A rezoning measure that will allow the development of 99 new townhomes and four single-family lots located south of Drivers Lane and east of Lorraine Drive was narrowly passed last week by the Gallatin City Council.
With a vote of 3-3, Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown, who only votes in the event of a tie, cast the fourth yes vote to move the project known as Laurelwood Park forward.
The measure called for rezoning 25 acres from Medium Density to MRO – Multiple Residential and Office, along with approval of a Preliminary Master Development Plan.
It was previously recommended by the Gallatin Planning Commission and passed Feb. 7 by the City Council on first reading.
Voting yes along with Brown were councilmembers Eileen George, Stephen Carter and Steve Fann. Casting ‘no’ votes were councilmembers Pascal Jouvence, Craig Hayes and Vice Mayor Lynda Bradley Love. Councilman Shawn Fennell abstained from the vote.
“I don’t think that project fits there,” Jouvence said. “There is a right development to put there and it’s not townhouses.”
“I agree and I don’t feel it fits the surrounding neighborhood,” Love added. “We’ve got lots of townhomes – we’ve got lots of apartments. I would rather see the higher density closer to downtown – but close to the lake, I want to keep land available for people where there’s already houses with yards. That’s what I feel like should stay there.”
Fann was one of the four in support of the project.
“I am going to vote for this project because it fits in with what I heard from that district,” Fann said. “I think it will upgrade the neighborhood and get them better retail.”
Brown said she believed the development was needed in the city’s current housing market.
“I’m perplexed because people keep talking about affordable housing (and) affordability doesn’t just happen because a developer wants to do something nice,” Brown said. “I believe the influx of townhomes has happened because there are people that actually want the townhomes for their lifestyle and affordability.”
David Johnson, a resident of Drivers Lane spoke during public comments saying he believed this was the wrong way to utilize the property.
“We are becoming the city of townhomes, apartments and million-dollar houses,” Johnson said. “It’s great to grow but we are losing our identity. It is not a place where the middle class can live. To buy a (new) townhome, you are looking at about $300,000. This is not affordable.”