Tuesday, March 05, 2013

District 19 council member listed among others on developer's "secret tapes"

Over the weekend the Tennessean reported that "secret tapes" exist that contain 40 hours of conversations between a May Town Center developer and over a dozen council members regarding his team's plan to build a sprawling "second downtown" on Bells Bend. Noteworthy is the mention of District 19 CM Erica Gilmore:
By early 2010 — when the first recording was captured — May Town leaders had turned their attention from the Metro Planning Commission, where the development had stalled in a 5-5 vote, to the 40-member council, where the project needed 27 votes for approval because of the planning commission setback.

Ultimately, the council in March 2010 voted to defer the May Town project indefinitely.

According to May’s recent filing, plaintiffs secretly recorded conversations with council members Megan Barry, Phil Claiborne, Tim Garrett, Erica Gilmore, Jason Holleman, Edith Langster, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Jerry Maynard, Bruce Stanley, Ronnie Steine, Charlie Tygard, and then-council members Michael Craddock, Randy Foster and Jim Hodge. It also cites “others.”

The parties discussed the project, speculated about votes and offered their impressions of Jack May, Mayor Karl Dean, Tony Giarratana and others, according to the brief.

The Metro Planning Commission refused in a close vote to approve the proposal, which put the burden on Metro Council to approve it only with a super-majority. The proposal was eventually withdrawn, so we do not have recorded votes of these CMs.

However, some of these council members made their opinions clear during the planning public hearing process. Here is an excerpt of the May 2009 public hearing minutes:

Councilmember [Mike] Jameson first explained that he was asked by Councilmember Barry and Councilmember Cole to include their names as part of the record as expressing their opposition to the proposed May Town Center. They were unable to attend the meeting....

Councilmember Holleman acknowledged Councilmember Matthews support for the May Town Center, however, expressed his concerns with respect to the May Town Center development affecting the entire region as opposed to only Council District 1. His district is in the pathway of connecting this development to the rest of the city and he expressed his concerns regarding its impact on District 24. He explained the work that he and his constituents have completed on the West Nashville Community Plan update and spoke of how the May Town Center would impact their transportation network and infrastructure. He also explained that he and his constituents have not had the chance to review the Traffic Impact Study recently released from RPM and would like for the Commission to allow them an opportunity to review the study and provide their comments regarding the study at the next Public Hearing scheduled for June 25, 2009. Councilmember Holleman then pointed out some of the highlights included the Traffic Impact Study and how they would directly affect his district. He requested that the Commission deny the zone change request until he and his community can further digest any impacts on their district.

Councilmember Craddock expressed his support for the May Town Center development as the project is a good quality development; and that the proposal would lessen the burden on the Nashville’s taxpayers. He spoke on the issue of spiraling property taxes and the need to seek good quality development to further enhance the City of Nashville. Councilmember Craddock then acknowledged the importance of not allowing a development of this size to adversely affect surrounding districts and to need to find the best way to implement the project for the betterment of all living in Nashville.

Councilmember Matthews .... stated that over the year, he has obtained the necessary information in which he could now support the proposed May Town Center development and explained all of the positive attributes that could be derived from the development. Attributes such as increased jobs for the area, and additional opportunities for corporate relocations to the City of Nashville .... He stated he would assist the bill as it makes it way through the approval process at Council .... As Councilmember Matthews closed, he explained all of the conversations he has with all involved parties and expressed his support for the May Town Center.

I attended that public hearing, and I do not recall seeing CM Gilmore. I am curious about what her views on the May Town Center proposal are on those "secret tapes". I am also wondering, as a constituent, whether I have a right to know what my CM says to developers about voting intentions on significant projects.

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