Council approves Addie Street rezoning in split decision

Published 9:45 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

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The LaGrange City Council has approved a rezoning request that will allow for a commercial and apartment development to be built near the corner of Addie Street and Ware Street.

Applicant Phillip Abbott requested that four parcels totaling approximately 1.1 acres be rezoned from Traditional Neighborhood Residential (TN-R) to Traditional Neighborhood Mixed Use (TN-MX) to combine four parcels for a mixed-use development.

According to City Planner Mark Kostial, the applicant wants to build approximately 21 apartments in conjunction with ground-floor commercial units within the next 24 to 36 months.

The Board of Planning and Zoning Appeals unanimously recommended the rezoning on Feb. 12 and the proposed development aligns with the city’s comprehensive plan for the area, which has a character designation as traditional neighborhood redevelopment. Among the permitted land uses include multifamily residential, neighborhood commercial and mixed-use.

No one spoke in favor or against the rezoning request during a public hearing on March 12. However, Kostial said that he had communicated with individuals in favor of the project, including receiving a letter from Thomasina Thornton, owner of Teaching Loving Caring daycare center at 411 E Depot Street, who strongly supports rezoning the parcel.

Council Member Leon Childs questioned Thornton’s support, saying she told him the exact opposite but acknowledged she could have changed her mind. Kostial said that he had received the letter signed by Thornton Tuesday morning and copies were provided to the council.

Childs himself voiced opposition to the rezoning change, saying it would have a negative impact on the community because it would potentially displace residents in the area.

“Growth in our city is inevitable. I support it 100%,” Childs said. “Development and growth, I am not anti either one of those. I support all of this. What I don’t support is displacement of families and children from a location that they have been out of their lives.”

Childs reiterated that he isn’t against growth, he’s against gentrification and displacement.

“Gentrification is the process whereby the character of a poor neighborhood is changed by wealthier people moving in and improving housing and attracting new businesses, typically displacing the current residents and inhabitants in that process,” Childs said. “It causes displacement when longtime or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrifying area because of higher rents, higher mortgages and higher property taxes.”

Child suggested that the city fight gentrification by decommodifying housing by investing more in public and social housing.

“When we invest more in public and social housing and supporting the community from subsidized mechanisms and tenant-owned models, we ensure that safe and affordable housing is available to all that needs it,” Childs said.

Councilman Mark Mitchell noted that all four lots in question are currently vacant lots, which Kostial confirmed.

Mitchell also confirmed with Kostial that the property is currently zoned residential, so the owner can put a $500,000 house at the location without any need for rezoning.

Childs said his worry is that residents in the area currently pay $400 or $500 per month for rent, and he doesn’t want them to be displaced by new apartments with $1,500 rent or $300,000 homes.

“I don’t want anyone to be deceived. That’s what’s happening over there,” Childs said.

In the end, the council approved the rezoning 3-1, with Childs as the lone dissenting vote.