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Mayoral candidates address apartments, ‘perceived ugliness’ of campaign

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Two candidates vying for the city’s top seat in the Nov. 6 municipal election recently addressed a contentious mayoral race and the future of apartments in Germantown.
Alderman John Barzizza and incumbent Mayor Mike Palazzolo sat on stage in the Houston High School auditorium earlier this month at the Germantown Area Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum and fielded questions from moderator Richard Ransom of Local 24 News. Each candidate was allotted 20 minutes, with Barzizza winning the coin flip and the right to speak first.
Ransom began the conversation by asking why the mayoral race had “taken such an ugly tone.”
“People are passionate about what’s going on in the city,” Barzizza said. “People in our community see a lot of things that they don’t agree with. I see a lot of things that I don’t agree with.”
Barzizza said he has been outspoken regarding city projects that he disagrees with, including the previously proposed Germantown Road realignment project and the limited number of options given for the site of the future elementary school.
“I begged the School Board to take a step back and do their due diligence on finding the location that was best suited for the new school,” said the fourth-year alderman.
And then there was the discussion of apartments within the city, which Barzizza said has “caused a large uproar in this community.” “I think that is because of how it affects the schools and the student population,” he added.
Palazzolo was also asked to talk about the “perceived ugliness of the campaign on social media.”
“It is more of a growing trend nationally,” Palazzolo said. “We need to return to a certain form of civility.”
The fourth-year mayor, who also served three terms as an alderman, recounted stories from his predecessors regarding the relationships established between opponents more than a decade ago.
“They would be in neighborhoods at the same time, knocking on doors,” he recalled. “When they were done they would go get lunch together. They got to know each other but still ran against each other. “At the end of the day,” he continued, “they got along real well. I wish we could return to that.”
When further asked about the future of apartments in the city, Barzizza said he was primarily concerned with freestanding apartments. “We’ve probably had an additional 800 students to come into Germantown in the last four years,” he said, “which has caused us to have some severe overcrowding in some schools.”
Barzizza said freestanding apartments around Schilling Farms in Collierville have created an influx of “people renting apartments but living in North Mississippi and taking their children to Collierville schools.”
“That’s a problem,” he said. “I don’t want to see that problem in Germantown. I don’t think you want to see that problem in Germantown.
“Infrastructure will be stretched,” he added. “We’ll need more police. We’ll need to build more roads because we’ll have to build more schools.”
Palazzolo was asked what his stance would be on apartments when the 18-month moratorium ceases.
He said the moratorium was implemented because the city was being flooded with requests from local developers to “bring multi-family developments into the city.”
“When you are being inundated with this mass proliferation of requests,” he noted, “we can’t handle that.”
Palazzolo said he does not support freestanding apartments but does think there is a place for “village concept” developments like Thornwood.
“It is a good example of bringing a village to the community as something that can sustain our growth by multiple levels of living choice for the community,” he said. “Those type of projects, we need to see move forward. Not an apartment by itself out in the middle of an area that doesn’t have any other sense of place or life around it.”
When asked if future developments would tax the city’s infrastructure, Palazzolo said the city’s staff is working closely with school officials to calculate the future impacts on Germantown.
“People want to come to this community to build and develop,” he said. “We need to start looking at (charging) impact fees.”
He mentioned that Williamson County in Middle Tennessee uses impact fees to fund local education.
“We need to take a hard look at it,” he said, “and bring it back to the Board so (decisions are not made on) gut instinct.”
Read more coverage from the Candidate Forum in next week’s edition of The Shelby Sun Times.

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