Bill to preserve Bells Bend could derail May Town Center plans

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 11:00pm

State Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) filed a bill with the state legislature Wednesday that he says would prevent the urbanization of rural Bells Bend — an area of the city where the $4 billion May Town Center proposal hangs in the balance.

The bill would create a Rural and Natural Resources Area to run from Beaman Park to the bottom of Bells Bend, Henry said. Development within that area would be limited to 10 acres per house or primary structure, Henry said. Plans for May Town Center called for 5,000 housing units ranging from garden homes to townhomes and mid-rise condos.

Henry’s bill comes while a zoning change that would allow a 500-acre development in rural Bells Bend remains deferred indefinitely by the Metro Planning Commission. In the meantime, traffic and economic impact studies are being conducted to study the effect the proposed May Town Center would have.

“The people in that affected area, 92 percent said they want this and it would say you couldn’t urbanize Bells Bend,” Henry said, adding that he doesn’t have a quarrel with the developers proposing the deal, the May family and Tony Giarratana.

“If I’m correct that 92 percent of the people want this arrangement, then my obligation is to proceed with that arrangement unless it mistreats somebody and I don’t think it would mistreat anybody. It doesn’t affect the value of the existing land out there. In fact, the report I have shows it increases the value.”

District 1 Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr. said he would have to see the bill and study its impact before he commented. Messages seeking comment from Giarratana were not immediately returned.

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

That bill would prevent Davidson County from increasing it's tax revenue. May Town Center is Nashville's chance to land the Nissans, Verizon Wirelesses, etc. that want corporate campuses.

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

Why not rehab an area already paved over? Just because the land's 'not in use' by a parking lot doesn't make it available for paving.

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

Nashville/Davidson County is over 500 square miles with a population of just over 600,000. The majority of them within the urban core.The developer would like you to believe its the last chance to create a corporate campus to attract large companies to Nashville and compete with Williamson and Rutherford Co.Dont buy it. There is plenty of new as well as land that could be redeveloped in Davidson county to do this.Doing this would be our 'last chance' to be ANOTHER Atlanta. Think smart, unconventional Nashville. There is a new model for urbanization and its not the Atlanta model.

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

They're chipping away at all the reasonspeople want to settle here.See how beautiful that place is now.

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

YES Mr. Henry, I support you !

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

Finally, someone has stepped up to the plate and said enough is enough to sprawl. This plan for May town is ludicrous and not needed. There are plenty of places in Davidson county that can be developed. Look at Metro Centre for one, last time I checked there were still acres and acres of open land and it already has the infrastructure built in. If only someone had stepped up to the plate when Walmart decided to build across from Skyline rather than 1 mile south on Dickerson road where all of those empty buildings are sitting.

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

When I was a kid I asked my dad what is the purpose of the Metro Council. He replied "to destroy the economy of Nashville." Clearly this mission extends to the legislature as well. Way to go Mr. Henry, Williamson County thanks you.

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

As others have said, there are plenty of other places to create a new "town" -- the fairgrounds comes to mind. It is absolutely not necessary to "pave Paradise and put up a parking lot" in one of Davidson County's most remote areas. Bravo, Senator Henry!

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

Looks like there are a lot of people who feel that a development should never be done without first involving the thieves at MDHA. God forbid you try to avoid buying land on your own and not involving their extra special brand of bureaucracy.Companies that want to make money and pay their own way do not want to be involved with in-fill because it is not worth the hassle. Companies that do want MDHA "help" are in it for taxpayer freebies. By all means lets keep trying to drag corporate headquarters into MDHA assisted developments in downtown. It has worked out beautifully. Look at all the real jobs running to Williamson County while we celebrate the low-paying and zero-benefit hotel and tourism jobs that MDHA can get for us.

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

Portland OR has done a good job in preventing sprawl. We should look at them as a model, they're about the same size as Nashville. If you stop the constant moving out of the city then people are forced to reinvest in the city you don't have these areas that get left behind.

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

One house per 10 acres is sprawl any way you subdivide it. Making an argument for this plan based on opposition to sprawl seems contradictory.

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

Portland has done nothing but join the growing list of cities too expensive to live in. Companies are forced to leave high cost of living cities because of the young brain drain. Middle Tennessee as a whole is benefiting from the open minded view of development lowering the cost of living for young people. Nashville on the other hand is not enjoying that growth because of this "sprawl is bad" belief. We will apparently let the urban core rot rather than opening up land in our own political boundaries for jobs. Somewhere in Franklin, Brentwood, and Murfreesboro someone is laughing at our continuing need to be the one, single core. The economy has spoken, there can be more than one core in an area. These are not bedroom communities anymore. People are living and working their entire lives in these communities to the south. Why? Because their governments are not trying to micromanage their economies to ensure that urban cores be protected at all cost.Trying to drag the unwilling people kicking and screaming to our core so we can get their money is never going to work. People and businesses do not like to deal with urban politics. They are comfortable in the burbs where they can get a say in their quality of life. Congratulations Nashville, you are about to make a huge swath of land unusable by people and businesses. Do you actually think that this will be what finally forces people into the land of pay parking and density?

