Monday, April 30, 2007

Controversial Schöne Ansicht Investor Yokley Bids to Buy More Salemtown Property Zoned with Duplex-Friendly "R6" from Howard Gentry's Senior Advisor

I found out tonight that properties at the northwest corner of Hume St. and 6th Av., N. are now under contract and the potential buyer is Steve Yokley of UP, LLC, whose Schoene Ansicht development just across 6th Av. has suffered from one controversy after another. The available properties are already zoned duplex-friendly R6, and Mr. Yokley's associate, Taurus McCain asked me not too long ago if I would oppose duplexes on those properties if UP, LLC bought them.

Besides the Schoene Ansicht townhouses, Mr. Yokley has already built duplexes on 5th Av., and he and his fellow Salem Gardens investment group have a request pending Public Hearing tomorrow night to build 6 more duplexes at 6th and Garfield. While Salemtown's neighborhood association supported some of Mr. Yokley's developments, we are vigorously opposing the Salem Gardens request.

The cause against Salem Gardens rezoning for duplexes is now even more urgent, considering that there is nothing stopping Mr. Yokley from putting even more duplexes on the northwest corner of 6th and Hume should the sale go through. A sale would also mean that there is nothing to stop Mr. Yokley from allowing debris from a new construction site on the Hume St. hill to clog once again the 5th and Hume intersection.

The seller and current owner of the parcels is Brooks Parker, who is a major advisor to Vice Mayor (a.k.a., Metro Council Chair) and Mayoral Candidate Howard Gentry. A recent press release from the Gentry campaign calls Mr. Parker a "longtime senior advisor."

UPDATE: Linked Gentry Press release has been removed by the campaign.

Salemtown Set for Council Showdown

Salemtown Neighbors members are making some final rounds through the North End tonight getting as many signatures as possible in support of the Planning Commission's rejection of Salem Gardens investors' request to zone 5 properties at 6th and Garfield for 6 duplexes. Signers of the petition include people who have moved to Salemtown recently and residents who have lived here for as many as 40 years. The petition will be handed to Metro Council by Salemtown leaders during the Public Hearing on the zoning request at tomorrow night's Court House meeting. A contingent of Salemtown residents has committed to meet at the Public Square tomorrow night at 5:45 and speak against the 6-duplex-plan during the Public Hearing. If you need directions or a ride to the Court House, just e-mail me.

Don't Vote for This At-Large Candidate in August

An old sailor's warning is appropriate: there be rocks here. Rocks in the head.

Even though he outspokenly challenges illegal immigration, this Metro at-Large candidate says nothing specific about what he would do to stop illegal immigration (truthfully, there is little he could do in Metro Council, since illegal immigration is a federal problem; so, why isn't he running for Congress?).

Hence, we are left to surmise from the video that he would attempt to deny emergency treatment to certain trauma victims (that's not exactly pro-life) and he would attempt to bar children at the school house door (which punishes kids for having no choice as to the family they are born into or as to their parents' choices).

Watch it and remember that if you vote for anyone in August, don't vote for Jim Boyd.

HT: Michael Cass

Last Night's Downtown Shooting Debated at the Charrette

It looks to be lively over there in the wake of last night's senseless and random barbarity on 2nd Avenue. Go there and wade in (I have) after the jump.

Tomorrow Is the Big Night

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 @ 6:00
(Council Meeting starting time)
Metropolitan Courthouse
(corner of 3rd Av. N. and Union St.)

You cannot accuse me of failing vigorous attempts to keep tomorrow night's Public Hearing on the 6th and Garfield rezoning on your radar. Assuming we have no prior commitments or unexpected crises, either we care enough to attend and to speak to the Council on behalf of development balance or we do not. The real estate investors introducing the plan to put 6 duplexes on 5 properties cannot win this thing after being rejected by the Planning Commission; however, Salemtown residents can lose it. And we just might lose it if we do not have the numbers tomorrow night to encourage the Council to sign on to the Planning alternative for 6th and Garfield. Hence, turn out!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Garrigan Should Cover Her Ears on This One

Hear no evil: journalist Bill Moyers drank the blogging kool-aid last week, referred to political blogging as the "new face of journalism," and gave Talking Points Memo blogger Josh Marshall the chance to slap around the mainstream news media for failing to do the slightest critical questioning of powers-that-be on policies that matter.

