Saturday, December 24, 2011

May Town team breaking down and confirming suspicions of some

Partners in the development team Jack May put together around two years ago to urbanize Bells Bend, build a "second downtown" on farmland, and suffuse the small community with automobile traffic with 1-3 bridges, allege now that Mr. May was committing fraud and exercising irresponsible conduct. Here is part of the account:

According to [plaintiff Jeffrey] Zeitlin, when he and William Kantz entered into a partnership agreement with the Mays, they were led to believe that Jack May was retired in Mexico and “would help fund the project.”

Zeitlin contends, however, several misrepresentations by the Mays ultimately led to the crumbling of the partnership and the development plan.

According to the lawsuit, the Mays made an “unconditional promise” to gift certain land in Bells Bend to Tennessee State University — land that the partnership didn’t own.

“The Defendants did not make the gift as promised to TSU and did not intend to make the gift when the Defendants extended the promise,” the lawsuit reads. “As a result, the Partnership’s good will and Zeitlin’s interest therein was damaged.”

Zeitlin makes a similar claim involving a bridge that Jack May told the city of Nashville he would “write a check” for, to help boost the proposed development.

The lawsuit also claims that the Mays added partners in breach of the partnership agreement and failed to account for Zeitlin’s capital contributions to the partnership.

This is not the first time questions have been raised about the business dealings of Jack May or the advantages he enjoyed with the help from others. In 2008, we learned that long-time office holder Democrat Gary Odom was able to obstruct the Governor's Office from closing a tax loophole that allowed business partners who were related to each other to escape taxes in the billions on property and in the hundreds of millions on profits. Odom helped the May brothers make a killing on their business. A reporter observed, "May and the rest of the Bells Bend development crowd gave campaign cash to Odom, who then gave it to Democratic lawmakers running for reelection, who then voted to make Odom their new leader in the House."

When the Bells Landing team did not get the vote they wanted from the Metro Planning Commission after Jim Gotto (a GOP advocate for the Mays) called to end debate after a long public hearing in order to vote, they requested special consideration from Planning for another vote. May Town Center opponents squeaked by with a single-vote win, but if they had so lost, the chances were slim that they would have garnered the same reconsideration. Luckily, according to one witness present at the meeting to vote on a re-vote, the developers backed down when they saw they did not have the votes present:

Observers said Jack May stood in the audience talking on his cell the phone before the meeting and seemed to be scanning the commissioners present. There did not appear to be sufficient votes present in favor MTC. Immediately before the meeting started, he walked over to the staff table and asked that his proposal to reconsider be withdrawn. Shortly afterwards, some two dozen opponents from Bells Bend adjourned to the parking lot for strategy discussions.

After the 2009 Planning Commission vote, editorializing stories curiously appeared in a local African-American paper making claims about community support without reference to data. Likewise, some on Mays' team selectively applied polling data on the question of developing Bells Bend without reference to the whole picture. Advertisements went out indicating that Jefferson Street would be revitalized by May Town Center, but according to one neighborhood leader, Jack May seemed to distance himself from the ads during a West Nashville community meeting sponsored by Emily Evans.

These events have been characterized by bobbing and weaving by developers from the beginning. We shouldn't be surprised to see that, as the Bells Landing team fractures (we may never know the exact constitution of the team), they begin charging one another with deception. Many of us who opposed May Town Center insisted all along that we were being sold a bill of goods rather than a viable community plan.

1 comment:

  1. We must remember to thank Metro Planning Commissioner Andree LeQuire who would not let the debate regarding May Town die even when all of the commissioners were ready to vote and go home because they were so tired.

    Andree continued to speak up in support of the community plan and the fact that so very many citizens had spoken against May Town. She knew that the citizens had long since figured out that Jack May was selling a bag of goods.

    Thank you Ms. LeQuire for having the courage to speak up for the citizens and not roll over for developers that pad people's pockets. Future commissioners should remember, "If it is too good to be true, it probably isn't."