VOL. 127 | NO. 216 | Monday, November 5, 2012
Bartlett Zoning Case Tops Commission Agenda
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners take up a proposed assisted living facility at their meeting Monday, Nov. 5, that doesn’t yet require approval from the city of Bartlett but which is in an area Bartlett is seeking to annex.
The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.
The facility to be built on the southwest corner of Baylor and Brunswick Roads has drawn opposition from nearby Bartlett residents and different conditions from Bartlett officials than those required by Memphis and Shelby County government planning bodies.
The planned development proposal drew a rejection recommendation from the Land Use Control Board and has been delayed several times.
During committee sessions last week, the project founds its way onto the active political fault line between suburban and urban interests.
Attorney Ricky E. Wilkins, representing the owner, Mary Louise Knight, brought a group of supporters of the development to the committee session chaired by Commissioner Terry Roland.
Wilkins asked the supporters to stand.
“Do y’all live there or do you work in that area?” Roland asked. “If you work there, sit down. We want to know if you live around that area.”
Roland and several other commissioners wanted to know how much Knight has spent pursuing the zoning application she first submitted in May. Wilkins said he would have the documents at Monday’s meeting. Roland pressed Wilkins for the information.
“Perhaps you didn’t hear me,” Wilkins said. “I don’t have them with me now. … If there are issues that come up Monday and we need to provide documentation we will do it.”
Roland said he was “kind of insulted by the way you are saying, ‘I think we can.’ Either you do or you don’t.”
Wilkins’ position is that the project has been delayed to meet standards that don’t apply until or unless Bartlett annexes the area in its annexation reserve area.
“Today the city of Memphis and Shelby County are the governing bodies for this application,” Wilkins said. “Not the city of Bartlett. Let’s be clear about that.”
The area is in Roland’s district. “Therefore, I am going to get to the bottom of everything and find out everything about everything,” Roland added. “I just want to find out what all of the connections are.”
Commissioner Sidney Chism said the “browbeating” about finances was inappropriate and unfair.
Other commissioners, including some who had concerns about the project, apologized to the applicant.
“It deteriorated to the point that it is making a mockery of the process,” said commissioner Wyatt Bunker. “It’s an embarrassment what happened to you all today.”
The commission will also vote Monday on a contract to sell 33.6 acres of land in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park to Carolyn E. Hardy and the Hardy Investment Trust for $403,980.
Hardy is buying the land at a fair market price of $12,000 an acre from the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission to store and stage modular freight containers.
Meanwhile, Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham is asking the commission for $2 million in funding for new sheriff’s deputies to serve as school resource officers in the consolidated Shelby County Schools system.
The request is not on the commission’s agenda Monday. The commission delayed for two weeks a vote Wednesday on Oldham’s request, which would be funded from the county’s fund balance.
But Oldham is certain to be back for a decision he told commissioners last week is needed now because the countywide school board doesn’t plan to select a merger superintendent until February.
“That’s five more months. I cannot wait,” Oldham said. “We have to move forward and be prepared.” That starts with a deputy recruit training class in January.
Oldham said he is still talking with city officials and Memphis Police Department brass about some kind of collaboration on schools security.
His concern is that the talks won’t go very far and he will have the sole responsibility for schools security in a single countywide system.
Chism shared his outlook about city cooperation.
“They want to get out of this business,” he said. “I don’t care what they tell you, they are going to drag their feet. … They know that we have the responsibility of taking care of this problem.”
County Commissioner Melvin Burgess argued that the board doesn’t have to select a superintendent for Oldham to move ahead with plans.
“I don’t think a superintendent has to be in place when you are talking about security and academic achievement,” said Burgess who is director of internal audit for Memphis City Schools. “Get to it and get your plan together. We can’t wait for them to hire a superintendent.”