LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Not so fast on Dover’s Tiny Houses

Regardless of what Port Hope and Victory Church are planning, they have charged ahead with those plans without regard for existing Kent County zoning codes.

The sample tiny house they built was totally rejected by Zoning and the Fire Marshal’s office (no plans, no permits), and they were told to cease construction. While ordinary people would take that at face value, Aaron Appling (pastor, Victory Church) stated that (because they were a church) no permits were needed.

As soon as inspectors left the property, the homeless men then living at the church resumed working on the tiny house. It took a second visit from Zoning to convince those working that “cease” absolutely meant “stop”!

The village they are planning is 15 units. That’s what they said in front of state Rep. Lynn (who is NOT the 29th District representative, but lives near Cathi Kopera) at a Legislative Hall meeting in May. However, outside afterwards, Sue mentioned what Aaron had already said: 15 units was just the first phase, that there would eventually be 100 units at the church. They have since backtracked on that, but obviously, they intend to expand far beyond 15 units.

While meeting with the head of Kent County Zoning Office on June 3, the atmosphere turned extremely hostile when both Aaron and Sue called Sara Keifer rude and profane names while she was trying to explain to them that the Victory Church site does not meet any county codes, and offered to help them obtain an alternate site that not only met codes, but has the required utilities already on site. That offer was flatly refused.

As of July 7, no applications or plans have been brought to Kent County Building and Zoning offices, yet, Sue Harris writes as if all is totally underway and construction is imminent. (“The ‘straight facts’ on Tiny House Village,” Letter to the Editor, July 7)

Meantime, Victory Church has been housing people at the church, and inspections resulted in many zoning violations. In the month of June, there have been four police calls to the property: threat of assault (June 3), domestic violence (June 13), 2 a.m. fighting (June 22), June 28 (? unknown).

There have been two fire calls (June 13, July 1), both false alarms, and numerous noise problems, including midnight yelling and harassment (June 26).

The church has NOT been a good neighbor. While neighbors are NOT against homes for the homeless, as Sue Harris would have you believe, if the past month is an example of the church’s ability to manage homeless people on that property, what does the neighborhood have to look forward to if a village of 15 (100?) Tiny Houses is built there?

I don’t know where Sue Harris gets her $17,000/person/year cost to the state of Delaware to do nothing, but she intimates that there would be no cost to the taxpayers to build a village of tiny homes because all the materials would be donated, and there would only be a charge of $200 to $300/month for a homeless person to live there.

Not a bad return on effort – have the village built cost-free, and charge for its use. We asked her where the money would come from for the currently homeless. Her reply (outside Legislative Hall) was that anyone permitted to live there would be required to have an income: Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veteran’s allowance, a job, welfare or even Section 8 housing allowance.

With the exception of having a job, isn’t every other source a government entitlement payment that we taxpayers ultimately pay for? Think in terms of those 100 tiny homes x $200/month = $240,000 per year for Port Hope, Del., and the church to manage. Not bad for having a village built for you by volunteers with donated materials and labor.

There are many existing groups in Delaware and Dover to help the homeless. Most of them apparently have never heard of Victory Church and Port Hope, Del.

Keep that in mind if you should feel a “fiscal responsibility” to respond to their request to “Join the Movement, support tiny homes for the homeless. Everyone should have a home, especially those who fought for our freedom” (sign on tiny house in front of Victory Church on Forrest Avenue).

While Sue Harris, Cathi Kopera and Aaron Appling are nice people to talk to, they don’t both bother with small details like building permits, zoning applications or noise offenses at Victory Church. We, as neighbors, want our neighborhood back – QUIET – and free from the offensive harassment of a 24-hour/day operation (no matter how well-attended) at Victory Church.

Jim Miller

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to Kent County Department of Planning Services, no applications have been submitted for the Tiny House project. The builders were asked to cease construction on the model home and Planning Services has not received any indication that construction has continued since the notice was issued.

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