The future of a controversial apartment complex in Johnson City is up in the air again. The Johnson City Commission has been forced to decide, for a second time, whether or not to re-zone the old General Mills property to allow an apartment complex to be built in its place.
They passed all three readings needed to approve the project but that decision has now been thrown out.
We're told the public hearing on the project wasn't announced in the newspaper prior to the second reading. It's a violation of state law.
The commissioners will now have to go through all three readings again. They took the first step in that process on Thursday night as they voted on the first reading.
Commissioners Jeff Banyas and Jenny Brock voted to pass the ordinance, along with Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin. Vice Mayor Clayton Stout and Commissioner David Tomita voted against it.
There were members of the Tree Streets neighborhood at the meeting. The residents have opposed the re-zoning since the idea reached city hall.
"We'd love to see some parts of it, or all of it, restored to its original beauty," said Jodi Jones, the president of the Southside Neighborhood Organization.
Jones told us she was disappointed by the commission's original decision.
The re-zoning allowed the Chamber of Commerce, who owns the site, to move forward with their plans to bring in a developer who would build a 216-unit apartment complex where the mill now stands.
Jones told us they hope to reverse that decision and preserve, what she called, a historic landmark.
"This time we have a chance to spotlight that and look at what are the options for preserving the mill, what could that property look like, how could that property be funded," she said
A lack of funding was one of the problems the commission had with the neighborhood's plans to preserve the mill.
Jones told us that's why they've spent the last month discussing solutions.
"We've talked about even some crazy ideas like a small tax for people who live around the property that they might be willing to contribute to do something different with it," she said.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Mabrey told us it shouldn't come to that.
"We have no reason to think it's not going to go through, the three readings aren't going to pass the way they did the first time they were read," he said.
Mabrey told us that's why they're moving forward with their plans.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "We have a binding contract, confidentiality agreement. [We] plan on developing just as soon as we get through these readings, in due diligence, and the project is ongoing."
The next hearing on this ordinance will not be until June 5. A public hearing on the project will also be held that night.
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