Thursday, April 12, 2012

6th and Garfield development: third time's a charm or three strikes, you're out?

I received a card from my council member recently publicizing a 3rd community meeting with developers who are requesting rezoning from the council for their properties at 6th and Garfield.

This meeting was hurriedly put together after I forwarded the proposed designs for the development to the association elist on March 20, prompting a firestorm of criticism both publicly and privately (in email responses sent to me off list). I suggested a third meeting might be appropriate. SNNA officers immediately stepped in and promised a third meeting as the criticism grew.

This drama could have been avoided had Salemtown Neighbors NA clearly communicated the previous two community meetings on the project well in advance and scheduled them at times where the most neighbors could attend. Event planning was handled horribly, with one meeting even scheduled at the same time that the Vanderbilt men's basketball team was playing in the the NCAA tournament. The association's grasp of what the developers were doing was also off as the president sent out an email early on describing them as "Baltimore Brownstones," at which the developers expressed confusion.

Having attended both meetings, and expressing my feedback on parking, pedestrian issues, sight lines, consistency with the community plan and location of the trash carts, I did not feel like I could cast stones at the design, which was aptly described by others as "looking like public housing" (jabbing at the generic, institutional, unstylized design). I have to pick my battles, but I agree with many of the criticisms that came across the Salemtown elist.

I am hoping that many of those who spoke out so strongly against the developers' designs will come out to the community meeting and express themselves again. Unfortunately, I have a previous commitment to attend my daughter's softball game. But I spoke my piece at the other meetings, and I will leave these issues to others to champion.

On the subject of scheduling these meetings in the early evening: the association has made no apologies about catering to schedules of developers with the excuse that they are busy and the insinuation that they are doing the community a favor in meeting with us. We are all busy. Some of us cannot meet consistently between 5 and 7.

And frankly, the rezoning process in Nashville is supposed to be community-based, which means that if property owners seek rezoning they must seek community support, or at least avoid community opposition. It is part of the job description of "developer" to interact with the community. When Salemtown Neighbors' executives speak down to the association and when they scold members to be more flexible with meeting times they indicate that they either do not understand community planning or the do not care to engage in it.

After speaking to one of the 6th and Garfield developers candidly just before the second meeting, I have to wonder whether the association does not care to engage in community planning. That developer told me that the association was handling all the communication with the neighborhood, and that an association leader told him that a small number of people would be invited. If that was indeed the case, it would explain why the communication before the first two meetings was so atrocious. I had been excluded myself from the correspondence that went out about the first meeting (which someone else forwarded to me).

Last night I sent CM Gilmore a thank you note for mass mailing cards to neighbors rather than having us rely strictly on the association. Maybe if the communication had been so broad before the first meeting, developers would not still be scrambling for community feedback and support at this point.

The community meeting is tonight at 5:30 at Morgan Park Community Center.

1 comment:

  1. I've missed many a meeting but this meeting was sparsely attended. It seems to me that 1) we are floundering to find some consistency in what we want for our neighborhood and 2) we are naive about what our neighborhood has the potential to become...good and bad. I hope we get our collective arms around a vision and sooner rather than later.