Brownfield Redevelopment Plan voted down by Three Rivers City Commission 

Brian Farkas, director of workforce housing for Allen Edwin, speaks during the Three Rivers City Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 18. (Frank Stanko|Watershed Voice)

The Three Rivers City Commission rejected the proposed Brownfield Redevelopment Plan #7 with a 2-3 vote Tuesday, June 18. The vote came after an hour of discussion, including an increasing number of conversations among and interruptions from the audience.

“This is a very complicated issue and we’re being asked to make a big decision,” Mayor Tom Lowry said. “I don’t like part of (the plan), but I like big parts of it.” 

“For such a big decision, how come we don’t have a full staff?” asked Lynn Hall McLeod, a resident who spoke earlier in the meeting. 

“Please, please – ma’am, that’s not how this works. We’re doing our discussion now and (will make) our determination with a vote,” Lowry said.  

Watershed Voice previously reported that the Brownfield Redevelopment Plan #7 was unanimously approved by the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority on May 9. It allows for helping reimburse developer Allen Edwin for non-environmental costs associated with the development of housing units priced for income qualified households. 

“We need new housing in the city,” Lowry said Tuesday. “When I add it all together, I’m comfortable voting in favor of this project, knowing that it’s not perfect. Because, in my mind, housing had to be (advancing).” 

The City of Three Rivers estimates the total eligible costs for the project are $2,868,776, Watershed Voice previously reported. As part of Plan #7, Edwin would be able to claim reimbursement for eligible housing development activities as well as site preparation and infrastructure improvements necessary for the new housing development. 

Voting for Plan #7 were Lowry and Fourth District Commissioner Carolyn McNary. Voting against Plan #7 were First District Commissioner Pat Dane, At-Large Commissioner Lucas Allen, and Second District Commissioner Steven Haigh. At-Large Commissioner Torrey Brown and Third District Commissioner Chris Abel were absent from the meeting. 

A handful of the nearly 30 audience members spoke Tuesday, including Hall McLeod. Affordable housing is needed, she said. 

“But when you have a town that has no industry – there’s no jobs here – and your schools are failing. The enrollment is failing, and you’re putting up $3,100 a month (rental) housing. How many families are you gonna have living in these houses, where the road, the egress to get into the neighborhood is right through a senior housing community?” Hall McLeod asked. 

Hall McLeod questioned why the Brownfield Redevelopment Plan #7 land could not remain allocated for senior housing. Later in the meeting, she and Commissioner McNary separately talked about keeping residents fully informed about and engaged in projects. 

“This planning has been going on for almost a year now,” McNary said. “We as a commission have been all, pro, ‘Let’s go,’ or else we wouldn’t be here today. I’m surprised that we’re here at this point now.” 

The Three Rivers City Commission thought it was a good idea to have a better housing community, McNary said. The city wants to grow and attract new industry and residents. 

“We’re looking at a future here, not just what’s going on right now. I’m speaking in defense, because I’ve been sitting here for years and I never said, ‘No, don’t do it.’ What I do want to say is that we have to look out for the community that was already there. Their requests should mean a lot (in terms of) how you build and when you build,” McNary said. 

Following the failed vote, Hall McLeod proposed having a coalition including senior residents to allow for more communication. No action was taken Tuesday on this idea. The meeting’s other speakers included Brian Farkas, director of workforce housing for Allen Edwin. 

“As evidenced by our record that the mayor spoke about, we absolutely love Three Rivers,” Farkas said. “We plan on staying here for a long time and keep on building, whether it’s infill lots in neighborhoods that have been forgotten about or whether it’s new development, we’re really trying to grow Three Rivers.” 

The next Three Rivers City Commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 2.