HomeBusinessOPINION: City Council was forced to choose between democracy, capitalism this week

OPINION: City Council was forced to choose between democracy, capitalism this week

The Jackson City Council’s vote to reject a request by Joel McAlexander to rezone three acres he and a couple of business partners own at the corner of Pleasant Plains and McClellan roads in northwest Jackson came on the heels of an overwhelming majority of those contacting council members doing so in opposition to the notion.

That is a win for democracy as the will of the people who made their voices heard to those who make the decisions was made known and followed.

The reasons ranged from not wanting businesses in the middle of their neighborhood to concerns about traffic and infrastructure to environmental concerns.

Every concern that was voiced was logical and relevant.

But listening to the conversation at a town hall meeting on March 19, the discussion among council members on May 2 during their agenda review and the discussion during City Council on May 2, there’s still one thing that puzzles me.

Democracy may have won out, but did it do so while causing a defeat for capitalism?

Less than 10 minutes after they voted to reject the request to rezone the property so the owner of the land could make a profit from the investment he made 20 years ago in buying the land, the Council voted unanimously to approve a move by the City to give the lot known to some as Triangle Park in Downtown Jackson to Jackson Hospitality, LLC, to build an eight-story boutique hotel on.

The reasoning given was because the land is an expense for the City for upkeep and maintenance with no revenue coming in. Giving the land – valued at $315,000 – to Jackson Hospitality is a move that will have the potential to generate a good amount of sales tax, hotel/motel tax, more traffic Downtown from out-of-towners and give other businesses a reason to locate Downtown.

Downtown has a unique history of hotels in the area, most of which is checkered at best.

The City is apparently willing to run the risk of trying to put another hotel in Downtown, which apparently previous attempts in decades past have failed, based on comments made during agenda review.

Jerry Corley is the owner of Jackson Hospitality, LLC. His other projects in Downtown include Hub City Brewing and Rock N’ Dough Pizza. Both of those have become cornerstones for Downtown in its resurgence in the past decade. He’ll probably handle the hotel project the right way too.

But back up north, Joel McAlexander, whom the City and Madison County governments are trusting with The Crossings at Exum Way development going up off Ashport Road between the Highway 45 Bypass and North Highland Avenue, bought his property 20 years ago with the intention of cleaning it up, which he did. He’s tried two or three times to have it rezoned so he can make a profit from it, to which the City has said no every time so far. And he’s apparently paid his property taxes on it in full every year, I assume. It’s valued at $239,000.

This issue shows just how difficult serving on a local legislative body can be. The City Council was put in a situation this week where they had to choose between giving a vocal group of citizens what they wanted and allowing a developer to continue to not see a return on his investment.

So the land is still single-family housing. McAlexander could choose to sell it to someone wanting to build a new house there. Or they could divide the property up into parcels and build a small neighborhood there with eight to 10 houses. They could even make them rental houses.

One citizen at the March 19 town hall meeting said he would be OK with a trailer park on the plot before he’s OK with seeing another bank there.

If that were to happen, we’ll see if the Council will be forced to, once again, choose between capitalism and democracy if the neighbors approach the Council members again.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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