginia met Aug. 17 to discuss how housing, agriculture and economic development can intersect to collectively grow and diversify our economy and cultural landscape in the Mountain State, now and in the future.
The Aligning Summit was hosted by CommunityWorks in WV and the West Virginia National Guard with funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The running theme in talks at the Summit is that West Virginia is facing several crises and at the foundation of those crises is housing. Without housing, people lack the resources needed to obtain jobs, transportation, identification and other necessary services. Not only does the state lack a strong inventory of safe, decent affordable housing, but also moderate income level dwellings. Most communities have housing stock constructed in the early to mid-1900’s parallel to coal and timber booms. Housing situated near downtown areas has become abandoned, dilapidated and blighted in many cases. The result is a phenomenon of empty homes in need of major rehabilitation and repairs to be up to code that the typical West Virginian cannot afford through conventional means.
Major players from high impact groups, such as the WV Housing Development Fund, the WV Department of Agriculture, the WV Oil and Natural Gas Association and the WV Development Office, to name a few, hosted panel discussions around various topics, including the current landscape and future outlook for West Virginia and how to innovatively meet West Virginia’s housing challenges. These discussions led to break-out sessions divided into four regions throughout the state. Leaders from the various regions brainstormed around assets and opportunities for alignment, as well as recommendations and rapid planning. From these discussions some common themes arose in the arena of housing. No region in West Virginia is exempt from an aging population, job loss, blight issues, lack of decent housing stock or the opioid addiction crises. What we do have are strong foundations to build upon, such as a healthy community college network, plenty of infrastructure in historic buildings for repurposing and tourism as a glue that holds the state together. Collectively, each region elected to take on tasks and bring project ideas back to the WV Housing Conference, which will be hosted in Charleston Sept. 20 – 22. The ideas are meant to be feasible, fundable and implementable in the near future.
The Aligning Summit was meant to bring together a think tank from all over the state to come up with viable solutions to the housing issues facing our state. Local flooding over the past two summers has added another layer of disaster and struggle to an already emerging crises. Despite these setbacks, one of the takeaways from the summit was the resiliency of West Virginians and their sense of community pride. Few places in the nation would be home to such an immediate, neighborly response to natural disaster. Events like these only bring more attention to social issues facing our state to those who can assist in the solutions. With news of potential additional POWER initiative funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission, HUD, the WV Development Office and other sources, some light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. Through collaborative partnerships, regional efforts and pooling of resources, West Virginia can and will prevail over this hurdle to provide housing to those who need it as well as those who see a future in this beautiful state migrating from other places.
Story by Andrea Salina Fleming | Fairmont Community Development Partnership
Published by The Fairmont News
The Fairmont Community Development Partnership (FCDP) has high expectations for 2017.
Over the past two years, the Partnership has experienced a wave of changes — from leadership to the direction of our mission and projects and finally our overall approach to community development. Although we have held strong to our revitalization efforts in our target areas of Virginia Avenue and The Maple/Ogden/Jackson Addition area of Fairmont, we have also looked at how our agency can aid in redevelopment for Fairmont and Marion County as a whole. We are actively involved in multiple coalitions including the Westside Action Coalition (WAC) and the 4 Fairmont/Fairmont Rising group and a new tri-county group that has been formed to address regional housing and development issues. Staying engaged with high-caliber community groups like these have helped FCDP develop a framework for revitalization that includes more social capital and community stakeholders with hopes that future development is not just what we want, but what the citizens of Fairmont want as well.
The Partnership is wrapping up six affordable rental units on Virginia Avenue that are now available for rent. This project continues our efforts to replace blighted properties with safe, decent and affordable housing that matches the footprint of the original neighborhood. We have a similar development on tap this year with new construction slated to begin on Virginia Avenue and Abbott Street as soon as this summer. This development will add six additional units to our portfolio.
FLEMING: 'THERE IS JUST AN EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR,' FCDP EXPANDING ITS MISSION TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Story by Nicole Lemal-Stefanovich | Correspondent, The Fairmont News
A look at the riverfront property, the needs facing the Fairmont community, and the conjunction of local groups working together has given the Fairmont Community Development Partnership (FCDP) a reason to be looking toward the future and the potential the area possesses for future development.Construction on the 800 block of Virginia Avenue is underway, as the group has cleaned up the neighborhood. Efforts may be made to attend to the Walnut Avenue area, which will be exposed upon the completion of the Third Street Bridge project. Discussions with West Virginia University students have given the FCDP ideas for rebranding and marketing to better portray its new mission statement. The website also will be revamped to accompany the changes.
