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On Monday night in an unprecedented move, the Paris City Council removed a specific item from the consent agenda and denied it. The item was the approval of a plat needed for Paris Ford to purchase frontage on Northeast Loop 286 to build a new, larger dealership. Historically any item brought out of a consent agenda has been for clarification or more information. Instead, John Wright called for denial of the plat, immediately seconded by Mayor AJ Hashmi and after much heated debate, the plat was denied in a 5-2 vote, with the only opposition to the majority being Matt Frierson and Richard Grossnickle. Because the property is owned by an investor group that includes Don Wilson, Chip Harper and others, it is widely believed that blocking the approval of the plat was politically motivated rather than based on a flawed plat proposal.
City Manager John Godwin was shocked having never seen a council deny the approval of a plat that had been reviewed and recommended by both the Planning and Zoning commission as well as the City Engineer Shawn Napier.
By blocking the plat approval, the council has prevented Paris Ford from putting a $4-5 million facility on the tax rolls. “Needless to say I’m disappointed,” said Mike Kennedy who owns the existing Ford dealership building. “I had a buyer waiting to buy the existing Paris Ford facility which would be bring new jobs to Paris. They are the ones who informed me what this council did. I was shocked.”
In addition to a new business that would not be purchasing the existing Paris Ford facility, the plat denial has also sidelined another business that was purchasing land adjacent to the new Ford location. “At the very least, the council sent a very negative message to anyone looking to put a business in Paris,” Kennedy said, “And word gets around pretty quickly.”
The council’s denial of such a large retail development should be especially disturbing to Aaron Farmer, vice president of The Retail Coach, who made his first appearance at a council meeting Monday night having been hired by the city to help improve retail development.