Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I support the Whites Creek community against Ole South developers

What: Public Hearing at Metro Planning Commission - MPC will vote to allow or disallow subdivision. There will be an opportunity for public comment.
Where:  Sonny West Conference Building (1st Floor)
700 2nd Ave S.
When:  Wed Thu Feb 27th  4:00PM

After attending the Whites Creek community meeting last week I decided to support rural opponents of a suburban sprawl development of over 40 homes across 11 acres just outside of northern Briley Parkway.

It is unfortunate enough that their council representative, Walter Hunt, has not made efforts to support Whites Creek residents in formulating a community plan consistent with their priorities and the community's character. It is also unfortunate that the planning staff is going to recommend that the Planning Commission (which I am told has a developer-bias unlike any previous commission) approve this sprawl plan.

Oddly enough, the big thing in planning at the moment is "New Urbanism," which emphasizes reducing car trips, creating walkable neighborhoods, maintaining safer streets. Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt not only serves in the Congress of New Urbanism, but he was a signatory of the original charter. This proposal does not seem to fit with New Urbanism at all. Expanding relatively unwalkable suburbia will only increase car trips and traffic on the roads what will lead to unsafer streets.

But Metro Planning supports this because it fits with the designated "use" and with the zoning, both of which could have been informed by a community plan, which has been refused to Whites Creek. Instead, Whites Creek was folded in with Bordeaux for a plan that was last updated in 2003. Lumping rural and suburban areas into one outdated plan is an invitation to encourage the growth of suburbia, not the preservation and smart growth of rural communities.

Those of you who have returned to this blog over the years know that I was an energetic supporter of preserving rural Bells Bend against developers' plans to build "a second downtown" with a corporate campus across its remote, rolling pasturelands. I am told by community leaders there that Metro Planning does not always grasp the priorities of "preservation and limited development" in rural areas.

That may be the case in Whites Creek, too. Maybe Metro Planning just cannot see anything but the inevitable march of suburbia northward. Or maybe they do see it and prefer to bow to the clout of developers and lawyers instead. Either way, the community does not seem to be sitting back and taking it. They are organizing and writing council members and the Planning Commission with these goals in mind:

  1. Do not allow Ole South to develop this land into a subdivision on the grounds that is out of Whites Creek’s rural character. Seeing a subdivision as soon as you get off Briley Parkway onto White Creek pike will irreversibly change the value and character of our neighborhood. We want to remain a rural residential and agricultural area north of Briley Parkway, not suburbia.
  1. No more subdivision developments or re-zonings until we have a revision of our Community Design Plan.  Our community plan is 10 years old and our community deserves the opportunity to plan for growth the way other neighborhoods have.
  2. Nashville has made a commitment to open space preservation and environmental sustainability. The Whites Creek watershed is the cleanest watershed in Davidson County and subdivisions such as the one proposed increase soil erosion and contributes to flooding due to clear cutting of trees....
  3. Local food and farming is of increasing importance and Whites Creek can be a critical food hub for the city. We have an emerging agrarian economy here in Whites Creek with 15 farmer and friends of farmers that make up the Whites Creek Farmers Alliance.
  4. The proposed subdivision is of low quality. The selling price will be 40% lower than the average new home price in Nashville and 32% lower than the average new home price in the Whites Creek area. Parmley Cove, the most recent development, has only 3 homes built so far due to lack of market demand and the clear cutting of trees has caused run off and flooding of neighboring homes. The sidewalk is already broken. It is a blight and an eye sore. These subpar developments will only lower our property values.

The last three points are also relevant to me as one of their urban neighbors. When it comes to the environment, all of us live within a web of interdependence. Whites Creek eventually flows to the Cumberland River. If Whites Creek is polluted, it adds to the pollution of the Cumberland. Also, we need more, not less, green space to enjoy the benefits thereof. How much more expensive is it to remediate brown fields for new green space rather than leaving that which is already open untouched?

Bells Bend has become a hub for produce, particularly for hops grown for use by the local brewers at Yazoo. Why would Nashvillians want to cut themselves off from more sources of fresh produce in Whites Creek? We should be promoting local farmers and CSAs over suburban sprawl.

The new broken Parmley Cove sidewalk
Any time developers are allowed to build low quality anywhere, it brings down quality everywhere, and it only encourages them to continue elsewhere. Next time they might be in your neighborhood, and in mine, too.

There are two other reasons why an urban resident like me supports Whites Creek opponents of Ole South developers (who own 100 more Whites Creek acres beyond the proposed development). One is that a new suburban development will be a greater source of competition for Metro services and infrastructure in an era of shrinking Metro budget returns to communities. Do you notice how Nashville is said to be growing and expanding with the justification that the tax base also increases? Yet, we are unable to fund more after all of this growth. The Mayor seems to demand budget cuts to services every year. So, why should we believe that yet one more suburban development is going make a difference? How will it be anything else but more competition with other neighborhoods for transit lines, schools, parks and libraries?

