Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Contentious community meeting held in Whites Creek

"I've lived here a long time. I get it. Anything Nashville does not want gets dumped on us in northern Davidson County."
-- Whites Creek resident to Ole South developers

Tonight at the KIPP school building in the Whites Creek area, Metro Council member Walter Hunt held a community meeting between concerned residents and developers of a proposed vinyl-clad suburban development on Green Lane and Whites Creek Pike. I counted over 50 people in attendance for the hour I was there. And the meeting was still chugging along when I had to leave.

Walter Hunt
CM Hunt opened the meeting by saying that Ole South developers and land owners approached him about 2 weeks ago about building on 11.8 acres of rural, tree-covered property. He told the group that he stipulated that homes should not be marketed for more than $200,000 because $300,000 homes would not sell when built next to cheaper properties. Walter Hunt is chair of the council's Planning and Zoning Committee, which gives him an influential seat on the Planning Commission, which is set to consider this proposal on February 27. Suffice to say he wields some influence in that position, and developers likely show him deference.

Tom White, well-known local land use lawyer and registered lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Middle TN, followed CM Hunt. He mainly emphasized that since this is not a rezoning request no councilmanic action was needed. He said that Planning Commission approval of the "cluster-lot development" is "a high likelihood". In fact, he insisted at least 3 times by my count, and it eventually drew the ire of at least one resident, who said that it seemed to him that the deal was done and that the neighbors attended for nothing. He also wondered aloud (rhetorically?) whether the public should bother attending the February 27 public meeting where it was on the agenda.

Someone--I can't remember whether is was the land-use lawyer or CM Hunt--responded that residents can still attend the planning meeting and "say whether they like or don't like" the plan. But again, Mr. White reiterated that in his opinion, approval was "highly likely", because Metro planners see that the proposal fits the land use.

At one point Mr. White told the group that 90% of each home's exterior would be "masonry products" (like brick or cement fiberboard) and less than 10% vinyl. Later when a builder was discussing the exterior materials he said that the lawyer had misunderstood him. In fact, only the front of the homes would have masonry materials (and only 80%). The other three sides would be constructed of vinyl siding, a disclosure that drew visible expressions of shock and groans in the crowd. One resident responded that the 3 vinyl sides took away any excitement he might have had initially for the plan. "We don't need that," he told the builders.

Other questions launched from the floor at the development team included how the design was going to handle stormwater and what would happen if the homeowners association planned by the team did not take care of the open spaces (Metro would take them over). People were talking over one another to the point where CM Hunt stepped in and told the group to wait until Q&A to ask the team questions that could also be written down and presented at the Planning Commission meeting. Someone in the audience replied to CM Hunt, "We're not stupid, you know."

Community leader Alicia Batson told the development team that the group is concerned about protecting their "absolutely beautiful" pastureland and their watershed, which is the cleanest in Davidson County. She told the group that she had done her own research and found out that the average selling price of new construction homes in the county is $336,000 (2013) and that the average for the Whites Creek area is $296,000 (2013). To CM Hunt's earlier point she said, "The homes you say aren't worth much are going to increase in value if more expensive real estate is built around them." She said she would like to see Whites Creek develop more like Leipers Fork has.

When Alicia ended by saying of the proposal, "We don't need this here," applause broke out. I looked around the room. Nearly every person I saw was either applauding or nodding their heads. They all looked to me like they were on the same page in opposition to this plan for sprawl.

Another neighbor picked up where Alicia left off and told the developers and council member that the design needed to be an attractor to families and needed to be a positive force in improving Whites Creek schools. And she did not miss a beat. "We have got to get a community plan done," a point no doubt meant for Walter Hunt, who has failed to help them produce a community plan. Again, applause ensued.

A young couple who had lived in East Nashville said that they relocated to Whites Creek especially for the more rural setting with less dense space for their family and pets. One of them pointed at the developers' plans and said, "I don't want that anywhere near our house."

