Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bells Benders or Bells Bandits? Let's Play the Feud!

On second thought I have another bone to pick with Richard Lawson.

I'll gnaw back on what's gnawing on me:
this pits what's good for the city’s welfare as a whole against the concerns of opponents in neighborhoods who may be a vocal minority claiming to represent a majority. It could be a majority. It’s difficult to determine sometimes when a few are so vocal.
Mr. Lawson is rather cock sure that the developers he comes down with have the purer motives. Or so it seems in his unmitigated conclusion that they are watching the welfare of the whole. (And frankly, developers don't need bigger vocal cords. They have bigger pocketbooks and influence to pay for effective media exposure).

But he rides a slanted trail by appealing to the city's welfare. Developers have one primary interest, much like neighborhoods do, and it tends to have less to do with the whole and more to do with themselves. And I am not sure how the reporter got to the simple conclusion that this is good for the city's welfare given the costly infrastructure overhaul that might have to occur with the building of May Town Center. And how is a bridge that will probably bisect another neighborhood like Charlotte Park in order to get from West Nashville to Bells Bend a better thing for anyone beyond the commuters who live elsewhere?

This debate on Mr. Lawson's pro-growth side is starting to take the inevitable turn of misrepresenting proponents of balance and community and overestimating the benefits of development (which is just another term for "marketing" or "public relations").

In his book on the effect of development in the Carolina Blue Ridge, anthropologist Stephen William Foster describes how outsiders linked underdeveloped rural communities with preconceived notions of incomplete people who needed economic development to help them shed their local ways. In The Past is Another Country Foster writes:
[I]n American society land has increasingly been treated as a commodity, its value measured by a price tag rather than by its association with persons, family, and the continuity of social life. This shift in the meaning of land was in the interest of outsiders desirous of appropriating ... acreage, since reducing land to an object that can be bought and sold undermines the relation of land to culture and continuity that ... residents assumed and experienced.
I can't say whether the people who live in Bells Bend feel a continuity between their land and their culture, but it is pretty clear to me that the outsiders who desire their underdeveloped acreage (and the journalists whose bias is with them) are starting to represent those folk as flawed without development and as stumbling blocks to the rest of us who live in the more urbanized parts of Nashville.


  1. It's fairly telling that you view fellow Nashvillians as "outsiders" and that you see yourself as separate from the city as the Carolina Blue Ridge. Maybe you are too isolated after all?

    Commodore Perry's... er, Lawson's argument, and one that the city is considering, is best described as pro-Nashville growth versus growth, and sprawl, in bordering counties. Growth will happen, and the bend can absorb a portion of that growth, perhaps the best portion.

    The best argument against development is in the case that tax dollars pay for the bridge. Once construction is underway, and zoning has been changed, the Mays can sell their land for a huge windfall without so much as stacking one brick atop another, having put very little money in to the deal. A $100m windfall at taxpayer's expense would even give wealthy business-types pause.

    If this project goes, the city had better secure a performance bond from the developers to cover the cost of the bridge and interchange should developers fail to follow through.

  2. It's fairly telling that you view fellow Nashvillians as "outsiders" and that you see yourself as separate from the city as the Carolina Blue Ridge. Maybe you are too isolated after all?

    I have no clue what this means, but it is no more telling than you having a real name and not using it in comments.

    I didn't argue against growth. I argued for balance between growth and community. Residents in Bells Bend have been pursuing a sub-area plan for growth consistent with their area and it conflicts with the plan touted in media.