More on Future Need #2 and the Blur That Is I-65 Traffic

The photo above is just further proof that Salemtown needs the same kind of relief from noise pollution and dangerous highway traffic that West End and Belmont-Hillsboro enjoy.

Chain link fences make unsightly barriers that fail to deflect the vehicular noise reverberating through the north side of the neighborhood. Our next council member should help us solve this problem.

Salemtown Future Need #4: A Neighborhood-Attuned Council Member Who Is Both Communicator and Catalyst for the Common Good

How hard can it be for a Council Member to show up to an association or block grant meeting once in a while or to hold community meetings 5 or 6 times a year to help develop a vision for his or her leadership? In District 19, neighborhoods are in need of a leader who communicates and acts as a catalyst on behalf of the entire community rather than in the narrow interests of businesses or political patrons.

Salemtown, just like the rest of 19, is experiencing tremendous growth and redevelopment. The result is that we do have some greedy entrepreneurs who could care less about working with the neighborhood honestly for balanced growth in which everyone wins. Recently we found ourselves in the unenviable position of contending with both investors and Metro officials because growth is outstripping infrastructure in our neighborhood. The investors don't care because they only want to make money. Departmental officials only want to cover their butts. And many of our residents feel caught in the middle with no where to turn.

It is not supposed to be like that. We are supposed to have an advocate on the Metro Council who not only listens to the contentions, but who is willing to get right down in the middle of the ruckus and help the sides reach a balanced and negotiated compromise. That council member should also be one to assist neighbors in consulting Metro Departments that are not always responsive or accountable. The Council Member should be leading the charge on updating our sometimes century-old infrastructure, while encouraging measured and responsible growth. Above all, follow through is key.

But in order to have proper follow through, the candidates for Council have to commit to staying attuned to the neighborhoods long after the last vote is cast in the August election. Our next council member should meet with us consistently and reply to our letters, e-mails, and phone messages personally. And he or she should be willing to lead Salemtown and the rest of the district boldly, but representatively into the future.

Marathon: Spectating

Marathon: The Runners 2

Friday, April 27, 2007

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Reports of Mortgage Fraud Increasing

Mortgage brokers paid according to sales volume rather than loans paid back and collusion between brokers, appraisers, Realtors, and attorneys to inflate sales prices are instances of mortgage fraud that NPR mentions in today's Your Money report:

Reports of suspected fraud from federally regulated institutions more than doubled between 2003 and 2006. Federal officials estimate mortgage fraud totaled from $1 billion to $6 billion in 2005 alone.
Borrowers over a barrel are starting to lobby governments to respond to foreclosures based on mortgage fraud.

Salemtown Neighbors Now Has a Website

Thanks to Justin Harvey of abrasiveInk, the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association has gone live on-line. I'm sure that this will make a number of members happy, as I have heard from them repeatedly that we needed a website. Please give Justin the love he deserves.

Best Views of the Marathon

The North End leg of the Country Music Marathon (it's this weekend!) has picturesque backdrops, open spaces, and the split of the 1/2 marathoners from the marathoners. 8th Avenue usually has low crowd numbers. There are wide sidewalks and a big median on which to wait for the runners. Amenities for spectators include the Farmers Market and Bicentennial Mall. Monell's in Germantown has a huge breakfast. There is great parking in Hope Gardens or Germantown/Salemtown, both which can be accessed by Jefferson Street, which it self can be accessed by either I-40 on the west (to get to Hope Gardens) or I-24 on the east (to get to Germantown/Salemtown).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Salemtown Future Need #3: Convert the Fehr School Building Back to a Functioning Public School

While the push to redevelop the North End is moving at lightning speed with money pouring into the area to fund new places to live, play, and work, any inertia to make the area a place for families is lagging behind. Salemtown is a neighborhood of families that will not stay that way very long unless some measures are taken to keep it from becoming a place super-saturated with amenities only for singles and young families with no children.

One of the things that should happen to attract families with children to locate and to stay here is to replace a quality neighborhood public school here. However, there are no feeder schools proximate to the North End. Fehr School sits right in the middle of Salemtown. Decades ago it provided an education for neighborhood children, but it is used to provide other Metro Services now, having little to do with the neighborhood itself.

