Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Where I Stand on the Germantown Historic Overlay

A Metro Council Member recently asked me for my opinion of the Germantown Overlay Bill, which is up for Public Hearing next Tuesday, January 8. I replied that I initially had some serious questions about it given the extension of it through Morgan Park. I also said that those questions were quickly put to bed when Germantown leaders convinced me that it would not affect any of the park's amenities or services to the community, but simply protect the facade of the historic portion of the community center and the old stone wall surrounding Morgan Park.

I now actually support the Germantown Overlay for two reasons. One is that it is a tool that gives residents of the community the opportunity to evaluate and to provide feedback on developments that could endanger the character of the neighborhood. As such, it levels the playing field between residents and developers/investors. So, I support it for extrinsic reasons: residents should not have to be at a disadvantage to developers in the planning and zoning process like they are in many neighborhoods. Since I am under no illusion that historic overlays are instrinsically good, then I do not support them in general without reference to their consequences.

Which brings me to the second, more ironclad reason to support this overlay. Every single time I have asked overlay opponents to give me an example of one Nashville neighborhood with an overlay that has been harmed or stunted by the overlay, I never get a simple, straightforward answer. No one has ever been able to name for me a single living example of the bad wrought by historic overlays; instead, they appeal to scenarios, usually fearful, that have little to do with reality. The overlays that I see around Nashville seem to spur growth. So, until someone can give me sufficient counter-examples, I encourage the Metro Council to support Erica Gilmore's Germantown Overlay Bill on Tuesday. I hope that you will follow-up with your Council Member and encourage them to support it, too.

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