Unanswered questions surround Smyrna redevelopoment plan

Smyrna city leaders outlined their plans Thursday night for the purchase and redevelopment of the Hickory Lake apartment complex, but didn't provide details for the relocation of residents, which has become an issue.

The city plans to help residents find new places to live, and could offer other incentives. However, details of the incentives were not disclosed because the city does not yet own the property, said Mayor Max Bacon, who heads the Smyrna Downtown Development Authority, and Andrea Hall, the city’s redevelopment director.

Thursday night’s meeting at times became contentious between Bacon and residents who questioned the plan, plus the tenants who wanted more information.

“You will get a more than fair resolution to your housing issue, that would be better than what other companies would offer,” Bacon said. “We plan to do right by the residents of Hickory Lake.”

Earlier this week, First Communities and city leaders held a meeting with apartment residents about the purchase. Another meeting is scheduled next Tuesday.

Smyrna leaders also heard from various community members who have questioned the city’s purchase of another large land tract and another development plan.

The city purchased the Smyrna Commons apartment complex off Ward Street for a road right-of-way, and still operates the apartments through its housing authority.

Two stalled private multi-million dollar development projects, Belmont Hills and Jonquil Village, are located near Hickory Lake.

“Can’t the city clean up some of their messes before they purchase another one?” said Chuck Woodham, a 14-year city resident.

The 726-unit Hickory Lake complex sits on 48 acres near an advancing major road project. The land is considered valuable property for a developer looking to build along the path of increased traffic, city officials have said.

Smyrna will pay $9.5 million for the apartments and another $4 million to demolish them. The city was one of six bidders for the property.

Last month, the Smyrna Downtown Development Authority approved a bond issuance to raise the money for the project. Part of the land could be sold to a developer in the future to pay back the bonds.

The city plans to close on the property in mid-December. The current management company, First Communities, will remain in place on a month-to-month contract with the city.

The city must begin annual $1.3 million payments on the bonds in 2014. The payments run through 2035 if the land is not sold. The money for the bond payments will come from the city’s general fund, Bacon said.

Sean Murphy, another development authority member, said he voted for and supported the Hickory Lake purchase because of its long-term opportunities.

“I think this is a good opportunity for success,” Murphy said. “I talked to experts in the field and they all agreed that we shouldn’t have a problem selling it.”