The drive from the intersection where the Fehr School Building sits to Salemtown's feeder elementary school is almost 10 miles. Brookmeade Elementary sits near West Meade in West Nashville. It is time to have a feeder elementary school either in the neighborhood or close to the North End. Renovating the Fehr School Building would mean that new land would not have to be bought and a new building built from the ground up.

But for the Fehr Building to be freed up to become a school once more, Metro Social Services and Headstart need to be located elsewhere. Some of that was supposed to happen in 2006; in 2005, the Director of Metro Social Services told me that Social Services (which is where lower income folk can obtain government assistance to pay bills) was moving to South Downtown's Howard School Building. That did not happen.

But if Salemtown is going to remain a diverse place with families as well as singles relocating here, it is going to need to provide more educational opportunities for children than it currently does. The Neighborhood Plan calls for the Fehr School Building to revert back to a school and for some of the surrounding paved parking to become public green space. Perhaps the future District 19 council member can work to make sure that both of those goals are realized in the next half-decade.

[Black & white photo credit: Metro Archives]

6th and Garfield Rezoning Public Hearing Less Than A Week Away

The agenda for the May 1 Metro Council Public Hearing is out and the bills on Public Hearing are scheduled for the first part of the agenda.

To back the Planning Commission's more balanced plan for 6th and Garfield and to oppose the bill that would cover the corner with duplexes please attend this meeting:

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 @ 6:00
(Council Meeting starting time)
Metropolitan Courthouse
(corner of 3rd Av. N. and Union St.)

We need a big turnout in order to express opposition to the investors' duplexes at the Public Hearing. Please reserve at least a couple of hours during the evening on May 1 beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Keep That Powder Dry

If you look at the Army Corps of Engineers flood maps of the Downtown area (in the event of a catastrophic failure of Kentucky's Wolf Creek Dam) the footprint of East Nashville seems to conform to the flood plain on the East Bank. Most of the old neighborhoods lie safely outside of the worst-case green zone, which reaches just beyond the I-24 corridor. Before dams, Nashvillians built well away from the Cumberland. The maps show us why.

But the Corps's worst case scenario includes flooding of the Steiner-Liff scrap-metal yard, where Mayoral Candidate David Briley has promised a neighborhood and a baseball park should he be elected. I was supportive of the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan of creating a new neighborhood in that area, but since finding out about the potential destruction should the Wolf Creek Dam fail, I wonder whether we should press ahead so quickly with new East Bank neighborhoods rather than waiting to see whether federal government is going to commit sufficient funds--which I believe should be committed--to repairing the Dam upriver.

Salemtown Future Need #2: Complete Renovation and Buffering of the I-65 Interface with Salemtown

Unlike the construction of I-440 in the West End and Hillsboro areas, the cut of I-65 through Salemtown was completed without compromise, without regard for "children’s safety, the preservation of neighborhoods and sound protection from traffic." Traffic getting on and off I-65 at 8th Avenue, North veers dangerously close to pedestrian walkways.
Ramps seem to cut through some front yards, making some old houses useless shells or isolating whole blocks from the rest of the neighborhood. The cheap and plentiful chain link fences provide the only barriers dividing North Salemtown from zooming traffic, and nothing dampens the noise pollution of big-rig engines roaring by 24/7.

As weak as the effort is, Council Member Ludye Wallace's fence bill is partly intended to deal with problems of interstate exchange designs that erode the quality of local community life. But we need a more vigorous and comprehensive effort by our next council member to pursue a wholesale renovation to the I-65 corridor through Salemtown that includes many of the community-sensitive compromises that TDOT made with West End-Hillsboro neighbors when they put I-440 in the 1980s.

The Neighborhood Plan calls for noise walls and heavy landscaping along the perimeter of Salemtown. The plot of an interstate up against the walls and yards of urban neighborhoods without the addition of sound buffers is unconscionable. Our next council member needs to find ways to help us motivate TDOT to correct its obvious oversight.
The Neighborhood Plan also recommends landscaping in the 8th Avenue median, replacing the solid concrete that currently dominates and encourages more traffic problems as cars jump the curb and drive over the median to change directions.

