Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Barely a contest: another big developer trounces neighborhoods

After months of fighting the Green Hills neighborhood association loses another battle to developers' definitions of growth, and the Nashville Business Journal makes it sound like supersizing buildings outside of scale somehow equals advancement for all of us. What else could "progress" mean?

The signs of progress are emerging in the days after a county judge ruled against the Green Hills Neighborhood Association, in a lawsuit the group filed this spring.

The neighborhood group sued Southern Land and Metro government, alleging that city planners did not follow proper steps in vetting the project. The neighborhood group wanted a judge to force the matter back before the planning commission.

Chancellor Russell Perkins ruled that Metro government followed appropriate steps. Planning department staff approved Southern Land's plans, which then appeared as one item on a consent agenda, a list of items that are voted on collectively by planning commissioners....

The neighborhood group has about a month to decide whether to appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Otherwise, the ruling by Perkins will become final.

In my opinion, Green Hills neighbors do not stand a chance even if they win an appeal to leverage a new hearing before the Planning Commission, which is now exclusively developer-friendly. Anyway, they declared victory prematurely back in January. They put up a brave fight, but this one is over. With money and political influence, developers win again. It is still the same old story.


  1. I see this as a victory for the rule of law. We may not like the current law, but the developers followed it and the planning commission followed it, and the TN Court of Appeals would likely affirm their actions.

    This desire to change the rules of the game when something we think is bad is about to happen is not good. The process is just as important as the outcome when dealing with laws and regulations that affect hundreds of thousands of people and businesses with disparate interests.

    If you don't want higher-density development in and around Nashville, get your local properties downzoned. Or, elect politicians that represent your views. We get the government we deserve.


  2. It's more like we get the government that the developers and their lobbyist buy. If you don't want to live in the next Atlanta it is time to leave. The Nashville that we once knew and loved has been hijacked by those with the deepest pockets. The GNA went above and beyond to try to protect their neighborhood. Sadly it's not about the current residents any more. It's all the young people and money, money, money. It's time to load the moving van and get out why we still can.

  3. The Green Hills Urban Design Overlay, which has been in effect for over a decade, is linked below. It's pretty interesting - the maximum building height on Hillsboro is 60 feet, but there are incentives that allow you to go higher. Add a bus stop, contribute money to bike lanes --> reduce parking. Add a plaza, add residential --> get extra height or floor space allowed.

    And this...
    Building heights should relate to street corridor
    widths (building front to building front). This
    creates the feel of an urban corridor for the
    street. To achieve this urban corridor, building
    height must be slightly more than half the
    width of the street corridor. Hillsboro Pike is
    wider than other streets within the UDO area
    and should have a higher maximum height.

    Anyone who read this 10 years ago could see more density coming. Anyone inclined to look into the details (the incentives) would see that the cap on height of 60 feet could easily be increased.

    Those responsible are not those with the deepest pockets. Those responsible are the government officials and urban planners, those who elected them, and those who didn't pay attention for a decade.

  4. Where were these whiny "neighbors" when the design guidelines were being created? Seems they didn't care to participate.

  5. I am anon at 8:57, and while I place some responsibility on the the people in the GHNA, this blog (in particular) has shown how difficult it can be for ordinary residents to keep up with what is going on in local government, all the way down to street-level concerns.

    And to think, it was probably more difficult 10 years ago to keep up with this kind of stuff.