A church-led development project to provide subsidized housing for area seniors moved forward Tuesday night with an initial vote to rezone land off North Moore Road.
Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church is proposing rezoning approximately 3 acres south of the church to build a 63-unit apartment building for independent seniors.
Seven of the Chattanooga City Council's nine members voted to move forward on rezoning the land, with Vice Chairwoman Raquetta Dotley, of East Lake, voting against the measure. Councilman Isiah Hester, of Washington Hills, whose district the project would be in, abstained.
The council had deferred its decision for two weeks during its May 10 meeting, asking the church to take more time to meet with concerned community members.
The church's plan has faced opposition in the previous two months, with community members voicing concerns about water displacement, traffic safety and a lack of community engagement on the project. There were also allegations the church is using the project to make money. The original application had sought to build a 79-unit building.
The main funding source for the project would be low-income housing tax credits distributed by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties is helping develop the project, secure the tax funding and would manage the property.
Dotley said her vote against the measure was due to Pennrose's history managing other area housing projects, including the Villages at Alton Park.
"The history of Pennrose in District 7 is just so horrible that I just can't support that," Dotley said. "So, I just wanted to make sure that was on the record."
A representative from Pennrose was present for the meeting but did not address the council.
The rezoning application moved forward after the May 10 deferral with an agreement the developer would install a 6-foot landscape buffer around the property that would be planted with hollies that would be at least 6 feet in height.
Councilman Chip Henderson, of Lookout Valley, said he would like to see affordable housing projects include parts that better serve the health of residents, such as installing a health clinic at the nearby Brainerd recreation center or creating a farmers market at the center to serve area residents. The proposed housing development would be in a food desert, meaning it has limited access to affordable and fresh food.
"I understand that we want to keep these units affordable, but affordability is also linked with good health, well-being," Henderson said. "We don't want to isolate our seniors. We want them to get out, be able to move around. And I think those are some of the things we look at as we move forward in the development."
Council Chairman Darrin Ledford, of East Brainerd, said rezoning the land is only one part of the development process, and there will be more opportunities for public input.
The rezoning application will be up for final consideration during the council's May 31 meeting.