Hager loses 1st vote on project

Published 9:13 am Friday, May 1, 2015

The planning commission meeting Thursday evening did not go the way developer and owner of the former Whitwell Elementary School building Jack Hager had hoped, as his plan to have the school rezoned from a Residential-2 to a Residential-3 was voted to be unfavorably recommended to city council.

Two council meetings ago, Ordinance 15-17, rezoning certain parcels from R-2 to R-3, was tabled by council and referred to the planning commission. On Thursday evening, Hager presented his case to the planning commission and concerned residents living near the school.

“I’d like to take the Whitwell School building and make housing available for those 55 and older and veterans. There will be 25 apartments with private parking in the back,” Hager said. “At age 55 and 60, a lot of people in this area are downsizing and looking for one-bedroom efficiency apartments because they want a smaller place to live.”

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Hager said that senior citizens and all veterans would be eligible to live in the complex and that proper background checks and precautions would be taken before renting. When asked if the apartment does not fill up with seniors and veterans, Hager said that he does not see that happening.

Those opposed to Hager’s plans say they are concerned that the apartment complex will bring trouble to the neighborhood, although Hager said that there would be cameras outside of the complex as well as doors only available to residents.

Only three of the five planning commission members were present, but all voted against rezoning the school area.

“I can’t vote for it because of the things that I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from the people of the city,” Mayor Rich Blankenship and member of the planning commission, said.

Ben Young agreed.

“I also have to vote negative on this,” Young said. “Too many questions are still there about what will happen to the building if it does not fill up.”

Mike Gleichauf also expressed his disapproval of the rezoning. Kevin Waldo and Dave Swartzwelder were not at the meeting.

“We’re thankful that the planning commission for voting the way that they did,” Cliff Black, a neighbor to the school, said. “We don’t want all those apartments to be in our neighborhood.”

Without rezoning the school, Hager is still able to turn the building into apartments, just not the 25 unit complex that he wants.

Although the rezone was voted to be unfavorably recommended to city council, those members still have the right to pass the ordinance if they choose. Ordinance 15-17 will be on the agenda for the next council meeting on May 14.