More than a year in the making, a board intended to redevelop dilapidated properties in the city, took about two minutes to be dissolved.
The East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority met Thursday night inside the Community Center and voted unanimously (Commissioner Curtis Adams was absent) to go away.
After approving the minutes from three previous meetings, Commissioner Earl Wilson made a motion to adopt Resolution 2018-06, a document dissolving the ERHRA. Commissioner Ruth Braly, who also serves the city as the Chairman of the Industrial Development Board, seconded the motion. By voice vote, the housing authority was no more.
Following the vote, about two dozen citizens in attendance stood and applauded.
The ERHRA was established by the City Council in April of 2017. Mayor Brent Lambert appointed Darwin Branam, Eddie Phillips, Adams, Wilson and Braly to the board. City Attorney Mark Litchford served as the ERHRA legal counsel.
Over the course of a year, the board was chartered, by-laws were adopted and it met about a dozen times. The ERHRA formulated a boundary map identifying more than 2,500 properties, both commercial and residential, subject to redevelopment. A 28-page plan outlining how the board would “take” private property and redevelop it was voted on and approved.
The ERHRA sent out 5,300 letters to property owners and occupants informing them that their property was in the boundary region and potentially subject to being seized by the city and redeveloped.
The letter galvanized property owners in protest of their homes and businesses being included in the boundary map. A group called East Ridge Residents for Property Rights was quickly formed and a non-profit, Arlington, Virginia-based law firm that specializes in government overreach was contacted by the group for legal advice. Hundreds of residents turned out to a May 3 meeting at the Community Center where officials of the ERHRA and city staff attempted to allay fears that residential property would be seized.
The explanation by ERHRA officials during the meeting that the overwhelming majority of properties included in the boundary map would never be considered for redevelopment fell on deaf ears.
In the following days, four members of the City Council – Brian Williams, Esther Helton, Larry Sewell and Jacky Cagle – publicly stated they would vote to dissolve the ERHRA. They were good to their word and on May 7 in a special called meeting, the council voted 4-0-1, Mayor Lambert voted “present,” to do away with the housing and redevelopment authority.
Thursday’s meeting in which the ERHRA voted to dissolve was virtually a formality.
The resolution reads in part that the “articles of dissolution and termination and any other actions required to windup the Authority’s existence in accordance with applicable state law shall be taken and otherwise delivered an otherwise filed with the Tennessee Secretary of State.”