Divided city commission approves new senior development

A packed house gathered at City Hall on Tuesday night as the Vernon City Commission waded through several contentious issues.

The commission voted 3-2 to support the efforts of a developer wanting to build an affordable housing complex, named Vernon Pioneer Crossing LLC, to be located at 1916 Stadium Drive.

Michael Beard, a consultant representing the company, has been coming to Vernon Commission meeting since November, discussing the proposed 80-unit development.

Beard said that his company had 11 acres of land under contract. The company needs a resolution of support from the city commission in order to move forward with the construction project.

Beard said that after hearing resident complaints at the last meeting, he was prepared to build a wall between his property and neighbors, and would only build one entrance, instead of two initially proposed. Beard reiterated that the company was not seeking a property tax abatement, and would pay property tax.

Four nearby residents and three rental property owners spoke against the project in a discussion that lasted nearly an hour. One resident said they had toured other properties from the company and they were not well maintained nor following the guidelines that the company was promising the Vernon Commission.

The residents said that their property values would suffer. Commissioner Don Aydelott said the company had a history of litigation and it was proposing a project that would not bring new residents to town, but shift people from existing rentals. Commissioner Justin Marsh said he was not against the idea of the development, but he would like to see it built on a different piece of property — one in which the neighbors did not object.

“I’m with you 100 percent, just not at that location,” Marsh told Beard.

City Tourism Director Amanda Lehman and P&Z chair Charles McArthur spoke for the project.

Commissioner Pam Gosline made the motion to approve the development. When it went to a vote, commissioners Britt Ferguson and Gosline were for it. Commissioners Aydelott and Marsh were against it. Mayor Doug Jeffrey cast the deciding vote in favor.

By the same vote, the commission approved rezoning the property for the housing development.

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