For the second time, commissioners have rejected plans for the development of a 12-acre tract of vacant land off West Academy Street.
Last month, commissioners rejected a request for a conditional use permit to allow former mayor Lucius Jones to build a senior living apartment complex on a 5.5-acre portion of the 12.75-acre property.
Late last year, commissioners rejected a request by another developer to change the zoning of the property to allow for more homes to be built on the property than the current zoning would allow.
Developers say the land faces several obstacles to development, including its location adjacent to the town’s cemetery, Greenmount Cemetery, and the location of a cellular telephone tower nearby.
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Commissioners objected to the request because the project took advantage of tax credits which limit the value of the property for tax purposes.
The apartment complex would have served senior citizens on limited incomes. Jones told commissioners their rent would not be subsidized, but the rents would be lower. He said the rents could be set lower because of the tax credits offered for the project.
Commissioner John Boyette said he was in support of additonal senior living options, but he still voted against the project along with all four other commissioners.
“I don’t want anyone to think I don’t want senior housing. My opposition is the use of tax credits and the affordable housing,” Boyette said.
The decision came in front of a large crowd of residents, many of whom had signed up for public comment to speak about the project. But Mayor Ginna Gray told them they could not address the board on the matter because the public hearing had already been held.
Boyette objected to the move to stop the public comment. “I don’t think it sets a good precedent to take a list of people who have taken their time to come out here to speak. And I understand we’ve already had a public hearing, but we do a lot of things over and over again, but not listening to our people isn’t one of them,” Boyette said.
Gray defended her decision. “The effect of that is that we would have been having a second public hearing without giving the applicant notice so he could bring people out to speak for him,” Gray said.