The builders seemed uncompromising in spite of all of the pleas the neighbors were making. Whites Creek residents seemed to be acknowledging, in some cases welcoming, development as long as it is suited to the character and priorities of their community. I did not detect NIMBY by any measure. They seemed to find this product unsuitable, and they wanted something consistent with Whites Creek. I am not very hopeful about compromise in the Planning Commission process because of developers' inflexibility.

In one case they came off as arrogant. Many in the group seemed particularly resistant to the Ole South builder's claim that he plans $200,000 houses because he believes in gradual price gradations between neighborhoods.

"You've got to have a transition. $150,000, then $175,000, $200,000 and so on. You've got to have a transition," he claimed in response to a room of shaking heads and audible disagreement.

"No. That's not how it works," a woman in the crowd insisted.

Before she could get her next words out he exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, woman, I've built 9,000 houses in Tennessee. I should know."

That the builder seemed to be putting the "Ole" in "Ole South" by his dismissive, sexist pillory did not seem to sit well with the gathering. All around me I heard expressions of "Woman?!" and "How rude" and "He didn't need to insult her."

While he offered up a raggedy apology, I thought, "This guy is not concerned at all about his chances of winning this fight." He went after her even after CM Hunt had already lectured the group about being diplomatic. I did notice that Mr. Hunt failed to encourage the builder himself toward a show of respect and tact. If I were Mr. Hunt's constituent I might be insulted by that failure as well.

UPDATE: In his comment below Mike Peden says that previously Ole South dumped similar $200,000 vinyl-sided [see "editorial note" below] homes in an Antioch subdivision "full of $300,000" homes. That would contradict Ole South's claim last night that it builds incrementally up from the lowest priced homes in the area. Why didn't the builder start with building $350,000 homes in Antioch if they honestly "have transition" when they build new homes?
  • Editorial note--Mike P. sent me the following clarification on the Antioch homes after I posted this update.
  • The homes Ole South built in the Apple Valley subdivision are all brick (we bought one of them), but they are much lower quality than the homes that were already there. One of our neighbors asked Old South if they would modify the house they built next door to them so it would better match the other homes in their cul-de-sac, and Ole South refused. They have 4 homes under construction now on our street – the homes are built from kits – everything is delivered to the site and then assembled.
  • Additionally, an anonymous commenter challenges Mike's claims that the homes in Antioch were listed at $300,000.

UPDATE: Tennessean business/real estate reporter Getahn Ward wrote a promotional piece on Ole South's planned development last month and he quoted Tom White as saying that he was not expecting any community opposition. It does not seem to me that the lawyer had a factual read on the pulse of the community. And did the reporter merely take Tom White's word for it without actually checking and verifying the question of opposition for himself?

UPDATE: Embarrassing. Last summer Ole South only cleaned up their blighted properties in Whites Creek after neighbors called a local news station for more leverage. They were apparently running down the Whites Creek community months before they ever hatched their plan to sprawl on it. You know who is conspicuously absent from this video tape on deteriorating conditions in his district? CM Walter Hunt.

I have said it over and over on this blog. If developers want to build credibility with a neighborhood (granted, maybe they don't care to), then they should not run afoul of those neighbors during times they are not developing. Like when they are just maintaining properties they own. If Ole South is an irresponsible neighbor in maintaining empty lots, can you expect them to suddenly become responsible in clearing lots and building houses?


  1. The deck has been stacked at the Planning Commission. Walter Hunt was placed there for a reason. First the baseball park, then hand over Whites Creek to developers. The Planning Commission has added Ms. Blackshears, who if I am not mistaken is sister-in-law to Mr. Dalton on the commission. Isn't Dalton married to Judge Angie Blackshears Dalton?

    As for Tom White. Sometimes he thinks he is the mayor, others the chair of the Planning Commission. He tries to intimidate citizens, especially if they are new to the process. I'd advise the citizens of Whites Creek to pack the Planning Commission meeting. They don't all have to speak, just raise their hand. Send emails or letters to the commissioners. And if CM Hunt will not support the citizens in a plan update, recall him. Remind him who he is being paid to represent!

