Athens City officials are moving toward attempting to sell the property on Lindsey Drive that for decades was the home of Henderson County Memorial Hospital.
The council voted 3-1, on Monday, with Mayor Monte Montgomery opposed, to send the property to the Planning and Zoning Commission with the intent of zoning it multi-family, with a planned development overlay. That would allow the property to be sold to a developer for duplexes.
City Manager Elizabeth Borstad said the property is zoned single family. The 3.6 acres has been appraised at $152,000, but Borstad said no one indicated they want to buy the property.
Before the vote, some residents who attended the meeting were divided as to whether officials should sell the property or retain it for another use, such as a park.
City Secretary Bonnie Hambrick read a letter from Lacey Lowry urging the city to turn the property into a park or green space. She said the residents around the old hospital deserve better after having to look at the decaying facility for years.
“I'm not for selling it so someone else can make a profit,” she wrote.
Anne Perryman said the property is ideal to sell for residential use because it already has water, sewer and electric lines.
“I'd like to see it more homogenous with the neighborhood, which means duplex, triplex or something like that,” Perryman said. “It can be attractive. The duplexes going up on the other side of the street are attractive.”
Steve Woodruff said the land should be used for a park or something for children.
“Every place I go, there's a nice park there. But we don't have a nice park. Make it a nice park or take the money and put a nice park somewhere.”
Mark Carroll said he hopes the city will sell the property and “give someone the opportunity to develop it into something nice.”
Montgomery said he had proposed two years ago the city run a water line through the property and let it be a green belt.
“I still say, when the growth of Athens really hits, when we really need developable property, if we have it in a green belt now, we'll have that available. No one has beaten our door down to buy this property and develop it.”
He said two ongoing developments in the city are not progressing smoothly.
“They both have hiccups. They've been stalled and the people around them are having to put up with water, mud and issues going on.”
If the property is sold for development, Montgomery wants city officials to stipulate a timeframe for the work and require insurance.
Council member Ed McCain said residents around the hospital watched the building remain vacant and decay for a quarter of a century and that the city should be sure whatever is built there is not a detriment to the neighborhood.
“They've been through too much,” he said.
Council member Aaron Smith said the availability of utilities make the property favorable for development and that would return the land to the tax rolls.