Finally, supporters of suburban sprawl should not enjoy the opportunity to disqualify Whites Creeks residents as "just being NIMBY." That is a tired old slander that usually does not represent what people really think. The preservation of Bells Bend was made more legitimate by support from neighbors from all over Nashville. I listened to the people of Whites Creek make their case against Ole South firsthand. I was persuaded that their cause is anything but NIMBY. They can use other voices, even voices from the urban core neighborhoods, supporting their cause to keep the developers from at the very least impugning their motives. At most, neighbors should have more influence over the future growth of their community.

On Wednesday Thursday we will see whether the Planning Commission acknowledges their influence.


  1. Sadly, any objections to developer-oriented projects (such as the AMP, which I believe amounts to a direct subsidy to downtown developers at the expense of everyone else in Nashville, including small businesses and residents who live along the route) are vulnerable to NIMBY attacks.

    In this case, the Ole South development will afford each home less than .25 of an acre. It's an urban-style development in a rural area. Given the name of the developer, "Ole South," I wonder if the model design for this development is plantation slave quarters. Poor White's Creek.

    1. Well I am against AMP too. But your comments about this particular development show you are a racial bigot! Not everyone can afford Mansions. Oh, these houses are $200,000.00 and up with nice landscaped entrance and common areas. Maybe us older folks need a place like this to down size. Lets go ahead and bash the gay folks, asian and mixed races. You see everything has to be so political these days. How many jobs does this create? This land cant be farmed unless you have an app for that on your I PAD. What is the race of the commissioner for this area. Oh, African American! I guess he is trying to get slavery back? I am sure if you want to buy the land they would probally sell it to you and you can build what you see fit. So with every new development people cry but what about the one they live in, somone was opposed to it at one time too. Signed Common sense

  2. Well, that Common sense post came out of left field.

    A couple comments:

    NIMBY wouldn't apply here because it should apply to a public good; something that people acknowledges benefits the wider community, but no one wants built near to them. Think - dump; nuclear reactor; maybe the Amp (although the case that it benefits a lot of people hasn't been made). For that reason, I agree about the NIMBY designation for these people (doesn't apply), but maybe for a different reason.

    Second - I mentioned it in another post about Antioch and less-expensive homes. Labeling them "low quality" is shorthand, but all I've read is that they are less expensive (plus, not enough brick and some sidewalks at similar subdivisions haven't worked out. I don't think the 'not enough brick' argument qualifies something as "low quality." ). Common sense's approach (above) is a bit strange, but the idea that "low quality" housing = low quality neighbors is an idea bubbling not so far below the surface in this discussion.

    Anon (not Common sense)

  3. I'm the first anonymous poster. Sorry, common sense, I didn't mean to offend you with my reference to "slave quarters," but I absolutely HATE names like "Ole South." That seems incredibly racist to me. Would an African American really want to buy a (zero-lot-line) house from "Ole South"?

    I don't think low-cost housing (and $200,000 isn't exactly low--especially as far as these people will have to commute if they work in Nashville) has to be cheap or tacky housing. But many developers are only too happy to slap up cheap units in a hot market and sell at higher prices than merited by the quality of construction--and they find buyers because the housing is at least "affordable" and people think it's better to buy than rent.

    My guess is that, if the planned units are that close together, buyers will be required to pay some sort of association fee for landscaping and other services? (If not, buying in such a development is an extremely dicey proposition, since if your neighbor doesn't maintain his home, it's literally in your face.) That might be some assurance that the development won't quickly deteriorate into an eyesore.

    But it's still an urban-style development in an area with a rural identity. I don't blame communities for not wanting out-of-character developments--high-density, fast construction, and possibly planned obsolence--nearby. But I have no idea how to resist the constant march of development other than voting in really restrictive zoning--unless you take a nature conservancy approach and buy up parcels you don't want developed. And who can afford that?

    A better strategy is not to buy in an area ripe for development unless you're prepared to live with

    1. I have not seen plans for the neighborhood, but many of the older neighborhoods in the USD have homes on less than 1/4 acre. These are not zero lot line homes. Think Hillsboro, Sylvan Park, Richland that I'm familiar with and someone might be able to verify Germantown and Salemtown and parts of East Nashville.

      I do think there are general contractors that are making interesting bungalow-type houses here in Nashville. I'm only familiar with them as independent businessmen (no larger company backing them). They may work with an architect or they may work from standard plans found online or in trade mags, so the work is not unique, but certainly of character wth teh surrounding neighborhood.

  4. I was at the Whites Creek development meeting. Someone asked what would happen if the neighborhood did not form an association. He said "the city would pay for it".

  5. I'm a potential homebuyer. I must saw that some of the developers are building some of the homes with a cheap look. I have visited 2 subdivisions with all siding and no brick in the low to 200 range calling it affordable. I agree to get affordable homes doesn't mean it has to look cheap. It's not fair to those who want to buy affordable houses. For instance, ryan homes is a well repeatable builder but why does the subdivision built on whites creek look more exclusive than the brick pike subdivision? The subdivision on whites creek pike are beautiful with brick etc but the more affordable homes on brick church pike look plain. All siding. No brick. If it's affordable why do we have to settle for the low budget look? Sign , future homebuyer