Planning Commission denies recommendation for Five Points apartments

Every seat in the Sam King Room of City Hall was filled Thursday for a public hearing on an application to build apartments on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Rome-Floyd Planning Commission is recommending denial of a proposed apartment building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that is supported by local development officials.

The Sam King Room at Rome City Hall was packed Thursday with people who came to speak for and against the application. Plans call for merging and rezoning five parcels at MLK Boulevard and Gibbons Street for the project.

Patrick Cash wants to zone the 1.6-acre area for Urban Mixed Use development and build a 36-unit apartment building. He said the units would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedrooms and the rent would be in the range of $1,300 a month.

“Rome is starved for housing and this would be stepping out of the box,” Cash said.

Several development professionals spoke in support, citing a recent affordable housing summit and a public-private committee formed to address the need.

“This is exactly what we’ve been talking about for the last year,” said Missy Kendrick, director of the Rome-Floyd Development Authority. “We’ve all been looking for a solution and this project checks a lot of our boxes.”

Local real estate agent Bill Temple said the location is good and it would spur development in North Rome as well.

However, several neighbors on Gibbons Street were in opposition, saying an apartment complex like that would be too dense.

Iris Kennebrew, who has lived on the street for most of her life, talked about the history associated with the Five Points area.

The area centered around North Broad Street and MLK Boulevard at one time housed the majority of the Black-owned businesses in Rome. Kennebrew said a large apartment complex wouldn’t fit the character of the district.

Planning Commission member Charles Love also commented on the history of the area, saying that while there is a need for housing, they have to consider the concern of the residents in that area.

In the past, he said, the planning commission has tried to protect historical areas and neighborhoods such as Five Points. A recent example is the opposition of Summerville Park residents that derailed a proposed Sleep Inn.

“We need to defer to the concern of the community and preserve our historic neighborhoods,” Love said. “It’s not a good fit for the community and you have people who live there worrying about their property values going up and there comes another word we don’t like to hear: gentrification.”

Member Steve Miller pointed out that they haven’t always held up the concern for a community, citing an application they approved for a convenience store on Burnett Ferry Road that many of the neighbors opposed.

Member Ivy Lowery agreed with Miller, saying the current zoning already allows a variety of developments, such as a hotel.

“Housing would greatly serve that community,” Miller said.

Other planning commission members expressed concern about the lack of parking in the area. Under the current plans, Cash has just one and a half parking spaces per unit.

While Lowery and Miller made a motion to recommend approval, a majority of the citizen board disagreed.

The project is recommended for denial without prejudice, meaning Cash wouldn’t have to wait a year before resubmitting an application.

It will go before the Rome City Commission for a public hearing and vote on May 25 at 6 p.m.

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