published Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Chattanooga City Council delays action on housing resolution


by Cliff Hightower
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The Chattanooga City Council looked at two sides of the affordable housing issue Tuesday afternoon.

For 15 minutes, council members heard the Rev. Leroy Griffith of the Westside Community Association talk about a zoning ordinance for affordable housing and spoke to him about ways they could help.

Ten minutes later, as the white-bearded priest dressed in a black priest's frock walked out the door, the council told a different story.

"I don't know if this will fly under Tennessee law," said City Attorney Mike McMahan.

Griffith, along with members of the Westside Community Association and Chattanooga Organized for Action, attended the meeting and had about 15 minutes to talk to the council about a proposed zoning ordinance for fair housing within the downtown area. The ordinance proposes that a portion of all new development be built as affordable housing.

Griffith and others with Westside wrote a 10-page summary and hand-delivered the documents to council members Friday.

"Have all of you read this time-consuming effort from WCA and its associates?" he asked.

Most council members nodded. Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she had.

Scott told Griffith that the Department of Health and Human Services is looking at affordable housing within the city and Councilman AndraƩ McGary said River City Co. is looking at some type of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes advantage to encourage affordable housing.

McGary moved to place the ordinance on the agenda in two weeks. Later, he amended it to 30 days so the city attorney's office could study the legalities more.

But within minutes after Griffith walked out the door, the council started questioning the ordinance.

"We need to find where we stand legally on this issue," Councilman Jack Benson said.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson said she was afraid of "ghettoizing" the downtown area.

"It's a question of whether we have the right to restrict on socio-economic levels," she said.

In other news, the council approved 8-0 on Tuesday the expansion of a parking lot at Wilkins Research Services on Gunbarrel Road. The market research company, however, will not be able to put an entrance gate on adjacent Joiner Road as it had in original plans.

Residents of an adjacent neighborhood protested the gated entrance because of concerns about increased traffic.

Contact staff writer Cliff High-tower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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