Friday, August 15, 2008

Commissioner Questions Objectivity of Southcomm Reporter's Impressions of Commission Meeting

Planning Commissioner Stewart Clifton commented thusly on Enclave:
Here is Richard Lawson's article in the Citypaper followed by my slightly different take.
--Stewart Clifton

Planning commission passes on May decision
Deferral leads to different interpretations from backers, opponents
Email Print By Richard Lawson

08-14-2008 7:58 PM —
The Metro Planning Commission tonight approved a detailed community plan for the Bells Bend area but deferred indefinitely its alternative design portion, which basically would encompass the proposed May Town Center.

Opponents saw the vote as a victory and an opportunity to eventually kill the idea, which calls for 550 acres of mixed-use development. Developer Tony Giarratana, the consultant to the May family, said the delay provides more time to answer questions and put to rest misconceptions about the proposal.

Even though the alternative design area doesn’t specify May Town Center, all comments were directed at the proposed $4 billion project, which is still in the rezoning process.

The discourse from the commissioners proved interesting as several seemed to go beyond the role of land-use planning to take on the responsibility of economic development.

Commissioner Hunter Gee, whose day job is director of community planning for architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss, questioned why corporate campuses need 20 to 30acres.

Janet Miller, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s economic development chief, told commissioners in a community planning meeting that companies looking to relocate wanted such campuses.

“This is not a judgment statement — it is neither right or wrong — but corporations have made the choice more often than not to locate into a corporate campus suburban setting — like a Century City office park … much more often than they opt for a downtown or WestEnd/Gulch location,” she said in remarks.

Gee, however, said this should be looking forward instead of backward to Cool Springs as competition. With gas prices and the lure of downtown cultural activities as well as housing, corporate executives opt to live close to where they work, he said.

“So perhaps we find in 20 years that corporate campuses aren’t desirable,” Gee said.

Gee and others noted the need to focus development on existing infrastructure instead of an area where new building is needed.

Former Councilman David Briley, a lawyer representing opponents of May Town Center, after the vote noted that developer Bert Mathews just rezoned 180 acres in Donelson for a mixed-use development named McCrory Creek Business Park.

Briley said Mathews should go first. Asked whether Metro should be favoring one developer’s plan over another, Briley said, “Yes.” States:
Posted on 8/14/2008 9:12

Interesting, Richard. I was there and my impressions are a tad bit different. It is almost like you intentionally but clumsily strung together several odd items to try to favor one point of view over another. I have no interest in discussing the relative merits of the Maytown proposal but your review of what happened today deserves some response.

Many thoughtful comments were made by councilmembers and Commissioners in well over one hour of discussion. You reported almost none of these. As to this characterizing editorial quote from your article, -- "the discourse from the commissioners proved interesting as several seemed to go beyond the role of land-use planning to take on the responsibility of economic development . . ." -- I would point out that the Maytown proposal has partly been pitched to the Planning Commission and others as economic development and tax revenue heaven. And yes, planning involves evaluating land use considerations but also environmental concerns, sustainability, and evaluations of possibly hyperbolic claims of economic development and tax revenue heaven.

As to who won, of course no one won or lost in terms of the Maytown proposal since the Commission deferred, but surely you know that the Maytown advocates at the last minute specifically and strongly asked that the detailed neighborhood plan be deferred. Not one commissioner favored that suggestion.

As to invoking the Chamber, that seems an odd item to inject today since the Chamber has no position on the proposal and since the statement was not made at the Commission hearing today.

As to your final point, you apparently are trying to tie a lawyer for persons opposing the development to what you apparently think will come across as an unfair favoring of one developer over another. Perhaps your readers would benefit from knowing the following. Yes, the Commission approved the McCrory Creek business park a few months ago. It was essentially zoned for the planned use, while Maytown is not. McCrory had the support of the council and most neighbors and businesses, while Maytown does not. And finally, we have a longstanding principle that already zoned but under-utilized land should be developed before rezoning other land. Not a bad planning principle actually.

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