Friday, July 25, 2008

Southcomm's Grand Idea for Nashville's Future: Surrender It to Land Speculators

The kids at the City Paper have boxed themselves into such an editorial corner that they can only see one solution to meeting Nashville's infrastructure needs: trading a part of Nashville's common wealth to a land speculator and a property owner who will stand to make the kind of returns that George W. Bush did when he sold the Texas Rangers after supplying a minuscule initial investment and everybody else's money. And what is Nashville getting back? Pie-in-the-sky promises that if we build it corporations will automatically descend.  But we also face the very real prospect of paying indefinitely and exponentially for construction and maintenance of public infrastructure to support a campus to compete with Cool Springs without the benefit of the lower suburban prices in Cool Springs and without the certainty that a "campus" is the real difference. 

In contrast, the majority of the Scottsboro/Bells Bend community is not demanding at all: they don't want changes to the septic systems or widening roads and maintaining new bridges. All they are asking is that New Urbanism and real estate hucksters leave them alone. And the rest of us should heed their request. It's in our best interest, because the minute we open the door to the latest grand idea to be the kind of surrender monkeys that we've been to football stadiums and hockey arenas, then we'll find ourselves saying the kind of things that we do now to rationalize Metro's financing of inequitable commitments to private entities.

Metro Water funds continue to be diverted from sewer upgrades in order to finance the football stadium (whatever it's called this year). The Mayor's Office just committed more precious resources to keep the fan-challenged Predators playing in their rink so that we don't have to scramble to find other uses for it. And if we follow the City Paper kids down the merry way of sprawl by giving Bells Bend to a speculator who introduced this concept a few months ago, then I have no doubt we're going to wake up to editorials in a few years that repeat, "Yeah, this has not gone the way we predicted, but what are our options? We're in too far over our heads on MTC."

The people who live in the Bend have been working on a sub-area plan for decades, and yet, developers can swoop in and wave money in the face of a few mainstream media types and a savior for Nashville--made in the image of Cool Springs--is born in the press.  The solution to all our revenue and economic development challenges is Tony G.  And all he wants is to use a tiny part of the last major pristine parcel of city farmland to woo corporations.

Allow me to let the air out of this balloon that the developer-friendly media is inflating:  if May Town Center prompts us to abandon any firm line around urban-suburban sprawl with which we say, "No, there should be at least one major tract of land in Davidson County that is not open to the highest bidder," then there is nothing stopping us from abandoning any line arbitrarily drawn around MTC in the future.  On the contrary, there will be the same cascading effect on every other "conservation area" in the Bend.  We've seen it before. For every present guarantee there is a future backpedal with a lawyer to defend it.  The daisy chain of development doesn't stop until it exhausts all resources for itself and its supporters.  Bridges lead to wider roads.  Wider roads lead to more feeder streets and more homes.  More homes and streets lead to other business.  It's a war of attrition that ends with everyone trying to figure out what went wrong and why Bells Bend shrunk to nothing but an archaic name. 

Well, this is where it goes wrong.  Cheerleaders and drum majors in the mainstream media are falling in line with Tony G. and trying to drown out the voices in the neighborhood immediately impacted.  The City Paper expresses little interest in the sub-area plans or in the welfare of neighborhoods.  To them Bells Bend is a ledger and right now its natural resources sit on the liability side.  I am amazed in an age where sustainability is so significant that a news corporation can characterize the most important large urban greenspace in our country a liability, advance the idea of sprawl, and accuse critics of the May Town Center plan of being the ones to sacrifice Nashville's future.  You have got to hand it to the Southcomm set for at least having the nerve.  But you don't have to hand them the benefit of the doubt when they are wrong.  And there is nothing that demands that MTC critics meet any of City Paper's terms just because they don't like you pointing out how wrong they are.

1 comment:

  1. City Paper is so smart about business that it's nearly bankrupt itself. What good judgement it shows.
    The residents of Bells Bend aren't trying to keep ALL development at a standstill. They know that some development will inevitably occur, and they've addressed this in their own plan. They just don't want this idiotic thing .