Monday, June 15, 2009

Planning Staff Sucking Up to May Town Developers from the Get-Go

Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt's staff is not even attempting to strike an objective pose on the very first page of their approval of May Town Center sprawl. They twist what could have easily been a simple descriptive statement of their actions (for example, "We evaluated May Town Center economic impact, its land conservation plan, and its intention to constructing public roads and bridges") into a declarative cheer for May Town Center in the opening:
Staff has evaluated May Town Center’s substantial economic impact, its aggressive land conservation plan, and its developers’ commitment to constructing public roads and bridges over the life of the project to manage off-site traffic impacts.
This seems like a total lack of fairness. Tony Giarratana couldn't have written a better sound bite.

Introducing those leading terms about the development opens the report up even on page 1 to public debate, because terms like "substantial" (i.e., "true" or "real"), "aggressive" (relative to what?), and "commitment ... to manage" (can only be judged in hindsight) are debatable ideas. They should be tested in the crucible of argument instead of with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. Last week on another issue a Planning Commissioner argued that planning decisions should be made strictly as they concern land use and not based on public response to the proposals. And yet, the Planning report is making no bones about interjecting contentious terms to invite public debate from the get-go, even if Planning officials choose to ignore that debate. Whether economic impact is real, whether developers exhibit authentic commitments, and whether conservation is aggressive; these are matters not settled by elite urban planners but social questions that should be open to widest audiences possible to consider on the basis of the most reasonable arguments.

Rick Bernhardt's office has chosen not to remain neutral, but to embrace May Town Center enthusiastically, and given them deniability on building second and third bridges by making them conditions of the MTC project going forward. So far, it looks flawed and biased to me.


  1. Your analysis of the report is spot on. I don't believe it's inappropriate for staff to include the somewhat subjective comments. Planning is about 1/2 science and 1/2 art. But it must then be accepted that similar input from the public is entirely relevant. this is especially true with respect to the general plan amendment that is necessary for MTC.

  2. Citizen input at community meetings and public hearings are all part of the dog and pony show that are put on to give the illusion that the voice of the people has any meaning.

    In years to come, the city will look back on the reports and read that those who lived in the community were the decision makers, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    History is always written by the winners. May Town will simply be another chapter.

    Democracy in Nashville is rare. Nothing will change until the citizens lose their apathetic attitude and participate in the process on a large scale effort. Voting might be a good start.

    The Bells Bend residents are unified, but all citizens of our city need to rally around them. If they do it to the people of Bells Bend now, they will do it to you next.

  3. I wrote my metro councilwoman expressing that I was against the proposal -- her response was she wanted to hear from the people affected. Nothing like telling your constituent you're not going to listen to him and instead wanting to listen to people outside of her district.

  4. So will you get an exemption, Sean, on the percentage of Metro taxes devoted to the infrastructure upgrades?