The Palestine City Council gave its approval Monday night for a proposed senior citizen independent living apartment complex planned for Loop 256.

The development, headed by Palestine native Matt Harris of Provident Realty Advisors, calls for 76 apartments with a community center to be built on 10.392 acres located at Loop 256 and Threll Street, across from Evangelistic Temple.

Following three joint public hearings with the Planning and Zoning Commission dealing with aspects of the project, the council approved zoning changes to allow multi-family housing, OK’d a $425,000 loan from the Palestine Economic Development Corp. to assist in the building of the apartment complex and adopted a resolution in support of the project.

The loan and the resolution are expected to help PRA in its efforts to attain a state grant for the project, according to Director of Development Services Warren Oakley. A decision on the grant is expected from the state in July, with construction to begin sometime afterward if the grant is approved, Oakley said.

Also, the council approved an ordinance to change the zoning on the Ivanhoe Building at 201 E. Oak St. from C-3 general commercial district to CBD central business district.

In addition, five residents of the Westbrook Addition spoke against a proposed cellular communications tower being erected near their neighborhood off Sterne Avenue near Stewart Street. The residents voiced concern over neighborhood safety and increased traffic during the construction of the 280-foot cell tower and cited studies that linked communications towers with higher rates of cancer and other medical issues.

The council later tabled consideration of a specific-use permit for the tower until a later meeting.

In other business, the council:

PRESENTED a plaque to retired city secretary Ann Pesce in recognition of 25 years of service;

OPENED bids for water plant lift station improvements (B2007-10) from Heartbeat Construction in Tyler and McKinney Newman McMillan in Jacksonville;

AWARDED a bid for laboratory analysis (B2007-09) to AEL for chemical parameters and to Bio-Aquatic for biomonitoring;

APPROVED items on the consent agenda, including confirmation of Janelle Sheffield as city secretary; an ordinance calling for a city election on May 12 to elect a mayor and councilmembers in districts 2, 4 and 6; acceptance of a grant on behalf of the Palestine Public Library;

APPROVED an ordinance amending the city budget for fiscal year Oct. 1, 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007;

TABLED acceptance of councilmember Billie Dyer’s letter of resignation until the Feb. 12 meeting;

DISCUSSED in closed session a lawsuit entitled Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. City of Palestine, Cause No. 6:06CV141 and related matters;

TOOK no action resulting from closed session relative to the lawsuit;

HEARD an update on efforts to preserve the Texas State Railroad during the Items from council portion of the meeting.

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Beth Foley may be contacted via e-mail at bfoley@palestineherald.com

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