Zoning plan puts U.S. build-to-lease housing program in Vicenza on hold
January 10, 2008
The Southern European Task Force (Airborne) is exploring its options after plans for a second large American housing community in the Vicenza province hit a snag last month.
The U.S. had reached a deal with Italian contractor Pizzarotti to construct 215 homes that the military would then lease for at least two decades. Plans called for the site to be in the town of Quinto Vicentino, northwest of Vicenza.
But the town’s council failed to give an OK to the project in December, citing a new zoning plan by the Veneto region. Approving the U.S.-backed project would essentially use up a majority of the town’s quota for growth.
“They essentially deferred action on it,” said Mark Oswald, chief of the international and operational law division for SETAF.
So, while that’s not a clear rejection, SETAF is exploring other options while awaiting word on whether Quinto receives an exemption from the region.
Options include placing the entire project in another area close to Vicenza or dividing the project into smaller sections “that would be developed in multiple communes,” Oswald said.
That setup would be similar to government-leased housing that the Air Force uses around Aviano Air Base, where about two dozen smaller communities are in as many towns or villages.
Oswald said having a single large community likely would lower construction costs and allow for recreational facilities and other quality-of-life projects. But he said that zoning conditions might not allow for that.
“Vicenza is a densely populated area and 215 homes is a big project,” he said.
Officials originally had hoped that construction would start in December and expected a series of construction phases, with the first homes available for use in a few years.
The project is needed, military officials say, because the province does not have enough three-, four- and five-bedroom homes that meet U.S. military standards.
The Army already maintains one American housing community in Vicenza. However, Villagio, which will also house new schools in a few years, is on property owned by the Italian military.
The build-to-lease program would use private land, with the Italian contractor maintaining ownership of the homes. The new homes would, in theory, be turned over for Italians to use if the U.S. eventually chooses to stop exercising its rights on a series of leases.