Patience wearing thin over Bells Bend plans

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 12:52am

Residents of Bells Bend wasted little time expressing frustration and anger at a neighborhood meeting last night over a community plan process that integrates a 500-acre corporate office, retail and residential development into their otherwise sparse, rural landscape.

Dubbed May Town Center, the proposed development could bring upwards of 40,000 jobs to the area and is estimated to generate between $63.8 million and $99.5 million in new tax revenue.

However, residents are more concerned that the center would cause traffic congestion and start a “domino effect” of development that permanently alters the rural character of the area.

That was made clear, when many residents at the tense community meeting Tuesday in Scottsboro accused the Metro Planning Department of being on the side of developers.

“We asked you all out here to help us,” said resident Jane Coble. “We’re losing heart that you all are working on our behalf.”

The area, nearly encircled by a bend in the Cumberland River west of Nashville and Interstate 40, has long resisted pushes for development, including a proposed landfill in 1990 and a 2005 housing project.

Residents say they embarked on the community plan process to protect the area from development. Any zoning changes for an area must be compatible with a community plan, once it is adopted.

Planning department staff, as well as developer Tony Giarrantana, were at the community meeting and addressed residents’ concerns.

“Each community plays a role in our larger county and our county plays a role in the larger region, and that’s what we’re trying to balance when we’re thinking about rural preservation and economic development in Davidson County,” said Jennifer Carlat, who manages Metro’s Community Plans Division.

Carlat said that residents have a right to develop a plan for their communities, but all concerns — including those of property owners who want to develop their land — have to be addressed.

However, the residents of Bells Bend, feel sprawl is an issue that needs to be addressed within Davidson County itself. The neighborhood will continue to articulate its views and has hired former at-large council member and former mayoral candidate David Briley as legal counsel.

Giarratana, who is working with the May family, presented a modified plan last night that includes more “green space” to buffer the proposed May Town center from the surrounding area. The location for the bridge over the Cumberland River — needed as the only access point to the development — has been moved northwards to the Cockrill Bend area, after objections from the neighborhoods surrounding Charlotte Park.

Bells Bend residents were not satisfied with the modifications, and during a spirited exchange, told Giarratana they had concerns over construction traffic and the bridge’s capacity.

Giarratana had a question for the residents as well, about why they had not done more to preserve the land north of the proposed development with conservation easements, which permanently protect property from development.

“Why have conservation easements not been placed on the property which would eliminate the risks being articulated here?” asked Giarratana.

Easements cost several thousand dollars and he told residents last night he will talk with the May family about possibly setting up a fund to help property owners to purchase easements.

“It solves a lot of the issues being discussed here,” he said.

Carlat did her best to explain Metro’s reasons for wanting to use Bells Bend for the May Town Center.

According the Metro Planning department, Davidson County cannot compete in a section of the corporate office market — that of corporate campuses without using more undeveloped county land. Carlat said those campus sites need to be about 500 acres in size, which has prompted most of those types of developments go to outlying counties, including Wilson and Williamson.

Planning staff put together a run-down of other commonly mentioned sites to develop such as the state Fairgrounds or Nashville’s East Bank, but each site is still less than 200 acres, leaving Bells Bend the most viable area to attract corporate campuses.

“We can have a debate about where we want to have farmland and where we want to have economic development,” said Carlat, explaining that the department thinks about sprawl on a more macro level.

Carlat said concentrating development in Davidson County has regional benefits as well.

“We need to think regionally,” she said. “[And do] what’s good for us as a region so that we can protect air quality, water quality, we can have shorter commutes and protect quality of life.”

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By: JohnGalt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There's a mistake in the picture cutline.The developer is working "with" the May family. As written, the cutline makes it sound like he is trying to put something over on them.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Or is it a mistake?Another giant sprawl project. In driving around built Nashville there is plenty of room for infill that would improve existing neighborhoods. There is room for something like this north of Charlotte without crossing the river. But developers would rather level trees than empty houses and buildings. It's easier and less expensive.If this gets built, and I'm sure it will because money talks in Nashville, the taxpayers should not be on the hook for the necessary bridge.

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Uh-oh! The Bells Bend residents have hired David Briley. They're doomed to fail now. Briley has absolutely no clout with Metro Council, or the planning commission for that matter.

By: townsend on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Not to mention the fact that the city, the state, and the federal governments (i.e., US) get to pay the half BILLION dollars (minimum estimate) to build the bridge and connecting roads to this site.In a period when each level of government is running in the red? There is no money to build the roads!We just paid to upgrade the interchange at Briley and I40 on the west side of town, and there's plenty of run-down light industrial and/or abandoned crap around John Tune Airport. BUILD IT THERE if you have to build it at all.

By: frodo on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The folks who oppose this development. I wonder where they work? I bet there were nothing but woods and wilderness there at one time. Let's face it, Bells Bend folks live in a major city. It's gonna happen. I see the same problem in Joelton. The old folks want nothing up there. Now gas is $(fill in the blank depending on what day it is), and it costs me over $5 in gas to get to a major grocery store and back. No development, no library, no shopping. God bless Suntrust for giving us one bank, but very few services. If Bells Bend residents want peace and quiet, then they should vacate their lands and let it return to pristine wilderness. Otherwise, like Joeltonians who expect time to stand still for them, Bells Benders need to wake up to Davidson County realities. Call in the bulldozers!

