It seems I need to clarify my position with regard to apartments in Lakeland. My stance is simple: I do NOT support additional apartments of any kind, period. I campaigned on this position and will NOT support any thing to the contrary. I DO support the moratorium on additional apartments.

That being said, I find it very interesting that once again, some in Lakeland have jumped to conclusions, twisted my words, and tried to spin this topic to fit their own narrative. Therefore, let me set the record straight and provide you all with an explanation of last week’s BOC Work Session discussion regarding the moratorium on new apartments.

My thoughts are based on the simple business principle of always asking “WHAT – IF?”

We (Lakeland) just approved investing 60 million dollars in our exemplary Lakeland School System. We were able to make this investment without a tax increase for this budget cycle and with our ability to attract high quality commercial growth from developers with a proven track record, we should be able to sustain this education investment. My comment “the piper is going to come calling” refers to the rate that some current developments are progressing that may not allow us to meet these financial obligations.

That being said, please consider this: we are already stuck with the 700+ apartments approved by the previous administration, so is it possible to look at other options for these 700+ units? I’m only asking that question because I was presented with a plan to develop the 97 acres at the corner of Davies Plantation and Canada Rd that includes a mix of retail, sit-down restaurants, a hotel and conference center, a secondary hotel, residential, age-restricted residential, and about 200 “brownstone” multi-family units (yes, I do understand that these are technically “apartments”). This is the plan that I said months ago would “blow your mind” and it is quite impressive. This particular developer has a proven record of accomplishment for high quality mixed-use developments and just recently completed Thornwood in Germantown. I took this into consideration and did some research on the success of this development. I would encourage everyone to please take a look at “Thornwood Germantown”. I did and was so impressed, I actually went there to get a first-hand look. This revenue generating development far exceeds any “renderings” I’ve seen from any other developer.

As the leader of this city, I simply asked the question, “WHAT – IF?”

More specifically, as the other development with now over 500+ approved “apartments” will take 4 – 5 years (minimum) to be completed and producing revenue, is it possible to set aside 200 multi-family units from that development of 500+ for this new mixed-use development opportunity that I believe will be of higher quality and completed in 2 years? That was my point of having a “finite number” set at the previously approved number of 700 and consider those on a first-come, first served basis. This may or may not be possible, but I have to ask the question “What – If?” and explore the possibility. We cannot afford to wait another 4 – 5 years and hope that the other development will fully build out. We have a financial investment to consider.

Sometimes it takes critical, yet creative thinking in order to find the best solutions for our city’s success. At this point, I would ask everyone to please rally around the investment in our exemplary Lakeland School System expansion while being supportive of our city’s smart, quality growth opportunities. The constant banter back and forth on social media without all the facts only further divides this city and casts a poor reflection on our community.

I realize there are those in Lakeland that do not want me to be successful but this only hurts our city as a whole and every citizen in it. I made my intentions very clear when I ran for Mayor and was subsequently elected: I ONLY want to leave Lakeland a better place than I found it. I am not looking to gain personally, professionally or politically by serving in this role. I will continue to serve this city to the best of my ability by providing critical and creative thinking while exploring every possible quality growth opportunity.

Mike Cunningham
Mayor, Lakeland, TN