ODC talks housing plans

The Odessa Development Corporation met Thursday to discuss ideas for a structure to get workforce housing, while still making little headway.

ODC Board Member Gene Collins said during the meeting he was under the impression ODC would meet with the City Council for a workshop regarding a matrix, or structure, to address developing additional workforce housing in Odessa. Mayor Pro Tem Dewey Bryant was at the meeting in lieu of Mayor David Turner, and told Collins the city was “moving” on the issue, but there is no known date for when the workshop will be yet.

ODC Chairwoman Betsy Triplett-Hurt told Collins any plans would be drawn up by the ODC compliance committee and would be sent to ODC for approval, but Collins said he didn’t think that was their job, and said they need to set parameters to give to compliance. ODC Board Member Ted Tuminowski said the parameters should be for affordable housing, but Triplett-Hurt corrected him by saying workforce housing.

“That’s why we need this workshop,” Collins said. “We’re all over the place.”

ODC Board Member Melanie Hollmann said this could be similar to the job creation grants they had, providing grants to applicants who will add housing to the community. Bryant told her there could be numerous avenues for the application of the $5 million set aside by the city to address the housing shortage.

“We just want to get some kind of stimulus for housing and then go from that standpoint,” Bryant told ODC.

Bryant said the funds can be used for certain programs that qualify to help the housing situation and that the compliance committee would make sure of that, and that it could address not just specifically housing, but issues related to housing, like infrastructure. Triplett-Hurt said the committee would meet and bring a draft of a matrix for the ODC to approve.

“That’s the tail wagging the dog, and that’s where I have a big problem,” Collins told her.

“Well Gene, somebody’s got to get started,” Triplett-Hurt said.

Collins said it was up to ODC to determine what they want in the matrix to give to compliance, and that they were not just a rubber stamp whatever the committee drafts.

When asked for input on the matrix by Triplett-Hurt, Collins said he thinks suggestions for the matrix needed to be an agenda item in itself to be voted on.

“That’s the only way we’re gonna have a transparent system here is to do it like that,” Collins said. “We’ve been doing too much undercover and that’s not—”

“Explain that, please, because I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” Triplett-Hurt interrupted.

“I don’t have to explain anything, I think we need to be more transparent,” Collins said.

Odessa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Wes Burnett told the board they had already developed some ideas for the matrix, and said the intent was to always meet with the board to get their thoughts and ideas to develop something to send to the compliance committee. He described it as like building an airplane while it’s flying and not knowing where it will land yet.

Burnett added that his office has been getting eight to 10 calls a week about housing and how they can get it to Odessa.

“If this board would like to take that and give comp the direction of here’s what we want, I think compliance would be open to that,” Burnett said. “But if you want to save yourself some time, I think the compliance committee is a great means in order to get something moving along for you guys to put input into and then approve a document that would move forward to council.”

Assistant City Attorney Natasha Brooks said she thought this could be worked out through a workshop, and Bryant added that one would be set up and that it was needed quickly.

Before adjourning, Collins said he specifically wanted to see south Odessa included in the housing discussions.

“We just want to make sure, especially the African American community, we have been so ignored for decades,” Collins said. You want to put something bad into the community, you put it over there. You put your chemical plants over there…There’s been very little development over there.”

Collins he had businesses in that area and family members who lived there, and that it looked like a big mobile home park in some areas. Tuminowski agreed with Collins, saying that many who will be coming to the revitalized downtown will be getting there by Interstate 20 and going through south Odessa.

That’s the gateway to what we want to showcase,” Tuminowski said. “So, we need to put some money where our mouth is.”

District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton was also present, and echoed what he previously said about wanting uniformity and transparency in the process of developing new housing.

“I would not tolerate any type of posturing or any type of hijacking of this project, of these funds,” Hamilton said. “if we are gonna develop all of Odessa, let’s just do that properly. Let’s just do not do it in certain parts of the city. I think that’s gone on long enough. It’s apparent, you can look at it and see that.”