A church-led development project to provide subsidized housing for local seniors advanced on Tuesday night with an initial vote to rezone land off North Moore Road.
Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church is proposing to rezone approximately 3 acres south of the church to construct a 63-unit apartment building for independent seniors.
Seven of nine Chattanooga City Council members voted to go ahead with rezoning the land, with East Lake Vice President Raquetta Dotley voting against the measure. Councilman Isiah Hester of Washington Hills, whose district would be the project, abstained.
The council had postponed its decision for two weeks at its May 10 meeting, asking the church to take more time to meet with affected members of the community.
The church’s project has faced opposition over the past two months, with community members expressing concerns about water displacement, road safety and a lack of community engagement in the project. There were also allegations that the church is using the project to make money. The initial request was to build a 79-unit building.
The main source of funding for the project would be low-income housing tax credits distributed by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties is helping develop the project, secure tax financing and manage the property.
(READ MORE: $200m in new housing, school proposed for East Brainerd site in Chattanooga)
Dotley said her vote against the measure was due to Pennrose’s history in managing other housing projects in the area, including the villages of Alton Park.
“Pennrose’s story in District 7 is so horrific I just can’t stand it,” Dotley said. “So, I just wanted to make sure it was on file.”
A Pennrose representative was present at the meeting but did not address the board.
The rezoning application moved forward after the May 10 postponement with an agreement that the developer would install a 6ft landscaped buffer zone around the property which would be planted with holly trees at least 6ft tall.
Councilman Chip Henderson of Lookout Valley said he would like to see affordable housing projects include parts that better serve residents’ health, such as installing a health clinic at the nearby Brainerd Recreation Center or creating a farmers market at the center to serve area residents. The proposed housing development would be in a food desert, meaning it has limited access to fresh and affordable food.
“I understand we want to keep these units affordable, but affordability is also tied to good health and well-being,” Henderson said. “We don’t want to isolate our elders. We want them to come out, to be able to move around. And I think those are some of the things we’re looking at as we go through development.”
Council chairman Darrin Ledford of East Brainerd said the rezoning of the land is only part of the development process and there will be more opportunities for public participation.
The rezoning request will be reviewed at the May 31 council meeting.