With the same logo since 1992, a lot has changed since then, according to Andrea Fleming, the new executive director. Neighborhood revitalization in the area was at one time the primary focus, but now the FCDP has plans to also place emphasis on economic development. Working together with more local groups rather than against each other gives Fairmont a real opportunity, she said, and is just a matter of who initiates the process.
Story by Andrea Salina Fleming | Fairmont Community Development Partnership
Published by The Fairmont News
With regards to community development, it’s no secret that Fairmont is in a transition phase, at least from a leadership standpoint.
Over the past year, several pivotal community agencies have seen a change in management. The timing couldn’t be more perfect with all the exciting incentives that Fairmont has on the horizon such as Home Rule, the creation of a TIF (Tax Increment Finance) district and a new road bridging the gap between the Gateway Connector and Locust Avenue. Through progressive and creative thinking and an aggressive strategy to rehab or remove blight and improve the housing stock, businesses and families can be easily recruited to live, work and play here in the Friendly City!
The Fairmont Community Development Partnership has traditionally been a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization and community improvement in Fairmont. Upholding tradition is a warm and fuzzy thought, but striving for a better community and a thriving economy requires thinking outside the box. The FCDP plans to continue revitalizing targeted areas of Fairmont. The strategy will shift slightly throughout the process. In order to be successful, The Partnership must be more strategic and intentional with community and economic development planning and implementation. Instead of putting plans on shelves we aspire to put ideas into action.
Story by Hannah Rosche | Times West Virginian
Over a month after an explosive Fairmont Planning Commission meeting (April 5), the Fairmont Community Development Partnership (FCDP) is reaching out to the community.
The planning commission special session was called for the rezoning of property adjacent to Windmill Park on Garrett Avenue in Jackson Addition. The request was to change the area from general residential to neighborhood mixed use in order to construct a 32-unit affordable housing complex.
The request was met with a group of concerned Jackson Addition community members, vehemently opposed to the construction of the affordable housing complex, citing increased crime and building conditions as reasons not to build the complex.
The FCDP currently owns the property adjacent to Windmill Park and was planning on selling it to The Chaplin Group, a private developer from Wheeling, according to Andrea Salina, FCDP executive director.
Story by Melissa Murray | Marion & Taylor County Reporter, WBOY
Virginia Avenue in the city of Fairmont has seen its fair share of community blight.
In recent years, one organization has spearheaded construction projects, meant to target that community blight and revitalize the area.
"We saw an opportunity to obtain some properties, multiple properties at one time, and really make a collective impact on this neighborhood," said Andrea Salina, Executive Director of the Fairmont Community Development Partnership.
Two new duplexes will soon add to the six that stand on the 800-block of Virginia Avenue. Fairmont Community Development Partnership Executive Director Andrea Salina said they bought the properties then tore down the dilapidated buildings that once stood to create new affordable housing.
Story by Angelee Wiley | Times West Virginian
Part of moving forward comes from working together to make changes.
Fairmont’s goal is always to move forward, but in order to make that happen, the community must come together and work as one.
On Thursday night, the Fairmont Community Development Partnership gathered at Noteworthy Sweets for its annual meeting.
This year was special because the group celebrated its 21st anniversary. The FCDP’s vision is to preserve neighborhoods and revitalize the community.
At the meeting, board members spoke about the achievements of community development partnership as well as future plans that are going to take place. It was also the opportunity to thank some of the board members and supporters for all their hard work.
Story by WBOY
This time last month the Fairmont Community Development Partnership was raising funds for their business incubator project.
At Wednesday's Marion County Commission meeting they received the remainder of those funds and now they are ready to move on to the next step.
"We have been involved and looking at this project for about a year now," said FCDP Director Bob Gribben. "So this is kind of an exciting moment and stuff like that. It means we really need to get down to business."
The property is owned by Central United Methodist Church and was destroyed by a fire several years ago.
Central United Methodist has agreed to donate the property to FCDP.