Lenoir City Council took the first step Monday toward rezoning property for a planned 166-unit, single-family rental community.

Councilmen Eddie Simpson and Jim Shields motioned and seconded, respectively, to approve the first reading to rezone about 23 acres at 1803 U.S. Highway 321 from C-3 Highway Commercial District to R-3 High Density Residential District, which passed 6-0.

“It would help to broaden the use of the property for something that would benefit all the taxpayers and the citizens,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said. “I mean that’s basically what it is when you rezone something. That’s why you’re doing it is for the benefit of the citizens.”

Lyons Group Real Estate hopes to construct Villas at Lenoir homes and townhomes for an estimated $24 million.

Construction is slated for 2022, but city planner Beth Collins said the development could begin earlier.

“I mean it has potential to be construction at the end of the year depending how aggressive they are,” Collins said. “I mean it’s May but might be first of the year. It’s going to depend a lot on their engineering. It’s blank land, so you’ve got to do all your engineering for water and sewer and electric and the road. So depending on how fast they can get that done and how the weather holds up, potentially digging ground before the end of the year. They had told us in planning commission I think that their goal is to start and be done in less than two years.”

Councilman James Brandon and Councilwoman Jennifer Wampler motioned and seconded, respectively, to annex 1.61 acres of two other parcels in the same area into the city. The vote passed 6-0 on first reading.

Collins said the annexation will allow for the owner to utilize the parcels, which are attached to the rezoned property.

Council will meet again at 10 a.m. June 21.

In other news, Lenoir City Council:

• Rezoned property off Manis Road from R-4 Residential District to R-2 Medium Density Residential District.

• Approved going out to bid for the 2021-21 paving contract.

• Declared some items as surplus at Lenoir City Police Department.

• Moved Michael Morgenstern from part time to full time in the Lenoir City Fire Department.

• Canceled the June 14 and 28 meetings.