  2. Those are some fugly houses. Why do people continue to buy this plastic cookie cutter cr@p? Otherwise Northeast Davidson County is already blighted with the occasional out of place looking McMansion on a hill. You want to see some absymal "architecture" take a look at a few gems up there. I can't believe the continued popularity of these out of scale monuments to mediocracy.

  3. Last year Ole South Builders purchased all remaining lots in the Apple Valley Subdivision in Antioch, and proceeded to build $200,000 homes in a subdivision full of existing $300,000 homes. Welcome to Antioch, Whites Creek.

  4. After last night's meeting, we are disheartened at the lack of respect from developers and seeming lack of government support for a residents-led development plan for Whites Creek. A jewel in Davidson County, Whites Creek has tremendous potential as an agriculture-arts based community that would add value to both local residents and tourists visiting Nashville. We implore politicians to look at the big picture and support the community's vision instead of short-sighted development. Bell's Bend residents rallied and stopped development that would change the character of that area. I hope the residents of White's Creek can do the same. Walter Hunt and members of the planning commission, we need your help!

  5. Realtracs shows 3 houses in the Apple Valley subdivision for sale. Most expensive is $275k. There are 44 houses for sale in Cane Ridge: 2 are priced over $300,000. One of those is on 6 acres.

    Zillow shows dozens of houses spread from $180,000 to $280,000.,-nashville,-tn_rb/#/homes/for_sale/Nashville-TN-37013/74101_rid/36.005418,-86.630864,36.002315,-86.634399_rect/17_zm/1_fr/

    Those may have been $250,000 to $300,000 houses 2005 - 2007.

    That subdivision is in no way full of $300,000 homes and I doubt it ever was, except maybe at the top of the real estate bubble.

    If one wants to suggest that is was full of $300,000 homes prior to Ole South coming in (and post-housing crisis), I'd like to see the evidence.

    1. House built in 2013 by Ole South Builders at 7204 Smokey Hill Rd in Apple Valley

      Parcel ID 182120A14800CO
      Acquired Date 5/24/2013
      Sale Price $186,000
      Owner Document DB-20130604 0056375

      Mailing Address 7204 SMOKEY HILL RD
      Mailing City ANTIOCH
      Mailing State TN
      Mailing Zipcode 37013
      Description LOT 338 APPLE VALLEY PH 6 SEC 6

      House next door built in 2008 – not by Ole South Builders at 7206 Smokey Hill Rd in Apple Valley

      Parcel ID 182120A14900CO
      Acquired Date 4/1/2008
      Sale Price $340,900
      Owner Document DB-20080403 0033903

      Mailing Address 7208 SMOKEY HILL RD
      Mailing City CANE RIDGE
      Mailing State TN
      Mailing Zipcode 37013
      Description LOT 339 APPLE VALLEY PH 6 SEC 6

    2. "full of existing $300,000 homes" were your words, and "current value" are mine.

      No one would have pay $300,000 for that house in 2013.

      What you've shown is that hte the Patels bought the most expensive house in the neighborhood.

    3. and now they live next door to a $186,000 Ole South home

      The homes Ole South built in Apple Valley did not cause the value of the existing homes to decrease, but they will keep the value from ever rising again.
      Builders like Ole South made Antioch what it is today. It is disappointing that the Planning Commission is considering allowing the same thing to happen in another part of the county.

  6. It is known that Hunt has taken a considerable amount of money from developers. He has plans to run for council-at-large so he can continue to sell out the rest of Nashville. He never responds to community emails and disconnected his phone when the WOMAN tried to call and complain about loud music coming from Fontanel. He is an absolute idiot and wants nothing more than to boost his own ego and fatten his wallet. We need to recall him.

  7. Mean't to say "Otherwise beautiful Northeast Davidson County is already blighted with the occasional out of place looking McMansion on a hill." I agree it is a jewel and would like to see it remain that way.

