Update: Chattanooga City Council gives OK for Mayor Berke to negotiate purchase of Tubman complex

Update: Chattanooga City Council gives OK for Mayor Berke to negotiate purchase of Tubman complex

August 6th, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith and Ellis Smith in Local - Breaking News

The Chattanooga Housing Authority's Harriet Tubman complex in East Chattanooga sits vacant.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Mayor Andy Berke

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

The City Council voted tonight to give Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke the green light to start negotiating to purchase the former Harriet Tubman housing complex.

The vote was 8 to 1 with Councilman Ken Smith casting the dissenting vote.


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Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke unexpectedly accelerated a plan to buy the derelict Harriet Tubman complex, with a sudden substitution this morning.

Berke's staff changed the language in a resolution that would have authorized the city to write a letter of intent, adding language that would allow officials to immediately open negotiations with the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Randy Durham, former head of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, said the small change makes a big legal difference.

"If you present a written offer you've got a deal your bound by it," Durham said. "A letter of intent has no binding authority."

The surprise change came on the heels of a statement Monday by Berke's spokeswoman Lacie Stone, who said the mayor's intention was simply to get the process moving.

The request comes weeks before the council will even vote on the budget, which contains the proposal to buy the Harriet Tubman housing for $1 million.

Chief of Staff Travis McDonough said the change in the resolution language was meant to avoid confusion but doesn't speed up the process to purchase the complex.