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Citizens pack city hall for hearing on apartment building rezoning

May 24, 2021–8:52 p.m.


A rezoning request for a proposed 36-unit apartment building in the Five Points area failed to garner enough votes for approval during Monday night’s Rome City Commission meeting.

The rezoning for several properties on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Gibbons Street came to the full city commission with a recommendation to deny from the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission.

The applicant, Patrick Cash said he believes this is a great time for a project such as this.

“Rome is in dire need of housing, as most of you know as you look around and look around and see,” Cash added.

Walt Busby, who is a local developer, was asked to serve on a special committee on housing.

“In a crisis area, we identified three areas during our first meeting that we wanted to address,” Busby said.  “One was high-density, one was minimum lot size, and the other was infill lots that are available.  Patrick has brought forth a project that hits every one of those ideas that we are trying to achieve.”

However, planning staff expressed concerns that the development alters the character of the area and is of inappropriate size and scale.

Residents of the area, like Iris Kinnebew, spoke against the rezoning.

“Five Points is a historical area,” she said.  “Putting a three-story building there is, in my opinion, is not something that should be done.  It’s going to mess up the flow of traffic.”

Pastor Bernard Youn with the Thankful Baptist Church, spoke on behalf of some of his parishioners.

“What we are asking of you tonight is to give us the same concern, the same respect, and the same honor as those in the Oakdene Community, the East Rome Community between the rivers, Summerville Park, and the Celanese and Riverside Communities,” he said.  “We are asking for that same decency, that same respect, and that same honor.”

The vote by the city commission was tied 4-4 but it needed five votes for approval.

Commissioners Randy Quick, Jim Bojo, Jamie Doss, and Mark Cochran voted to approve.

Cochran said he understood the residents felt the apartment building was inappropriate for the area but noted other uses for the property that would be allowed without a change of zoning included a hotel, a motel, a liquor store, a fast-food restaurant, a gas station, a brewery, and a solar panel array.

Commissioner Bonny Askew was one of the commissioners who voted “No.”

“The people who live on Gibbons Street have been there for years and years,” he said.  “I think it’s very important that instead of telling them what they want and need, that you talk to them and listen to them.  If that effort hasn’t been made, then we are doing them a disservice.”

Askew was joined by Commissioners Bill Collins, Sundai Stevenson, and Wendy Davis in voting to deny the application.