After a month and a half of indecision, elected officials will meet Monday in search of a path forward for an embattled housing project near the fairgrounds.
The Town Council and Board of County Commissioners will attempt to agree on how much housing — if any — to build at 440 W. Kelly, a site surrounded by vigilant neighbors wary of the proposed dense apartments.
The latest option, and perhaps the most politically viable so far, is a 12-unit design that would offer the same number of bedrooms overall as an earlier proposal for 16 units, which failed in July amid opposition from those who live near the property.
With the ever-looming shortage of affordable accommodations in Jackson, housing officials seem increasingly eager to find a solution.
“Time is of the essence if we are to break ground on a project next year,” states a report to elected officials on the new proposal. “And with over 1,000 households representing almost 2,300 people on the Intake Form the demand for safe, stable housing persists for many of our working households.”
But a contingent of vocal neighbors argues that the new 12-unit design recommended by the Affordable Housing Department is, in some ways, a step backwards. Though it contains fewer units, it is larger in square footage than the 16-unit design, leading them to deem number of units a poor metric.
“It’s really more a question of the bulk and scale and appropriateness to the neighborhood,” said Michael Stern, who lives across the street. “It’s about what fits the context.”
He and other neighbors acknowledged that fewer units may mean fewer cars and less traffic, but they said that it would be unfair and imprudent for elected officials to approve “the mysterious 12-unit building” before the neighbors have seen what it would look like.
Since the town and county first found themselves at odds over the project, both have pursued other options on their own. Last month the councilors considered whether to buy out the county’s portion of the property and move ahead with the 16-unit design, for which they had enough votes; or concede to a 12-unit design, a prospect the commissioners seemed more open to.
On the county side, Commissioner Luther Propst last month suggested starting from scratch and inviting Habitat for Humanity to submit its own design for the project. If Habitat built something akin to its recent work at The Grove, that would likely appease many neighbors.
However, any decision on the property’s future will require consensus from both boards. They will meet at 2 p.m. Monday in the commissioners chambers with that goal.