Thursday, March 03, 2011

Spring Hill plans for Festival Tennessee without planning

Almost as long I have been blogging here at Enclave I've periodically written about Spring Hill, Tennessee. Or maybe I should say that I've blogged about the way Spring Hill has been used in local media as a conservative symbol for what is wrong with Nashville, what is wrong with property taxes, and what is wrong with urbanism in general. Since the beginning of the recession Spring Hill has suffered like many in Tennessee, and I have not heard those Spring Hill-as-beacon memes lately.

The latest news on Spring Hill makes its conservative Nirvana look desperate: the Mayor has an understanding with a developer from Las Vegas, who has a checkered past, to build a huge amusement park, NBA facility, charter school and meth rehab center in the community, collectively called "Festival Tennessee". The deal comes with no strings attached for Spring Hill and promises thousands of jobs in a facility rivaling Disney World. Something for nothing probably sounds sweet to those who have taken their lumps. For a community that has been reeling like the rest of us with housing market collapse and unemployment, chasing promises of a new Nirvana looks like clutching at straws.

The television media has already gone through the cycle of frenzied thrall and walk-back skepticism after learning more about the developer (unlike some of the journos, many of us in the social media were jaded toward the proposal out-of-the-gate). But one thing that is getting lost in the sensational to-and-fro of news coverage is Spring Hill Mayor Mike Dinwiddie's unwise practice the night before last of asking the town's planning commission to rezone the land in question to allow the commercial development without first introducing the development. From reporter Nancy Amons on the eve of the announcement:

Spring Hill Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 to change the land use plan for the 700-acre tract, although commissioners weren’t given any details at that time about what the land will be used for.

The land on Jim Warren Road is currently used for farms and single-family homes. Some neighbors who live on the road said they're angry about the lack of transparency.

"They just passed that and they have no idea what they're going to put there. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen," said Clint Billings, who lives on Jim Warren Road.

"The people don't have a voice," said Glen Winnett, who lives on the same street.

The land is owned by a company based in Charlotte, N.C., NWC Investments. The company's lawyer told the planning commission a buyer has a contract on the land, but he didn't know what the buyer wanted to build.

Some planning commissioners said Tuesday they thought that whatever the plan was, it's probably good for Spring HiIl. Others were exasperated about being given no information before making a major decision.

"Yes, it's extremely awkward, asking us to vote on anything when we have absolutely no idea what we're talking about," said Michael Glass, the chairman of the planning commission.

The planning commission’s vote to change the master land use plan paves the way for a zoning change; however, there are still a number of steps that will have to be followed.

The land owners are asking for the least restrictive zoning

The fact that the amusement park developer has a dubious background is really just insult to the injury done by Mayor Dinwiddie the night before. He set a bad precedent by sneaking a rezoning request by without any introduction of the developer or the concept so that commissioners could deliberate and vote on the merits. The head of local government should not have that kind of power. Planning commissions represent a check and balance on executive power in zoning matters and the Spring Hill Mayor's actions were dangerously unilateral. No Mayor should be able to leverage rezoning in such an underhanded, nontransparent fashion.

I can only assume that Dinwiddie thought he would not have had the votes had he allowed the developer to introduce Festival Tennessee to the commission. Given the skepticism flying around for the last 24 hours, the slim win he got looks dicey now. Why else would he have kept important details a secret until the press conference the next day? Amusement parks are not matters of homeland security. But rezoning large tracks of rural and residential property are matters of public interest.


  1. Perhaps they should start an annual music festival on that property. They could capture over-flow from their neighbors down the road. They can call it:

    Spring Hillaroo.

  2. Being a Spring Hill resident, I was excited when the idea was first presented. After learning of the track record of the developer, I am more than a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. Is Dinwiddie and the planning commission doing a thorough job? We'll see.....

  3. Perhaps this is a sidebar to the reporting above, but the point made about Spring Hill being a media 'touch-stone' is interesting. For one, it is telling how media can affect those in charge (whether a town, company, organization, etc.). For instance, Spring Hill, since the Saturn plant was announced, has, as noted above, been often cited almost as a 'poll city.' Whether a poll of public opinion, the economy or other winds, it's been a media 'go to.' And why is that? I'd say for one, it's a cute town. Franklin used to be that cute town (a town among horse fields and farms). A story from the 'heartland' is always a great news sell. Well, Franklin is no longer 'the heartland.' It's suburban sprawl. Two, Spring Hill is just 20 minutes past Franklin. It's an easy trip for Channel 4 reporters. So, almost by default, Spring Hill is a media darling.
    Bring in the Spring Hill mayor. He knows this. The media may not be at his feet, but it has his attention and he knows he will be in the spotlight. This can help his agenda. He knows with the right pitch, he can 'make the news.' He's counting on a happy story - one that does not question him. And why question any good news in the darling town of Spring Hill?
    I think ego has come into play with the Spring Hill mayor. As well as a feeling of entitlement and opportunism fed by political influence. Or, perhaps the man just doesn't think things through.
    Now I offer Karl Dean.
    Over the past ten years, Nashville has organically evolved(for the most part) into the kind of city that is unlike any other. This is a special town that has offered exceptional opportunities for entrepreneurs of all sorts. Our 'culture' (and I hate that word) has been truly that of the people and their efforts. The neighborhoods of Inglewood, East Nashville, 12 South, the Gulch and other areas have 'happened' on their without a mayor knocking them down first or building a corporate campus next to them. We're so cool, Jack White moved here. Nashville is like a thriving village. NPR covers our Hot Chicken Festival. The New York Times covers us in the travel section. Our nooks and crannies are what make us. The media loves us. Well, oh oh. Karl Dean sees that we are a media darling, like Spring Hill. So here he goes. His ego thinks he can do 'better.' Mmmm,' says Sir Dean-a-ling. Let's tear down the fairgrounds. Let's tear down Municipal Audtorium. Let's quickly build a baseball stadium. Let's 'clean up Nashville!' And like the mayor of Spring Hill, let's not tell anybody and ignore those who disagree with me. The mayor of Spring Hill doed not get it. Neither does Dean.

