Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Controversial development projects in Murray spur public outcry

Jun 28, 2021 03:32PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The Tea Rose Diner with historic home is slated for eventual demolition. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Two projects that have received considerable scrutiny recently are moving forward despite opposition efforts against them. The rezoning of 935 Bullion Street and the ongoing fight to maintain historic homes in Murray’s downtown have given the Murray City Council an earful from the community.

At the May 18 Redevelopment Agency (Mayor, Community and Economic Development Department, and City Council) meeting, residents addressed the RDA Board about preserving two historic homes: the Murray City Center District’s Townsend home and the Tea Rose Diner, located on the now-closed Poplar Street. 

According to preliminary plans released by Murray, the two structures would be slated for demolition to make way for a sizeable mixed-density project of housing and retail. Presently, the Arthur Townsend home contains the offices of NeighborWorks, a private nonprofit that seeks to revitalize neighborhoods and create affordable housing.

“The property is planned for redevelopment, and timing on the project is unknown at this time. The NeighborWorks office will need to relocate before the redevelopment project can begin,” Murray Community and Economic Development Director Melinda Greenwood said. “The Tea Rose property is planned for redevelopment, and timing on the project is unknown at this time.”

Arthur Townsend, the proprietor of the Murray Mercantile, built a brick Victorian cottage (4843 Poplar Street) in 1905. Townsend later become mayor of Murray in 1930. The home was cited as a significant part of the Murray Downtown Residential Historic District.

Not currently included but eyed as potentially being included in the development project are the three-story Harker Building (4842 S. State Street) and the two-story Murray Mercantile Building (4836 S. State Street). After starting the Murray Mercantile, Townsend married Lovenia Harker, whose family built the building of the same name.

Terrie Townsend Butler, a descendent of Arthur Townsend, said, “I tell you this because of the dedication and hard work of my Townsend ancestors in the establishment of Murray. I understand the need for the removal of the Harker and Murray Mercantile building in the grand scheme of Murray. But Murray’s history should also not be erased as I see it slowly happening.

“I think at least the Townsend home should be moved and be made useful, like the Murray Mansion and old church you are keeping. Maybe a replica of the Harker Building and Murray Mercantile could be built to recognize its importance in our history. The history of both of these buildings in Murray is as important as the Murray Mansion and old church building.”

According to Greenwood, “No, the city has not purchased these properties (Harker and Murray Mercantile Buildings). Nor has the RDA.”

Murray does own the Margaret Carruth Cahoon home (65 E. Fifth Avenue) built in 1902. The home and adjoining storefront have seen various businesses housed in it. Money’s Ice Cream and Dora Jeane’s Deli called it home, and now most recently, the Tea Rose Diner. The buildings are slated to be demolished, but not until the entire downtown project has been approved for construction.

Public open houses have been discussed to view and provide input for the MCCD this summer. 

A bitter fight to keep a former smelter site from being zoned to allow medium-density housing ended at the June 15 city council meeting. The city council voted 4-0 (Rosalba Dominguez was absent) in favor of allowing the property located at 935 Bullion Street to be zoned from agriculture to allow for single-family homes and townhomes.

Residents around that area organized opposition to the zoning change, fearing that the initial rezoning request would result in a large apartment complex that single-family homes would surround. The main contention in the zoning fight centered on an owner’s property rights and changing the city’s General Plan, which suggested only single-family homes in that area.

After initially requesting higher-density zoning, the developer, Hamlet Development, made the unusual decision to recall his proposal after a large public uproar. Hamlet Development then resubmitted a different request that would allow for medium-density development but would restrict against large apartment complexes.

The request still met opposition and narrowly made it through the Planning Commission. After vetting concerns over traffic, school impacts, and environmental concerns, the city council felt the developer adequately addressed those issues, and it received near-unanimous approval. Hamlet Development will again deal with residents, planning commission, and city council when they submit actual building plans for that property.