Perhaps these renovations could be secured by a TDOT matching grant. The Metro Council approved one in April for Council Member Ginger Pepper. Our new member should contact Ms. Pepper and other connected leaders to try and generate the needed funds. Regardless of whether the make-over occurs slowly over a number of years or all at once, the District 19 council member should take every bold step possible to make the I-65 footprint more Salemtown-friendly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Metro Paving Manager: Salemtown Alleys Should Be Paved by Late October/Early November 2007

I just got a call from Paving Manager Don Reid, who tells me that he spoke with Paving Scheduler Tim Young himself and got a commitment to have the recently gravelled-over alleys in Salemtown paved by Late October/Early November of this year. He told me that the promise to have the alleys paved by early Spring 2007 should not have been made without consultation with Mr. Young, especially since alleys are generally scheduled for paving late in the year (streets get paved earlier). The latest commitment sounds better than 2008, but we will see what happens.

Despite Metro's Claims of Broken Paving Equipment, Germantown Alleys Reportedly Paved Recently

A neighbor sent me an e-mail during the weekend saying that the same Metro Public Works crew that last week put down a mixed gravel surface on unpaved Salemtown alleys told her that they had paved Germantown alleys within the past two weeks. The alleys (pictured to the left) run from Jefferson St. to Van Buren St. and they lie between 3rd and 4th Avs. The news of this recent paving was confirmed by an employee of one of the businesses that stretch out along 3rd Av. just north of Jefferson St.

I continue to await a response to my questions--originally posed in an e-mail last Friday--from Metro Paving Manager Don Reid. When he does eventually get back to me, I also intend to ask him:
  • If Metro truly has had broken paving equipment since 2006, then how do Germantown alleys get paved in the last two weeks?
  • Was the previous condition of the Germantown alleys at least as bad as the unpaved Salemtown alleys (were there huge pot holes, blowing dust, and post-storm mud-hole conditions)?
  • Why is Germantown more deserving of paved alleys than Salemtown?

UPDATE: I spoke with Metro Paving Manager Don Reid by phone. Mr. Reid told me that he "has no idea" why the Germantown alleys were paved in the last two weeks, and that I would need to talk to Paving Scheduler Tim Young to find out when Salemtown's alleys are to be paved. Did I just get the bureaucratic bounce? We shall see.

UPDATE II: Paving tune change after the jump.

And Newspapers Invented the Internet!

Today's City Paper editorial is another over-the-top harangue against the Mike Jameson's news rack bill. It comes begging the Mayor for a veto.

Aside from refusing to deal with the fact that hawking newspapers and their ads in a public thoroughfare is commerce, not free speech, the editors tell us that news racks are somehow responsible for bringing African Americans their civil rights in the 1960s. Forget voluntary associations like the SCLC, SNCC, and churches. Instead, African Americans owe their thanks to apartment guides in multi-colored plastic boxes glutting sidewalks.

Speaking of voluntary associations, the editors also refuse to accept responsibility for their negligence and the resulting blight that raises the concerns of neighborhood associations. Instead, they pass the buck to the Metro Police for not standing sentry over racks to deter vandalism and graffiti (embedded irony: a fellow newspaper wrote a promotional piece on local graffiti "artists" recently, even as police tell us that such vandalism is the most difficult crime to arrest and to prosecute). The CP believes that responsibility for the unkempt condition of their news racks lies elsewhere.

Speaking of lies, the editors continue to tell the lie that commercial sales of newspapers, not the act of writing the news itself, is a First Amendment issue. They also lie when they call themselves independent; they are beholden to the corporate owners and entrenched politicos who influence the news and reap the benefits of distribution.

[Photo credit: cdub]

Mr. October in April


for a moment.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Salemtown Future Need #1: 3rd Avenue Civic Greenway With Aesthetic Wall Obstructing Wastewater Treatment Plant

Metro Water has lately been trying to make amends for being a perennial bad neighbor, periodically flooding the neighborhood with noxious smells before making changes last year to minimize odors (and in the next couple of years to eliminate them or at least they tell us it will be so). While eradicating the smell is obviously a more pressing need, Salemtown residents who live around 3rd Avenue, North also have to brook sight pollution: the ugly treatment tanks of Metro Water sit in the highly-visible valley that lies between Salemtown's eastern border and the Cumberland River.

