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EMMA leader vows to fight on 

The leader of the East Main, Mustard, and Atlantic Avenue neighborhood association says that the group will take its fight against a controversial housing project to City Council.

The City Planning Commission signed-off last week on a rezoning proposal which allows for the construction of the $17 million development between Mustard and Palmer streets in EMMA. Sixteen of the 72 units would be for the developmentally disabled.

But the commission's approval is just a recommendation; City Council has the final say and could vote on the rezoning next month.

The EMMA neighborhood group has been against the project, called The Community on East Main, since it was initially proposed early this year. Group members will make sure that Council is aware of their concerns, says Pastor Dorothy Parham, EMMA's president.

The development is being forced on the neighborhood, she says. EMMA needs owner-occupancy, stores, and families to build itself up, not a project primarily made up of one-bedroom apartments, she says.

The Planning Commission rejected an earlier version of the plan in June, citing inconsistency with the surrounding neighborhood and other factors. But design changes accompanied by a zoning change to permit more density on the site won the members over, says Nelson Leenhouts, chair of Home Leasing, which is the company doing the project.

Leenhouts says that Home Leasing canvassed the neighborhood and found that many EMMA residents support the project. Parham says that's not true.

The paperwork from the June Planning Commission meeting made note of significant neighborhood opposition to the development.

David Watson, chair of the Planning Commission, says that residents' opinions are just one factor that the commission weighs when considering an application.

"If you have one person who's speaking in favor and 800 against, it doesn't automatically mean we're going to vote one way or the other," he says.

The development would consist of four buildings with a playground, computer lab, fitness area, takeout café, and other features.

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