The Melissa City Council met Tuesday night to decide the fate of the rezoning measure which would pave the way for Melissa’s first apartment complex. As covered in prior editions of The Anna-Melissa Tribune, this rezoning vote has been a hot-button topic in the community since it was first heard at a Planning & Zoning public hearing.
Before Council continued a public hearing which was called into order during the previous meeting, Mark Gardner, president of the Gardner Capitol Investment Group behind the project, spoke to the council directly. Gardener outlined many of the same benefits which were previously touched on without giving much more detail than before and made promises of bringing in other businesses by leveraging inter-executive relationships with representatives from major grocery chains and other types of businesses. He also rebuked claims that Melissa does not have the resources to support housing efforts like the one before the council. At times, Gardner labeled the outrage voiced by Melissa citizens as an uninformed "knee-jerk" reaction. After Gardner concluded, the citizens were allowed to speak. Of the 24 citizens who spoke passionately and publicly during the meeting, only four spoke in favor of the re-zoning effort.
After a number of citizens’ comments, the board spoke to GCI personally and asked direct questions regarding tax benefits, actual crime numbers in GCI developments over the past six months with information compiled by Councilman David Kasson, average number of children in these developments and comparisons to similar developments in areas bearing a socio-economic resemblance to Melissa. Gardner was only able to recall one or two projects which were vaguely close to resembling cities with similar population numbers and economic situations to that of Melissa but had no specific data on hand to answer any of the inquires in much depth. After lengthy and almost oblivious responses to clear questions posed by the council, John Palmer, GCI’s main representative to Melissa throughout the process so far, concluded the question portion and a vote was called.
In a 3-2 vote, council members Jason Kaiser, Julie Anderson and Nicco Warren voted against the controversial measure while members Dick Hayden and David Kasson voted in favor. The vote was met with thunderous applause from those in attendance. The majority of those who spoke wished to have it noted that they do not opposed affordable multi-family housing in Melissa, but support building up to multi-family housing at the appropriate place and time, preferably after more businesses, road, and city expansion can provide for a significant increase in the number of Melissa citizens.
In other Council business, Chief Davis James (retired) of The Texas Police Chief’s Association Foundation recognized the Melissa Police Department under its Best Practices Recognition Program. Melissa Chief of Police Duane Smith, as well as a number of representatives of Melissa’s police department, was on hand to publicly receive a framed copy of the official recognition.
Additionally, Councilwoman Julie Anderson recommended the inclusion of a future agenda item officially designating The Anna-Melissa Tribune as the city’s official paper of record.