Gainesville’s new city manager spoke against a proposed flexible-rent apartment development at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

City Manager Barry Sullivan said Sterling Heights Apartments, a planned 80-unit apartment development which would pay only about half of the taxes a regular apartment would pay, is being proposed for a site west of Interstate Highway 35 and north of U.S. Highway 82.

The location is just north of the Knights of Columbus Hall, according to the property’s owner Jean McElreath.

McElreath said she signed a contract on the land with a Wichita Falls real estate agent working for RealTex Development Corporation of Austin, but the deal is not closed yet.

The asking price for the land was $355,000 according to a real estate listing.

McElreath said RealTex is planning to build apartments similar in appearance to the Bella Vista Apartments, located north of the Gainesville Wal-Mart Supercenter.

“They’re really nice apartments,” McElreath said in an interview this morning of Bella Vista Apartments. “I feel that we need more apartments like this in town ... it will help my property, and all that north of me.”

According to tax appraisal records, the front part of the property is zoned commercial while the back portion is zoned agricultural. A zoning change would be required by the city if the apartments are to be built.

“I don’t believe this is a good deal for the county, the city or the school district,” Sullivan said at the city council meeting Tuesday.

Sterling Heights Apartments would appear as a business item in the next city council agenda, he said.

Sullivan suggested that at some point city leaders would have to travel to Austin to blockade the Sterling Heights project, as they did to protest Bella Vista Apartments in 2006.

A contingent of Gainesville residents drove to Austin March 19, 2006, to argue for and against Bella Vista Apartments, a 144-unit apartment complex that has been open now about a year.

A board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs ruled to allow the Bella Vista Apartments and said it had community support from within the city in the form of a petition with about 300 signatures.

The permission came after several local governments denied the project.

After lengthy debates at City Council meetings Feb. 21, 2006, and March 1, 2006, the Council voted unanimously to deny United Housing Foundation permission to apply to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for tax exempt mortgage revenue bonds and housing tax credits for Bella Vista.

Each of the other taxing entities, including Cooke County, North Central Texas College, North Texas Medical Center and Gainesville ISD, voted to deny permission for Bella Vista. The Gainesville Housing Authority also voted to recommend denial and sent a letter to the board.

Several taxing entities received letters announcing the Sterling Heights Apartments project. No officials from any of the entities were available for comment due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net