The Reserve, a planned 144-unit independent senior living facility, has received a mixed reception from Ridgeland aldermen. The proposal was tabled Tuesday night.
The Reserve, a planned 144-unit independent senior living facility, has received a mixed reception from Ridgeland aldermen. The proposal was tabled Tuesday night.
RIDGELAND — Aldermen tabled a decision on a variance for a new elderly living facility following concerns that their decision could be brought up in future litigation.

The matter before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen was a petition and application for a conditional use permit to construct a two-story structure at a maximum height of 48 feet. Jeremy Myers represented the development and its petition.

The proposed development is a senior independent living rental facility called The Reserve and is slated for three parcels of land off of the Highland Colony Parkway south of Highland Home Assisted Living Facility. The building would feature 144 units and will not take renter applications from anyone under the age of 62.

Aldermen voted 4-3 to table the item after an executive session that included Kelly Simpkins, a lawyer handling litigation among the city and several apartment complexes. The motion was made by Ward 4 Alderman Brian Ramsey and was seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard.

Ward 6 Alderman Wesley Hamlin, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Holder and Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith voted no.

“I think we should table this until the next meeting so we can have more time to speak to both the developers and legal counsel,” Ramsey said when making the motion.

Discussion started when Holder motioned to deny the request.

“I think we are all wary of increasing our rental percentages in town and I think it may come up in some ongoing litigation the city is involved in and those two things are a big play on why I don’t think this is the right thing to do at this time,” Holder said.

Smith seconded.

During Monday’s work session, certain qualms with the property had been brought up including the need for more rental units within the city and a potential strain on emergency services.

“The truth is if someone is living there by themselves who shouldn’t be will be calling 9-1-1 anytime something happens and our people will respond,” Mayor Gene McGee said.

Multiple city officials also floated the concern that this could be converted to regular apartments.

At an Aug. 15 zoning board meeting, minutes show that the original request was a four-story, 67-foot building that was revised to the two-story plan presented Tuesday, “after discussions.”

The minutes also mention that there was no opposition at the meeting, though representatives of nearby assisted living facilities raised concerns about “a potential over-concentration of such facilities in the prone area.”

The minutes also reflect that certain zoning board members expressed concerns that the building would be converted into apartments down the road.

Tuesday evening, Myers was allowed to respond to some of the aldermen’s concerns.

Myers said that the specs of their building would not be easily transformed into another type of rental facility.

“Our parking lot alone would prevent this. We do not expect many of our residents to be driving, many will use our shuttle service to go shopping or to events,” Myers said. “We do not expect this add any significant strain to the roads or traffic.”

Myers added that they would install a system that would allow residents to communicate with outside help.

“Basically, they have a necklace or wristband as well as something installed in their unit that allows them to call for help if they fall. They will be on the line with someone who will have a list of contacts including, management, neighbors and friends or family that will be notified before anyone calls 9-1-1.”

Myers noted this would be a great expense to the developers, but thought it was worthwhile.

"Finally, I want to say that our clientele are people who have money and do not need assisted living. They will be members of the community without putting strains on the roads or sending kids to school but will be contributing to the tax dollars coming in,” he said.

Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier made a substitute motion to go into executive session after Simpkins said that there were aspects he could not discuss in an open meeting. Ramsey seconded his motion and the decision was unanimous.

“I have been advised that there may be an issue some of the ongoing litigation the city is involved in,” Gautier said.

The executive session lasted about 20 minutes before people were allowed back in and Ramsey made his motion to table.

The city has wrestled with many local apartment buildings in costly lawsuits over a 2014 zoning amendment that made many buildings non-compliant.

The ordeal eventually drew the attention of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In October 2016, the city approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would make the use and density of apartment complexes the same as the 2001 ordinance. In addition, the board eliminated a 10 percent maintenance cap that allows for owners of rental properties to spend more to upkeep homes and buildings.

The amendments satisfied a recent agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In January 2018, it was reported that the city had reached a settlement with Ridgeland Apartments, LLC., the management company for the Gables Apartment complex on William Boulevard. City Attorney Jerry Mills said at the time that the complex settled after trying to vacate a chancery court ruling that dismissed the suit.

Most recently in early July, the city reached a settlement with plaintiffs RR Apartments, LLC and Jordan Ridge, LLC concerning the Ridgeland Ranch Apartments complex.

Other details are sparse on ongoing litigation with other apartment buildings stemming from issues with the density ordinance.