That is why I believe that one of Salemtown's future needs that our next Council Member (after the Fall election) should address is conversion of the public property bordering the Treatment Plant to a landscaped greenway spur connecting to Morgan Park. That spur should include a decorative wall to hide the unsightly Plant from the view of the neighborhood. The strip of land running from Hume Street on the south to Coffee Street on the north is currently unlandscaped green space with a chain link fence and some trees and rose bushes.

Currently, there is nothing about the green strip that attracts pedestrians strolling around the neighborhood. The rose bushes on the chain link fence seem almost like a token, half-hearted effort by Metro to beauty-up the strip. The space as it stands more designed to encourage people to hurry past in cars, because there is really nothing to see but a sewer plant.

On the contrary, the 2002 Neighborhood Plan calls for this green strip to be a civic open space. To become civic, it is going to need sidewalks, landscape architecture, seating, and most importantly a blocking wall instead of a chain link fence running the length of the plant's edge. These are some of the basic ingredients that make small public spaces attractive. Other possibilities include water features (which could recall the plant-obstructed Cumberland River) and a possible Riverfront Redevelopment Plan Transit stop (perhaps a trolley driveway).

The greatest focus on development in Salemtown has been along 5th and 6th Avenues, while 3rd and 4th Avenues not received enough attention. Part of the reason is that 3rd Avenue suffers for Metro Water's unsightly presence. That is inexcusable, and our next Council Member should help us realize our Neighborhood Plan by working toward designating Metro Water's border as an attractive, civic greenway.

SigTowe Has Hotel and Breaks Ground This Summer

NashPo tells us to expect ads, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Note to the 6 District 19 Metro Council Candidates: Salemtown's Future Needs

District 19 Metro Council candidate Erica Gilmore (daughter of current council member Brenda Gilmore) was making the door-to-door meet-and-greet rounds in Salemtown recently. Upon asking me my thoughts on Salemtown priorities, she got more gab than she bargained for, I'm sure. You can probably guess that I was not bashful in giving Ms. Gilmore feedback for any future District 19 leader (Ludye Wallace is term-limited and finished in August).

But our chat on my chilly porch got me to thinking down the road a bit about what kinds of improvements Salemtown needs beyond the ones to which we react presently (you know: the ones you keep seeing here). So I put some segments of my reflective capacity into imagination overdrive and I came up with a few ideas beyond the promises (paved alleys, new playground, storm run-off, wastewater upgrades) made to us in the present.

Here is a Salemtown checklist for the more prescient among the current field of District 19 candidates:
  1. Drum up funds for the construction of a greenway spur down 3rd Avenue with a high sight-blocking wall, adjacent to the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant
  2. Hunt down a TDOT matching grant that will finance a complete make-over of the land between the 8th Avenue/MetroCenter/I-65 overpass and the 3rd Avenue/I-65 overpass, including sound barriers
  3. Work with the School District to convert the Fehr School Building at 5th and Garfield (currently houses Metro Social Services) back to an operating neighborhood school and follow the 2002 Neighborhood Plan to replace part of the surrounding parking lots with open public greenspace
  4. Hold regular community meetings in the North End for the purpose of fine tuning the balanced growth commitments of the Neighborhood Plan; explore overlay options
  5. Find creative ways to link neighborhoods beyond East Germantown to the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan including developing more connections to the Cumberland River Greenway (MetroCenter)
I will be saying more about each of these points in future posts. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Future need #1 after the jump.

UPDATE: Future need #2 after the jump.

UPDATE: Future need #3 after the jump.

UPDATE: Future need #4 after the jump.

UPDATE: Future need #5 after the jump.

Another Broken Metro Promise?

A neighbor tells me that Metro officials have told her that the gravel/tar put down last week on Salemtown's unpaved alleys is the surface that we are going to have to live with until 2008. If true, that means that Public Works has broken a second promise to the neighborhood.

First, they told us that we would have our alleys paved in 2006. Later, they said that their paving equipment was broken and that it would be Spring 2007. Now, according to the neighbor, the people directing paving say that their equipment is still broken and that we will have to live with gravel/tar until 2008.

I sent an e-mail to the official with oversight of paving alleys, Metro's Don Reid, asking him to verify. I'll keep you posted. How can Metro maintain pavement for months if their paving equipment is broken?

Gravel it as they may, we've seen that gravel quickly turns to dust and mud. This is unsatisfactory.