Aldermen reject living facility for downtown

Published 5:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen shot down the idea for anassisted living home on the corner of Whitworth Avenue andMonticello Street at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The decision, though, did not come without some controversy.

Developer Gayle Evans was on hand to make one last appeal to theboard for his project, which he had amended to meet the concernsthe board had voiced in recent meetings. Because the cost ofbuilding on the property could be prohibitive, Evans pointed outthere had not been substantial interest in the corner lot since theoriginal buildings on it burned last May.

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“It’s going to take a building like mine to do something overthere,” he said. “So far nobody’s built there because it would costtoo much.”

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates voiced concerns over zoning,saying he felt new zoning due to the annexation could become aproblem.

“We have to be very careful about where we put things,” hesaid.

Evans said he didn’t see zoning to be an issue because theassisted living home would be a business as well.

“There would be offices in there, a dining room, laundry -everything y’all got in a city, I’ve got in a building,” he said.”I even made it so we wouldn’t have to use city parking.”

Evans said he didn’t care to build such a project in Brookhavenif he couldn’t build it on the corner of Whitworth and Monticello.He said he’d looked at several other locations, and found them allto be unsatisfactory for one reason or another.

“If I can’t build it there, just scratch it. I’ve gotten too oldto fight,” said Evans, who is in his 70s. “Either you want it oryou don’t.”

City Attorney Joe Fernald asked Evans what the city would dowith the specialized building if the assisted living project fellthrough. Evans replied that it could be rented for office space andapartments.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes told the board she had tosupport Evans’ proposal based on the respect he had shown them inamending his plans to meet their specifications, in addition toother criteria.

“When this gentleman came to us, we had several objections. Andout of respect for the fact that he has responded to our requestsand that that building (space) will be empty for a long time …I’d like to make a motion to support this,” Estes said.

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson seconded Estes’ motion.

Estes also pointed out Brookhaven’s need for assistedliving.

She said the city needs assisted living. And while the currentproposal may not be in the preferred spot, she contended it wouldbe a positive thing for Brookhaven.

“I have seen assisted living that is done right and it can be agreat asset to a community,” she said.

The board voted 4-2 to disallow Evans’ project, with Estes andWilson voting for it.

“Well, you’ve eased my mind,” said Evans, saying he was glad tofinally be done with the controversy.

In other activity Tuesday, local bike enthusiast Frank Moak camebefore the board to remind them that time has almost arrived forthe Seventh Annual Human Performance Center Mississippi Gran PrixBike Race. Moak asked the board for permission to use the citystreets on the night of Friday, April 18, for the first part of thethree-day event.

He said he had spoken with Police Chief Pap Henderson aboutarrangements and that the event was current insurance-wise. He saidhe was just asking the city to sweep the streets the night beforethe event so they would be clean for the bikers to use.

The race is held annually in Brookhaven on a night in April,with Saturday’s leg of the race held on county roads and Sunday’sleg held at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Also Tuesday, Fernald presented an amended version of thesmoking ordinance he had written for aldermen to peruse at ameeting March 7. He said most of the changes he had made wereminor, and that so far the ordinance still does not addresspunishment for violators.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said he had spoken with a localrestaurant owner who has a separate smoking section who “wants tobe left alone.”

The alderman’s comments led to another discussion of opting inand out of the ordinance, with Maxwell saying he felt it wasdefeating the purpose to make it “too easy for someone to optout.”

Alderman at-large Les Bumgarner said he disagreed.

“If someone puts their blood, sweat and tears into a business,I’d be hard-pressed to tell them they can’t make the choice,” hesaid.

Fernald told aldermen that they were simply setting up astatutory scheme to enforce if business owners wanted to bansmoking in their own businesses.