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Board blocks 310-unit apartment complex

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After listening to the emotional pleas of several residents, the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen denied approval of the final plan for a 310-unit multi-family development.

Board members nixed the District at Watermark development 4-1 Monday night during their regularly scheduled meeting.

Citing traffic concerns, increased school enrollment, population density and even a loss of community “charm,” more than a half-dozen residents pleaded with the Board to cease Watermark.

John Peyton noted that he doesn’t mind the new mixed-use Thornwood development on S. Germantown Road. However, he asked officials to hit the brakes on future multi-family developments.

“I really don’t think we need to push to overdevelop Germantown for the sake of money,” he said to the Board. “Let’s slow down and let homes be built naturally. Germantown may have needed something like Thornwood but to keep going with this, with all of these different plans, is just pushing too hard.”

Maryann Holman, who has called Germantown home for 41 years, said she worried that the city was trying to “compete with East Memphis.”

“We liked that Germantown felt like a town and not a city,” she said. “Now we’re feeling like we want to compete with East Memphis and some of us just aren’t happy with that.”

William Strong said the city doesn’t need more apartments.

“What don’t you understand about the people of Germantown not wanting more apartments,” he asked.

Jane Glenn said she was in attendance to “beg” officials to deny the development.

“You all live here,” she said to the Board. “So, why are you trying to push all of these things on people who don’t want them?”

The city approved an 18-month moratorium on apartment construction in January.

However, Watermark, which was planned on the corner of Crestwyn Hill and Tyndale drives near Forest Hill-Irene and Winchester, was one of four multi-family developments not affected by the temporary freeze because site plans were already established prior to the moratorium.

Aldermen John Barzizza and Dean Massey questioned the need for such a development last December, when both men voted against Watermark’s outline plan.

But two other aldermen, along with Mayor Mike Palazzolo, noted that they were swayed by reports of a recent phone call made by Paul Thrift, president of Thompson Thrift Development.

Thrift, Watermark’s managing partner, told the Board that he reached out to a Germantown resident in May. The resident was suing Germantown over several developments, including Watermark.

Thrift offered to pay the resident’s legal expenses against the city in exchange for having Watermark removed from the lawsuit, which has since been dismissed.

“I realized the call was a mistake and did not reengage,” Thrift said Monday night.

Thrift added that he did not mean to financially encourage the lawsuit but did hope to have his development eliminated from it.

Thrift said his Indianapolis-based development company has already spent an estimated $2.9 million to prepare Watermark.

“I had no intention ever of fueling funding or participating in any fight with Germantown,” he said. “I was simply trying to build a bridge (with the resident).”

Palazzolo told Thrift that if he were asked to break a tie vote that he likely could no longer support the development.

“Your actions lead me to believe that you are more interested in a transactional relationship (with the city) and not one centered on mutual respect and trust,” he said.

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