Living facility plans receive tentative OK

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The assisted living facility that developer Gayle Evans isattempting to build in downtown Brookhaven is becoming something ofits own long-term project.

Tuesday morning, the Brookhaven Board of Adjustments approvedthe facility to be built on Monticello Street across from the InezHotel, allowing for a height variance as well as the possibility ofsome short-term living facilities on the ground floor. The actionwill be presented to the Board of Aldermen for final approval atits next meeting.

Adjustment board members Tuesday were not as worried about theheight limit of 55 feet or five floors in the city, although theplanned facility might be around 66 feet. What concerned them wasthe first-floor bedrooms, they said.

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Chance Evans, who is working on the project with his father,said the downstairs bedrooms are an integral part of the financialstability of the facility once it gets up and running.

“We need those rooms to make the building a success, becauseevery room is accounted for financially,” he said.

Board member Dave Pace pointed out that this could causeproblems because other downtown businesses are not allowed to havefirst-floor tenants. This led to some discussion of the possibleproblems of the issue, including that it could be a hit on theeconomy of the city.

“A downtown apartment can make more in rent in a month than aretail space,” said board member Leroy Hewitt. “That’s why we’verefused everyone that’s applied for it.”

Philip Shaw, of Shaw Design Group, said that their hope is thatthe first floor apartments will be used for temporary tenants, suchas those who come to utilize the rehab facilities that will also belocated on the bottom floor.

“This will be a functional thing, for the people using thefacility for rehabilitation,” he said. “They will stay there, butit’s not for permanent residence. They’ll stay a month or so untilthey’re rehabilitated enough to go home.”

Pace pushed Shaw and the Evanses to assure the board that therooms will not be used for permanent residences.

“If we go to bat for this, we need something to bat with,” hesaid. “We need a commitment that these will be non-permanentrooms.”

Chance Evans told Pace that it was the intention of developersto make sure that the rooms were eventually just for temporaryresidents. Hewitt explained that the board only has so much power,and that they needed to be able to trust the Evanses’assertions.

“Once a decision is made, it’s final,” he said. “We can’treverse it, we can’t check behind you to make sure you’re doingwhat you said you were going to do. We’re not authorized to reversethis decision or police this decision, so we need to make sure thedecision we make is the right one.”

Gayle Evans told the board that if they didn’t feel likeapproving his facility, he would take his money elsewhere and buildsomething else. Chance Evans pointed out that Brookhaven is hisfamily’s hometown and they want to see it benefit from theirproject.

“If we don’t have this, it’s not here for Brookhaven,” he said.”We’re here to do something that would move this city forward, notbackwards.”

Pace made the motion to accept the plan only on theunderstanding that the seven downstairs rooms are to be used fortherapy and other non-permanent residents. Mike Clark seconded themotion, and it passed unanimously.

“I think this worked out well,” said Board of AdjustmentsChairman Joyce Asken said, adding that coming into the meeting sheexpected the board to be opposed to the project. “With a littlemore information, when they assured us that there would only betemporary on the first floor, that swung the vote.”