Councilwoman sues her own city council

JACKSONVILLE - Councilwoman Angelia Washington is suing the city and her fellow council members for approving an affordable housing complex in her neighborhood. Several other residents in Washington's neighborhood have joined in the lawsuit as well.

The 68-unit apartment complex is to be built in a lot located at the intersection of Country Club and Commerce Roads in Jacksonville. That's behind the Home Depot on Western Boulevard.

In court papers, Washington alleges that proper procedures were not followed by city council in granting the building permit. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Councilman Jerome Willingham had ex-parte communications with developers. Therefore, according to Washington's attorneys, Willingham should have not voted on the project.

"It's a typical example of N.I.M.B., not in my back yard," responded Willingham to the accusations.  Willingham denied the allegations, stating that it was simply a technique to delay the project.

According to the Councilman, there is currently a shortage of approximately 1,000 affordable housing units in Jacksonville. That's according to statistics from the Federal Housing and Urban Development.

"We are going to put 25 units here and this is in my neighborhood, this is in walking distance from my house, and I welcome the people who need affordable housing in my community," said Willingham.

In court papers, Washington referred to a study that indicates crime increases in the vicinity of apartment complexes. This is one reason Washington and residents disapproved of the project.

"People make stereotypes about people that need affordable housing - oh, they're bad and so we don't want bad people living next to me - that's not true," said Willingham.

NewsChannel 12 was unable to reach Washington for comment.

Willingham stated that the project has the green light for now, and is awaiting approval from the state for funding.

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