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The Cairo City Council voted 3-0 Monday night to deny the request of a local developer to rezone property in a northwest Cairo neighborhood from R-1A to a less restrictive zone of R-3.
Jeremiah Horne of Ethan Jackson Investments, LLC was seeking to rezone multiple parcels on Second Street N.W. to construct four residential units including four, one-bedroom apartments in each unit.
According to Horne, each unit would have the look of a single family residence from every angle. The building itself would be approximately 1,900 square feet and each apartment would be approximately 480 square feet.
He said his target market was single people, elderly people who were not “cash strapped” and did not qualify for government subsidized housing.
“This would be something a little bigger and nicer with a private yard and private entrances,” Horne said in comparing this development to his complex of tiny apartments located behind Zaxby’s.
Under the current zoning, Horne pointed out he could subdivide the property into four building lots and construct four single family residences on the property, but he said there is no market for such a development here.
“I’m not interested in building something as cheap as possible,” Horne said. He said the rent would be sufficient enough to provide funds for landscaping, brick fencing, and cover long term maintenance of each housing unit.
Horne acknowledged some of the concerns of the nearby residents and he admitted that R-3 zoning would permit types of development he was not interested in and would not support. He suggested the council could approve the zoning change with a restriction that no manufactured homes could be placed there.
Speaking in support of Horne’s proposal was former Cairo resident Helen Thorsby, who is the owner of one of the tracts Horne is interested in developing. Thorsby said if this would help some people in the community have a decent place to live the council should support it.
The majority of the audience Monday night indicated their opposition to the plan and several spoke out.
Sally Whitfield, 127 Seventh Ave. N.W., said that established neighborhoods such as this one do not have covenants and homeowners depend on zoning to protect them from undesirable land use. Whitfield presented a petition with the signatures of 61 “concerned citizens” opposing the rezoning.
Alicia Byrden Gurley, 118 Seventh Ave. N.W., complained that property values in the neighborhood were already in decline and that if the Horne development was approved they would drop lower. “I don’t have the money to relocate,” she said.
Randy Johnson, 200 Seventh Ave. N.W., said the city could not enforce Horne’s pledge to rent to persons 55 years old or older.
Jon Mizell, 38 Seventh Ave. N.W., told the council that if change is in a good direction he is in favor of it. However, Mizell said this proposed development would decrease home values in the neighborhood and he could not afford to lose money. He said the “voting public” does not want this project.
Christopher Thompson, 25 Seventh Ave. N.W., said he was not present to bash Horne or his project, but he said there were other locations in the city where such a development would be better suited.
Mayor Booker Gainor thanked all who participated in the public hearing. “You are certainly passionate about your neighborhood. I wouldn’t want to upset any of you. Y’all stick together,” the mayor commented.
“Jeremiah, I like what you are doing and I think there is a need for it, but not in that neighborhood,” Councilman Lannis Thornton said. The councilman said it would be spot zoning to make the change when everything around was R-1A.
Thornton offered a motion to deny, which was seconded by Councilman Bobby Gwaltney. The motion passed 3-0. Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas abstained due to a conflict of interest involving clients of his accounting practice and Councilman Demario Byrden was absent.