Planning board approves tall townhouses in Midtown

By Updated: March 14, 2019 4:02 PM CT | Published: March 14, 2019 1:44 PM CT

The planning board on Thursday narrowly approved a controversial townhouse development in Midtown in part because it's perceived new investment could improve the site’s run-down block of residences.

The Land Use Control Board voted 5-4 in favor of developer Laurynas Petrauskas’ request for approval. He plans to build four attached, three-story houses at 2115 Jefferson, two blocks north of Overton Square.

The height and length of the building will be similar to four other townhouses Petrauskas has nearly finished across the street at 2112 Jefferson. Most opposition concerns the 35-foot height, which dwarfs the neighboring bungalows in the neighborhood.

Several opponents dubbed the existing and planned townhouses as “Noah’s ark.”

Just after the vote, one opponent in the audience muttered, “Unbelievable.”

Board chairman Jon McCreery voted for the proposal. He described the residential streets just east of Cooper, and just east of the townhouse site, as a “beautiful neighborhood where people are investing in keeping that look. I’m 100 percent for that.”

But on the block of Jefferson west of Cooper where the new and planned townhouse sites are, McCreery said, “I see a block that has a lot of deferred maintenance. I think some development would be helpful there.”

Millions of dollars in recent years have been invested in nearby Overton Square, he said. That should cause redevelopment and investment to radiate out to nearby neighborhoods.

McCreery had done homework. He not only drove by the site several times in recent weeks as the controversy heated up on social media, he looked up statistics.

The median price for property on the block of Jefferson where the new townhouses are planned is just $57,000. The list price for the new townhouses will be about $300,000.

Petrauskas’ townhouses should inspire more development on the block, he said.

Board member Jennifer O’Connell, reflecting the views of many opponents, responded that the type of development is not the issue, but rather its large size. “The project is looming’’ over other houses, she said.

“I think that is where the opposition is," O'Connell said. "I think people would be very supportive to invest in the neighborhood. I think (the problem) is the height.”

Voting “yes” with McCreery were Scott Fleming, Desiree Lyles Wallace, Lisa Wilbanks and Rob Norcross. Joining O’Connell in voting against were Margaret Pritchard, Mary Sharp and James Toles.

The Land Use Control Board’s vote on approving the subdivision could be the final say. But opponents may appeal to the City Council.

A different proposal before the LUCB for the expansion of a waste handling facility in Whitehaven also was opposed by neighbors.

TOM BAILEY: Planning board rejects proposed expansion of Whitehaven waste facility

The Whitehaven application was denied, but Waste Connections of Tennessee can still seek approval to expand operations before the Memphis City Council. 


Real Estate Development Land Use Control Board
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.

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