VOL. 132 | NO. 147 | Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Overton Gateway Compromise Approved By Council
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members approved the Overton Gateway mixed residential development Tuesday, July 25 in a pair of unanimous votes – one for the plans on the north side of Sam Cooper Boulevard at East Parkway and the other for the plans on the south side of Sam Cooper at East Parkway.
The original plans calling for five-story apartment buildings with single-family homes on 6.5 acres combined were rejected by the Land Use Control Board and drew vocal opposition from homeowners in the Lea’s Woods subdivision, which is a historic district whose guidelines prohibit anything over two stories.
Developers Makowsky Ringel Greenberg LLC and homeowners opposed to the project met in a process mediated by council member Worth Morgan, whose district includes the land on the eastern side of Overton Park.
The compromise took the maximum height of the buildings down to three stories, increased on-site parking spaces. And it also included a statement that the council’s approval of a development that violated the land use guidelines of the historic district would not be considered a precedent for such development in other historic neighborhoods.
That eased opposition from several other Midtown neighborhoods that have historic neighborhood status.
The council also upped the lump sum bonus the city of Memphis will pay a group of 14 surviving sanitation workers who were on the city payroll in 1968 when sanitation workers went on strike.
The initial proposal from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland earlier this month was a $50,000 bonus to each of the workers with the city paying the taxes on the bonus.
The bonus is an effort to close the gap between the Social Security plan sanitation workers chose in 1968 in the strike settlement and the city pension the same workers turned down. The city tried in the 1990s to convert sanitation workers to the city pension system but were told by attorneys the 1968 decision was irrevocable.
The wording of the resolution said four of the 14 who are still working for the city would collect their bonuses upon their retirement. The administration said that was a mistake and sought to correct it with an amendment.
The council considered that but ultimately came up with a different amendment that pays each of the 14 workers $70,000 net after taxes. The four still on the city payroll get the bonuses immediately. A city-matched supplemental retirement plan for sanitation workers who came later remains in place from the first resolution two weeks ago.
In council committee sessions Tuesday, the council heard a plan by former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton to buy the old city auto inspection station Downtown and build a new “state of the art” school with detention center for juvenile offenders.
The proposal to buy the city facility and land at market price is an adaptation of “New Path” campuses and schools Herenton proposed several years ago for juvenile offenders.
The auto inspection station property is near Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court and Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael has met with Herenton about the idea and is supportive.
City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen says the administration is researching the fair market value of the property and developing a contract for the sale to take to the council. There is no specific date for that to happen.
Council chairman Berlin Boyd put his move to abolish the Urban Arts Commission on hold Tuesday in favor of tighter oversight of the UAC’s public art program that is one percent of city expenditures on capital projects.
Boyd held up the city’s annual funding of the commission and talked of moving the public art program to the city’s Parks and Neighborhoods Division instead. But Parks and Neighborhoods Director Maria Munoz Blanco outlined two alternatives – that and tighter controls and more accountability measures by the city including the use of more local artists.
Boyd said he was willing to see how the city oversight of UAC developed and worked. Council member Worth Morgan said he would move to restore $650,000 in city funding to the commission once the new rules are in place.
The council delayed to the first meeting in August a vote Tuesday on a convenience store with gas pumps on South Parkway at Interstate 240. The council approved plans for a used car lot at 2514 Mount Moriah Road, the site of the old Platinum Plus strip club. In other action, the council set an Aug. 8 public hearing and vote on the KNM Development Group LLC hotel proposed for 404 Beale Street.
The council also approved $565,000 in capital funding for the city’s build-out of its space in the Universal Life Insurance Building at Danny Thomas Boulevard and Martin Luther King Avenue. The renovated building with Egyptian-style architectural flourishes is to be a location of the city’s minority business development offices.
And the council approved on third and final reading an ordinance that drops the $125 fee for having a boot removed from cars for parking illegally on private parking lots to a maximum of $50. It also sets a time limit on boot companies to come and remove the boot once a car owner finds the device on his or her vehicle.