CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A rezoning hearing on property in a North Cleveland neighborhood drew more than 20 residents in opposition and divided the Cleveland City Council on Monday.
After the hearing, the council voted 4-2 in favor of changing property located at 250 Ramsey St. from single-family residential to multifamily residential, enabling D&S Custom Homes to build a 14-unit upscale townhome development on the site.
Vice Mayor Avery Johnson and Councilmen Richard Banks, Bill Estes and Dale Hughes approved the measure. Councilmen David May and George Poe opposed it, and Councilman Charlie McKenzie passed on the vote.
Nearby property owners expressed concerns that the townhomes quickly would add another transient population of renters to their community, which is nestled in a corner between Ocoee Street and Stuart Road.
"I hate to use this word, but I feel like our neighborhood has literally been raped over years and years," resident Jeanne Goins said before the vote. "Every time there is a vacant lot or a house gets torn down, everybody wants to come in and build apartments."
A petition with more than 100 signatures was presented in opposition to the rezoning, and the city's planning board narrowly recommended the change to the City Council by a 5-4 vote.
The developer, Dustin Hawkins of D&S Custom Homes, tried to address residents' concerns about the nature of his proposed venture.
"I have no intent in going in there and building rental property," Hawkins said. "My intent is to build luxury homes here."
However, if the property could not be rezoned so he could build the luxury townhomes, Hawkins said, he had little choice but to develop the site as rental house property for another client. That project would entail five units and likely bring in more people and vehicles than his proposed upscale development.
Resident Diane Mason countered that Hawkins, in fact, had other options for developing the property. She said real estate professionals told her that smaller homes -- like the ones already in the neighborhood -- would be easy to sell.
A number of residents cited similarities between Hawkins' proposal and the one made for apartments located on nearby Northcrest Circle about 30 years ago.
Those apartments were intended to be luxury homes, they said, but have long since gone over to renters, with few owners actually left. Area residents long have complained about crime-related problems associated with the 30-year-old development.
Hawkins said he could not guarantee that the young professional population -- the target buyer for his town homes -- would restrict subletting, but he thought it would be in their interest.
Hughes said a townhome development is a much better option for the neighborhood.
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