Monday, July 13, 2009

Nothing is over until Tony G., the May Family Landlords, and Their Team of Lawyers Say It is over

Last Friday, the development team intent on building a second Downtown across the pastures of Bells Bend asked for special treatment from the Planning Commission in the form of a do-over of the Planning Commission's June vote. That vote did not go well for the Bells Landing Partners: the Planning Commission could not muster enough votes to approve urbanization of Bells Bend, which itself triggered an impossible supermajority vote in Metro Council.

Slick, take-no-prisoners developer Tony Giarratana sent the Planning Commission a letter requesting a new vote based on vague references to irregularities and lame claims to late-night hours and meeting fatigue that are standard boiler-plate for many Metro meetings I've watched. The enigmatic kernel of Tony G's case that seems to beg for the extended obfuscation that lawyers do so well:
As you recall, after about six hours of meeting and public hearing the gavel fell and, at around 10:00 in the evening, the first vote was called. During the ensuing 45 minutes of motions, debate and voting it became apparent to many in attendance that several procedural irregularities most likely undermined the entire voting process. To be sure, the late hour had an obvious impact on the Commission members expressing such sentiments as "It's late," "I'm tired," "Don't confuse me," and "It's confusing," all the while rubbing their eyes and shaking their heads. Many in the room that evening certainly shared these frustrations.
The irony of the June public hearing is that May Town supporter and friend to untrammeled developers, CM Jim Gotto, was the Commission member who forced the late-hour vote. The Commissioners had already been talking about carrying over the MTC discussion to another day and voting then. However, CM Gotto must have miscalculated that he had 6 votes that he did not have, and he seemed to misconstrue that his side had the advantage of late night confusion. We wouldn't have heard a word about do-overs from the development side if 5 other commissioners had voted with Gotto.

Instead, the confusion worked against the May Town team, because at least one commissioner who had expressed his ambivalence all night about supporting the proposed sprawl voted against a motion against May Town and then voted against Gotto's motion in favor of May Town. Despite the consistency of the caution with the different votes, Gotto paid no heed to the ambivalence and he may have clumsily cost his side Commission approval. Tony G should stop blaming "irregularities" for his loss and instead blame Mr. Gotto's fumble.

To protest in such a self-important way as if he was any better than anyone else who ever loses at the commission is bad faith. Those of us who have sat through long Metro meetings, late at night, staggered by the procedural stunts--at times watching initiatives we support lose--should feel no pity or empathy for the MTC development team. They are all lawyered up and ready to take this to the ivory towers of the judicial branch away from the unwashed masses in order to charge Metro government irregularities.

But proponents of keeping Bells Bend rural by keeping out a second Downtown have their own case against irregularities in the Metro Planning department. The alternative development area plan, the MTC rezoning request, and the Planning staff's endorsement of the SP all violate Metro Planning's own Community Character Manual, which is supposed to be determinative of planning for Bells Bend. The Planning staff's bungling double-cross of west Nashville neighbors and their sub-area plan in order to open the door for bridges to be built to Bells Bend was also a glaring irregularity that will do more to undermine public confidence than anything the Commission did to MTC. May Town opponents have their own strong case against Planning irregularities, but their avenues to seek redress are fewer and far between because of the lack of comparative wealth.

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