All talk, no action.
During Thursday night’s East Ridge City Council meeting, no action was taken on the rezoning of property on Fountain Avenue that would allow the Sweetbay Apartments to continue renovation and build more units.
Most of the talk came from a half dozen citizens who opposed the rezoning, citing crime, population density and traffic as byproducts of having more and more apartments in the city. But Mayor Brent Lambert made perhaps the strongest statement of the evening.
“One hundred and nine days, folks: I’ll be gone and someone else can manage this circus,” Lambert said, after a woman spoke out from the audience attempting to ask a question to a representative of Sweetbay Apartments after he addressed the council.
Lambert’s statement came after listening to citizens who were critical of the rezoning. Lambert said he found it “ironic” that many of the people opposed to the rezoning were the very ones “who were up in arms” about the city establishing a housing and redevelopment authority. He made note that those people didn’t want their property rights trampled upon but were dictating to the owners of the Sweetbay what they could do with their private property.
During the Agenda Work Session held prior to the regular meeting, City Manager Scott Miller told the council that he did not recommend that the rezoning ordinance be removed from the table because the demolition of condemned buildings at the Sweetbay property had not been completed.
However, Russell Smith of Lexington Assets Management, the company that owns Sweetbay and a handful of other apartment complexes across the city, told the council during the regular meeting that demolition on the site had been completed. He did not ask the council to remove the ordinance from the table. Smith said he was “disappointed” with the “negative tone” of citizens’ comments, especially after holding a “productive” meeting with concerned citizens several weeks ago.
Smith said that his organization was willing to voluntarily institute a “crime-free housing” clause into tenant/landlord lease agreements. Other requests from citizens, including perimeter fencing and video surveillance, would be incorporated into the new buildings.
“We’re doing the best we can do in honoring our commitments,” he told the council. “This has been a topic for months at council meetings and I’d like to see a resolution.”
The council is expected to once again take up the rezoning issue at its September 13 meeting.
A resolution committing as much as $350,000 from the city’s reserve fund for the construction of a field house at Raymond James Stadium remained tabled. City Manager Miller said he recently met with East Ridge High School coach Tim James and an architect on the project. He said there is still work to be done. Miller said he expected to have more information for the council at the September 13 meeting.
The council authorized the purchase of three replacement vehicles for the city’s codes department and animal services division at a cost of $54,000.
The council approved a bid from Talley Construction for $118,000 to build an 800-foot long asphalt pathway inside Camp Jordan Park. The path is from a parking lot to the newly-build zip line operated by The Adventure Guild.
The council approved the purchase of an inflatable boat for use by the fire department at a cost of $13,900.
Miller said he received word that East Ridge received a $500,000 grant from the state of Tennessee that will be used for improvements to Pioneer Park and for a splash pad. Construction on the project will begin next year.
Councilwoman Esther Helton’s appointment to the city’s Industrial Development Board remains open. Helton said anyone interested in serving on the board should contact her.
And, Mayor Lambert left open his appointment to the city’s planning commission. Ron Renegar’s three-year term is up. Renegar is a commercial real estate broker who was involved in the sale of the property on Ringgold Road where a new Jack’s Restaurant may be built. As a member of the planning commission, he abstained from voting when the property was rezoned from residential to commercial.
“I’m still waiting on a response,” Lambert told the council in regard to a new appointment. “I hope to have something in place at the next meeting.”