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First Ward candidates talk development

Residents got to hear from the crop of First Ward City Council candidates Friday. Much of the candidate forum focused on First Ward development and infrastructure.

Six of the eight First Ward candidates showed up for the forum hosted by the Muleskinners. The candidates answered questions about everything from LGBT rights to the Flat Branch Creek.

A big topic at the forum — First Ward infrastructure and downtown development.

“Those are the folks who are suffering with 1903 sewer pipes and things like that. So — we really do need sewer projects that are going to help the folks that are already there,” said candidate Nate Brown.

“I think it’s important to make sure that our sewer system can meet the capacity that it will likely start to see an increase in capacity as more development occurs,” said candidate Rob Rasmussen.

A major development hitting the downtown area is the controversial Opus student housing project. Construction began last fall on the six-story building and it has been a source of contention among First Ward residents since inception — many said the downtown infrastructure can’t handle the large project.

“I do not believe that we need more student housing downtown. That is, unless the university wants to fund and build it on their own land,” said candidate John Clark.

Other candidates said if not downtown — where?

“We have some problems building apartments downtown, but we’re going to have to address those. But that’s where the student apartments need to be built is closer to campus,” said candidate Jake Loft.

A concern for a couple of candidates were the residents who already live in the area. They said student housing could price some residents out of the market because of rising rent.

“I feel we need to keep everyone in mind if that continues to happen where we’re not pushing a lot of people out or pushing one particular kind of people out,” said candidate Rob Stewart.

“My deepest concern is the lack of affordable housing for everyday people who live here, who are not just coming through for four years, but they are living here for many years and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the average family to find rental property that is safe, that is large enough and that is affordable,” said candidate Clyde Ruffin.

Residents will be able to vote on a First and Sixth Ward City Council member in the election on April 7.

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