  8. I don't understand why we cannot try to bring our beautiful area up in quality. Portions of this area have been brought down for whatever reason in the past. We need to turn this around before it is too late. The density is what concerns me most. Ole South has met the requirements of the planning commission so we may as well all shut up and go home. It is futile and they will not be stopped. They have the blessing of the planning commission. What we need to do now is focus on getting any future development such as this halted NOW. We need to get the remainder of the land rezoned and/or a plan that limits further density in this rural area. If something is not changed we will see
    the rest of that land developed with 400-500 homes on it. This will
    take us from the verge of seeing our community improve and the quality of homes and our life move up with Fontanel & the group of people associated with them to seeing our neighborhood slide further towards the brick church pike area with drugs, crime, burgularies,dumping & gangs. We are on the edge and this community could go either way. We all know density (unless controlled by pricing) brings with it more crime. I am not expecting a Brentwood but good homes built on more than a postage stamp of land will bring our quality of life up & our property values. Better homes attract better buyers, better protection & a better community. Which is it to be?

    1. What is the drive time from the proposed new homes to, say, Vanderbilt or Green Hills Mall? What are the values of the homes in nearby developments?

      I am the anon disputing that there's a neighborhood of $300,000 homes in Antioch that Ole South is devaluing.

      I am generally sympathetic to the views expressed here regarding the desire for current residents to take an active role in new developements. I am really sympathetic to the desire to keep open green space. And, I think it is a shame that are is zoned for 1/4-acre lots.

      But - I don't think it does any good to ignore facts or mislead.

      I asked the two questions at the beginning becuase of your last couple sentences. Better homes alone not sufficient to attract better buyers.

  9. Drive time is about 15 Green Hills/vandy area. I looked up the info on the antioch homes and I found that originally Apple Valley had 143 homes of which only 3 were lower than aprox 200K. 9 were aprox $300K and the remaining homes were mostly between 250K-280K ( mixed prices). Anyway it is a good neighborhood. Ole south did come in later 2012-13 and built 9 homes ( at least) all at or LOWER than the aprox $200K mark. They WERE AND STILL ARE the lowest priced homes in the neighborhood. That is a fact. That is accurate. Get any real estate agent to look that up for you if you want exact. Now, this in JUST the info on the homes that were NOT sold by Ole south outside of real estate. There could have been many more than the 9 I found and probably were. They have their own real estate company so some sales could have been pre- sold and only the remaining ones listed on the MLS market. I don't know. Guess the profit margin is better on the cheaper built homes.
    I also looked up the home sales in Whites creek for 2013 and 7 new homes were built & sold for $269,900.00-299,900.00 on 708 Hardy Court. There is one on the market right now on Hardy ct. for $269,900.00. This is what she was referring to in the meeting. Ole south will be building homes barely, maybe at the $200K mark bringing DOWN the area sales. That does not concern me as much as the DENSITY. They will be putting in "cluster" homes on 1/7th of an acre! 1/7th! because of the unusable land and roads,retention pond, etc. These homes will literally be on top of one another. This in an area of farms, wildlife,creeks, trees, farm animals,homes with acreage,etc.
    It's just wrong. Why? Why would they want yet ANOTHER sub division where they are not already? Why not just go build where there is already density and sub-divisions? Why destroy all those trees and green space in an area that does not have that type of density ? The remaining large acreage that is for sale and connects to that parcel is zoned the same meaning that an additional 400-500 homes could ( no scratch that) WILL be built in the future. Once the door is open it's all over for our historical,
    rural, pristine, beautiful,quiet,quaint community & no one cares but us....Sad

  10. Point taken. If I bought the highest priced home in an area, I would certainly be upset to see a significantly lower priced home built next to me. If there is anything good about this situation, I don't see it. It brought down that man's investment in his home. How is that good?
    Did Ole south care? Obviously NOT & they don't care about our community either. They will make their money and be gone.

    1. To quesiton whether there is "anything good" about a situation like this is fatuous.

      People bought homes for market value; homes that are a step-up from starter homes. Homes that are within commuting distance to downtown Nashville.

      You may not believe that the homes in question are a net positive. You may believe Antioch is already awash in cookie-cutter siding-clad homes with no trees, too many cul-de-sacs, and too much traffic. But, someone lives there and that someone is probably pretty grateful for the house s/he now owns.

      Note that I am not saying that pushback on developers is unwarranted, or that communities shouldn't have a say in their own future direction.