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frodo, Dale and Associates for one, has tried to get development up in Joelton, and they were met with a fervor you can't imagine. They told me some of those people up there have no clue of how bad things will get in the future w/o growth and infrastructure investments. There was even some discussion about shutting down a school up there due to lack of attendance! And it was the Bates family (who later sold their business) that screamed the loudest. So now young working couples have to drive farther, and have less time with their families.

By: pch13 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

townsend-"there's plenty of run-down light industrial and/or abandoned crap around John Tune Airport. BUILD IT THERE if you have to build it at all." Just what we need, more industrial zoned land vanishing. Between the Titans field, proposed convention center and all this "urban redevelopment" that grabs headlines, there are barely any industrial sites in Davidson co. Small contractors, local distributors and the like NEED this zoning to operate and they are already getting pushed further and further out. This proximity (or lack of it) to their customer base is a big contributor in the highly publicized rise in the costs of goods and services. Also, please provide specific examples of "abandoned crap" around Tune. If that were the case, they would have already been bought and re-used by one of these light industrial users BECAUSE OF THE SEVERE LACK OF SITES AVAILABLE! Industrial facilities out there are currently selling for record per square foot prices in this "down" market. I have a feeling you are lumping Cockrill Bend Industrial Park in with the neighboring "Nations" neighborhood.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Back in the early 90's the then current mayor has a meeting w/a certain rock quarry owner over some available land near the airport. Quarry owner was interested in purchasing the land, but turned out that the mayor and another person at the meeting were members of an LLC and they already "conveniently" owned that parcel. They'd gotten wind of potential expansion of the airport, and grabbed it up long in advance. I was standing outside the door of the meeting and had perfect hearing back then. What was interesting about it all was the fact that certain individuals in this town have privy to future expansion while Ave Joe does not. Their LLC's benefit every time. So your "shortage" of industrial land use parcels"... well, you can see why it's strategically attractive to "limit" the availability of them. BTW, that's why so many people w/$ want a job (mayor) that pays so little~

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

And those guys on the Metro Airport Authority Bd... same applies. People w/money want on those boards. You gain connections and "insider trading" information as it applies to Nashville expansion and re-development. Ergo, most board members come from 37205,37215,etc...

By: frodo on 12/31/69 at 6:00

And I thought they were all just "good citizens."

By: townsend on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It LOOKS abandoned...if it's not, someone needs to invest a little in making it look better.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Townsend, why should the owner "throw away" good money? He's just biding his time....waiting until the demand (as it is now) will force buyers to pay for "crap" as you called it. The owner probably lives in San Diego or some other city. He could care less what it looks like. (sarcasm extreme)

By: grapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It is good to see that TG has stayed the course and the MTC Project has tried to meet concerns that have been brought up. The offer to help those who actually live in the Bend to fund land trust is more than I have seen from those who try to push their personal agenda on those of us who see good coming from this project. A $500,000 dollar investment toward over $100,000 income for the remainder of it's existence seems like a good investment to me. The vocal group heard at these meetings come from a large part from some who live outside the immediate area and is never included in articles that continue to portray residents affected by this project as loud, uncooperative and unwilling to see the benefit to the community. We have felt the plight of other communities when they saw 'big' companies try to move into their neighborhoods. We too pay higher gas prices, land taxes, taxes for education, fire and police. It was a sad day when ambulance service was needed and finding us was a difficult task, and yet we were only five miles from downtown. There are supporters of the MTC living in the Bells Bend area who realize that life can be better through working with our problems and not always fighting them.

By: Fan_of_Nashville on 12/31/69 at 6:00

“We asked you all out here to help us,” said resident Jane Coble. “We’re losing heart that you all are working on our behalf.” Based on this comment, sounds like the neighbors were trying to manipulate the planning process. Opponents don't seem to grasp that Bells Bend is in Nashville. This is not sprawl, its 5 miles from downtown. If it is sprawl, then aren't those opposing this development already living in a sprawled neighborhood?? They should be ashamed, living on sprawling 5-10 acre private tracts of land. Maybe they should preserve the majority of THEIR property as public green space. Practice what you preach…

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Townsend, glad you can see the forest through the felled and burned trees. frodo,etc, are so wrapped up in tunnel visioned 'land rights' philosophy that they fail to see that any development that removes a natural area from the board when already developed areas could be used is sprawl. And do we really need to be paying 500M to build a bridge to enable developers and landowners to pull a huge profit? Ever since the end of World War II, national, state and local policy has been skewed to enable developers to profit at the expense of sensible planning and preserving natural resources. We are getting all too close to time to pay the piper, and if we don't make radical adjustments in our planning philosophy, our grandchildren will be sitting in weed-choked suburban yards with no gasoline, no grocery store they can walk to, and no way to get to their jobs.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

frod, the people in Bell's Bend and Joelton live in "a major city" because of Metropolitan government. Surely you know that. If you want to drive two miles to a grocery store, move to Donelson or Madison.pch13, why shouldn't industrial zoned land 'vanish'? Industrial jobs are vanishing. Plants are closing. The buildings townsend talks about are empty. And look at all the undeveloped land and abandoned properties north of Charlotte from 22nd to 35th Avenue. There are people looking for jobs there who could walk to work.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Girlie, you're coming at this from both directions. So you lost me. The good guys are the bad guys but the bad guys are the bad guys too?