UNICOI, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities local trying to turn the location of a former Budget Inn Motel around and provide much-needed low-income housing has been met with a lot of controversy.

Current property owner Shawn Miller purchased the property in June 2022 for $399,900 and plans on developing the property into studio apartments.

The property is in the wrong zone for this type of development. Miller has been working with the town of Unicoi to change the zone from low density residential to medium density residential.

“One thing after another. I provided them everything they wanted but it was never enough and they were really closed minded about it,” said Miller.

Many residents who live close to the Budget Inn property are not in favor of this development and Miller says they’ve expressed this at the zoning meetings.

“There were some of the neighbors, maybe a dozen or two, that told horror stories about how bad it was when it was a motel and I absolutely understand their concerns,” said Miller.

One resident, Sharon Hopson, does not believe the motel should be developed into apartments.

“I think that it should either be torn down and maybe some housing be put there or a park or something to that effect,” said Hopson.

Miller says, as apartments, he can screen tenants to avoid issues the motel has seen in the past. He believes board members are being swayed by neighbors’ views that were based on the motel’s past poor management.

“”I absolutely think that it’s very wrong to judge me by somebody else’s past. I actually think there may be some legal precedence regarding that,” said Miller.

Hopson has lived near the Budget Inn for 27 years and does not feel like the community needs a repeat of the motel’s past.

“We were here when the hotel was up and running and at first it was wonderful because the golf course was still open,” said Hopson. “But then when the golf course closed, it slowly started going down hill and there were drugs in and out all the time constantly. Lots of different, shady people in and out and that’s just not what we want for our neighborhood.”

If the rezoning request is not approved, Miller plans on making needed repairs and reopening the Budget Inn as a motel.

At the next zoning meeting, board members will present their final vote on the Budget Inn property. That meeting is Monday, December 19th at 5:30pm at the Unicoi Visitor’s Center in Unicoi.