Alley abandonments aren’t normally contentious, but one proposed for the The Nations neighborhood in west Nashville has pitted a group of fuming residents against their Metro Council representative.
At a community meeting Thursday night that turned heated, nearly every west Nashville resident in attendance called for the withdrawal of an ordinance sponsored by Councilman Buddy Baker that would abandon an alley that connects 43rd and 44th avenues near George Avenue. The bill would also clear a small portion of 43rd Avenue that dead-ends into a railroad track.
The ordinance is up for third and final reading on July 20 after it was deferred at a previous meeting.
Opponents allege its removal would signal the first step in an overarching plan to convert adjacent property, which is currently zoned for residential construction, into industrial uses.
“Mr. Baker, are you not supposed to represent the majority?” a woman in attendance asked. “We’ve been crying out to you for weeks, for months to stop this abandonment.”
But Baker, who represents the area, said he has no plans to withdrawal the bill, arguing the abandonment is a way to get rid of an alley that has become a dumping ground for tires and other debris.
“I’m doing what I think is best for the neighborhood,” Baker said
At issue is an alley that currently splits land that belongs to property owner Ron Hunter. On the northern side of the alley is property he owns that is already zoned and used for industrial purposes. On the southern side of the alley are six parcels he owns that are zoned for residential.
Originally, the alley-abandonment bill was proposed alongside another ordinance that sought to change the southern property from residential to industrial. The second bill was later pulled, but opponents say the fact it was ever proposed shows the long-term intent.
Baker insists there are no current plans for future industrial development, maintaining the issue is purely about eliminating an alley that is consistently littered.
“This is not a rezoning issue,” Baker said. “The rezoning bill has been withdrawn. As far I know, it will not come back up. In just the last six months, I’ve had to pick up 85 tires and 12 tons of debris [at the alley]. That’s just in the last six months, not counting since I’ve been in office.”
But many residents are suspicious. They fear abandoning the alley would give Hunter an unfettered consolidation of property, which could pave the way for the rezoning plan to be revived. Bringing more industrial business to the area, they say, would violate the area’s community plan and serve as a bad precedent in a neighborhood where more and more young families are buying homes.
Backing their claims, opponents contend, the planning commission on June 10 disapproved the ordinance to abandon the alley by a 7-2 vote.
Opponents also point out that in 2002 a waste transfer station was proposed for the residential plots, a plan that was later foiled. Some skeptics are also wary of the ties between Baker and Hunter, whom they say has been a campaign contributor to Baker in the past.
“The neighborhood doesn’t trust what is going on,” said Rick Bradley, who launched a website to try to defeat the alley abandonment. “That’s the bottom line here.”