  4. Mr. Barner,

    I have yet to see Mayor Dean's ego that you refer to. I don't think anyone with an ego would have taken the job as Public Defender in Davidson County. I think Mayor Dean is a very down to earth and humble man. For some reason you have a chip on your shoulder and anger built up inside you and are taking it out on the Mayor. I don't know but maybe you have lost something or someone and that is why you are so belligerent on this blog. You don't seem to represent the friendly and inviting typical Nashvillian spirit.
    Spring Hill and the Mayor have been fooled into believing this development will ever happen. I believe it is a scam. Thanks for posting this blog.

  5. Anonymous,
    My mother died two months ago to this very day. I was very close to her. So yes, I have lost someone. She and I were very close. We'd stay up late, smoke cigarettes, drink wine and listen to music well after everyone else had gone to bed. She was ('is,' in my heart) a strong and passionate woman. She grew up in Kiel, Germany. During World War II, my mom was about four years old. She used to tell me stories about fire bombs falling. My grandmother wrapped my mom, her brother and sister in wet towels as they looked for cover because their home had been destroyed.
    My mom met my dad because he was a doctor in the U.S. Navy. He was in Germany, on leave. They got engaged in three days. February 15th was going to be their 50th wedding anniversary. I had a wonderful childhood. And two wonderful parents. I have no anger inside of me. But I do have my mother's passion and willingness to speak out. I'm not afraid to speak my name. I'll also sign my post. If I were to say what I really think about your comment, , my mother would say, "To hell with that person, son. Let's have some wine and a cigarette. I love you." I thank God for my mother. I hope you thank Him for yours.

  6. Anonymous,
    I graduated from Vanderbilt's Owen School of Management in 1986. To be honest, I don't think much of the MBA degree (from any school). It's a no-brainer degree.
    Owen is located right next to Vandy's law school. During my two years at Owen, I met a lot of law students. Law school is TOUGH. There is no way I could have made it in, or even graduated. Vandy law is one of the top law schools in the country. It is a ticket, for most, to a big career.
    Two friends of mine went on to become public defenders. One still works for metro. The other started as a metro PD and is now a PD at the federal level here in Nashville.
    People go the PD route for different reasons. Some, believe in the system. Some like the type of law. Some can't get a job at a high-dollar law firm. Some go for political goals.
    Please don't equate Dean being a public defender with his 'heart.' It doesn't matter. Dean, regardless of his early career, has shown what he is all about. I don't know his early motivation to pursue law. I don't think that you know either. It really doesn't matter. What matters is his behavior since being elected. Have you seen read the 700 emails between his office and Buck Dozier that were granted this blog via The Freedom of Information Act? If you have, you will see plain and simple, Dean has behaved in an under-handed way. I have no 'anger.' What I have is a problem with his tactics. In the next few weeks, I will reveal some of the things he has done which citizens of Nashville have come forth to tell me. It may be via Enclave or other media. The citizens who have come forth to me don't feel they can come forward for fear of retribution. I understand that. So, I will come forward on their behalf. In case you don't know, I was the publisher of a local paper here in town. I went to bat for a variety of issues. I have no fear, nor economic interests in coming forward. In fact, I'd prefer just to drink beer at Brown's Diner and chat with the informed and comedic locals. But I've been through the bull shit before. And I'm willing do my best to speak the truth and stand up. Oh yeah, and also sign my name.

  7. Sorry about your mother. From your comments it sounded like you were really close to her. Be careful with your consumption of alcohol it can get away from you pretty quick especially if you are already a little down.

    Think about this the next time you post on a blog. How would you feel if Jim Hester's and Karl Dean's mothers read your comments? It is one thing to debate and discuss the issues and it is another to personally attack folks even if they are local political figures. Have a great day.

  8. I've been chastised by those wanting to close the Fairgrounds for my comments being too personal.

    I am not a journalist, my vocabulary is somewhat limited in that when someone tells lie after lie after lie....I call them a liar.

    When someones actions again over and over show a lack of morals and ethics and surrounded by corruption...That's what I call it.

    And lastly, If the mothers and WIVES of those involved in all of this corruption had any idea of what their children and spouses were doing behind closed doors they too would be ashamed and disappointed...and some wives would be filing for divorce.

    People are coming out of the woodwork to talk about the misdeeds...with proof.

    Not all Metro employees are on the take and I think they resent those who are. I would encourage those folks to continue to come forward and they will be kept anonymous. I have been assured there is protection for those employed by Metro and the State.

  9. How hard should it have been for Spring Hill's mayor to see what Nashville is paying for a convention center, and question how well it's possible for his town to get all they're being promised? Not so much, I'd think.

  10. Amen Brother Ronnie!

  11. You tell em Ronnie. You are the man! Woo hoo go get Dean and Reibling. Be sure to tell us in detail about all their corruption and infidelities. I am glad you are on our side. Dean and Reibling don't know who they are messing with.

  12. Ya'll need to read this...