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

JeffF- There has to be incentives for people and cities to be centralized in one place. When I say incentives, I do not mean forcing them. If everyone just built where ever they wanted, we would be endlessly building and repaving roads, highways, and interstates, traffic would be even worse, and we would be endlessly addicted to our cars and foreign oil. The answer-- we need to, as you say, keep the cost of living low, but have downtown be the place where the best jobs are and where people live. Expensive cars, traffic, and gas prices would not be as much of a problem if Nashville is centralized. Come to Dallas if you want to see how spread out a city can be, we do not need that.

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

"Finally, someone has stepped up to the plate and said enough is enough to sprawl..."ARE YOU NUTS? This is 2009 -- there will be a 2050 and a 2109. May Town is actually a very smart approach at balancing growth with conservation and environmentalism. When you're dead and gone, Johnny Appleseed, Nashville will continue to grow for decades and, yes, centuries. Be smart about planning it. Instead of May Town you may end up with 1,000 rooftops there instead.

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

JeffF, your correct about leaving the central core. I live in Cool Springs and I can tell you we have everything we need out here. Things are good, and just keep sending it our way.

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

Approximately 1/32 of the earth's surface, which is about 1/8 of the dry land mass, is available to grow food for a world population that exceeds 6 billion. That population is growing a net gain of about 1 person every 3 seconds. In the most basic sense this puts pressure on us in two ways - all people must eat to live, so farmable land is required, and all people need a place to live and work, for which land is also required. I support any action that reduces the amount of agricultural land being destroyed when there is so much land that is already urbanized that can be re-used and "recycled."
"58634

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

the family owning the land no longer want to farm. I recommend all the Eddie Alberts out there go out,, pool your money and buy the place and then farm it. If this is simply not wanting someone to do something you do not like then get over your envy issues. This is a country where people are allowed to own land and use in non-harmful ways. We cannot require this to be farm if the family no longer wishes to farm and we are not willing to BUY it (forcing a donation is not the same).

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

Development next door effectively takes farming choices away--development essentially requires a family NOT to farm, even if they so desire, due to tax structure. This is more than 90% of a community who do not want their lifestyles destroyed by a single landowner. We all have restrictions on land use--airvols can't grow hogs on his property in Cool Springs, and I'll bet JeffF can't build a factory next to his house or open his video store in his living room. Sorry, guys, your neighbors are limiting your options. All these country folks want is the same set of choices. Except you take the video store and we'll take the hogs, thank you.

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

except for the fact thses country folks are stretching the definition of the "back yard" in NIMBY to property a long ways away from them. None of these concerned citizens are even close to this land.

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

'May Town' is indeed 'Sprawl Town'. Packing people into a small area that is currently completely undeveloped is not 'smart planning' or 'new urbanism'. It is a 'build it and maybe they'll come' spec project that may end up being 'Ghost Town' in what will be a volatile economy for some time. And the infrastructure maintenance costs, which customarily are taken over by the city will cost the taxpayers even if the developers don't put their hand out on the front end. As will large capital infrastructure projects that will be costly and otherwise unnecessary. Including a bridge that will displace people in the Charlotte Park area and new sewer that the developer says he'll pay for but would likely be taken over by the city also. Add in additional police and fire protection needs, and those tax dollars coming in will go straight into maintaining the needs of this project while the developer will walk away with a large profit- or default and leave a mess behind. The development rights crowd such as Nashbeck and Jeff will tell you all the happy horse**** about tax revenue, what they won't tell you is that sprawl, especially the residential sprawl that is one element of this project, costs far more than it brings in. There is nothing wrong in developing infill, for example MetroCenter and the East Bank. If MDHA is an impediment to successful and cost-effective downtown development then that should be examined and dealt with. A project like this makes no sense, no more sense than wasting a billion taxpayer dollars on a massive building for a dying industry (convention trade). And Tony G seems to have his hands full already, with a big hole in the ground that is supposed to be a 60-plus story skyscraper and the 'renovation' (ie destruction) of the Belle Meade Theater. I don't always agree with Mr. Henry, or disagree with JeffF, but I have to give Mr. Henry a thumbs up on this one.

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

JeffF, you don't know what you're talking about. I live on there, I travel down that road every single day.