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VOL. 128 | NO. 73 | Monday, April 15, 2013

Commission Weighs Tall Trees Sale

By Bill Dries

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The sale of the old Tall Trees juvenile detention facility, zoning code changes to account for trucks with four back tires and a possible revote on legal fees in the schools consolidation case top the Shelby County Commission agenda for Monday, April 15.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

On the commission’s agenda is the sale of 9.78 acres of land at 3335 Old Getwell Road, site of the old Tall Trees juvenile detention facility.

County Commissioners recently received a briefing on the Crosstown development. 

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The commission votes on a resolution to sell the surplus county land to Errick Farmer for $125,000. The land was declared surplus by the county when Tall Trees closed in 2004. Later the county sold it at auction for $285,000 but the purchaser did not close on the deal. It was relisted at $200,000 in the bid process but Farmer’s $125,000 was the highest bid the county got.

County officials have said Farmer intends to use the site for the program Young Builders of America, a program that trains people to work in the construction trades.

Up for third and final reading is the latest ordinance amending the Unified Development code for Memphis and unincorporated areas of Shelby County.

The code, adopted by the city and county governments in 2012, is reviewed semi-annually for amendments.

The set of nine amendments on Monday’s commission agenda include a change to the code section that prohibits vehicles of more than 8,000 pounds from being parked or stored on residential properties. The amendment makes an exception for dualies – pickup trucks with four wheels on the rear axle.

Another lifts the requirement that mobile homes get a special-use permit and replaces that permit with a conditional-use permit. The CUP takes a month compared to a four- to five-month process for the special use permit.

And another amendment makes clear that a second application for a rezoning, special use or planned development at the same location can’t be made for at least 18 months after the first application is rejected, doesn’t get enough votes to pass or an appeal is rejected whichever is later.

The recommendations have been approved by the Land Use Control Board and go to the Memphis City Council for approval on third and final reading on Tuesday.

Josh Whitehead, of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, said another set of amendments should be coming in May or June.

The commission could also move Monday to reconsider its decision two weeks ago to reject transferring $103,889 from its contingency fund to pay its legal fees from the schools consolidation lawsuit in Memphis federal court.

The resolution failed two weeks ago by one vote to get the seven votes it needed. Commissioner Walter Bailey, who would have been the seventh vote, was out of the room at the time, and other commissioners favoring the resolution tried to reconsider the matter but failed.

“It’s the wrong vote if you think you’re making a statement,” Bailey told commissioners opposed to the commission’s push in court to prevent suburban school districts.

“It’s all about attendance,” countered Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

The item could be reconsidered Monday when the commission approves the minutes of that meeting.

Meanwhile, commissioners got a briefing last week on the Crosstown development centered on the old Sears Crosstown building.

Commissioner Steve Basar asked the principals to make the same presentation they made two weeks ago to the Memphis City Council.

The City Hall presentation included a pitch for $15 million in city funding for infrastructure on and around the site. The pitch to the commission, which also included the same “ask,” came the same day county government began its budget season.

The bottom line of the opening budget presentation is the commission is considering a recertified property tax rate of 33 cents more just to generate the same amount of revenue county government gets from the existing rate of $4.02.

“There are certain funding elements that right now are being proposed,” Basar said cautiously as he introduced the Crosstown developers. “I’m not making a formal proposal here for us to do any kind of funding. But I would ask that commissioners keep their minds open. … I think the key is that we want to see this project happen.”

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