Hollin wants to exempt part of Gallatin Pike from zoning plan

Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:01am

Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin filed an ordinance Wednesday that would exempt his council district from the special zoning plan for Gallatin Pike, a set of relatively new guidelines adopted to enhance the aesthetics of East Nashville’s main corridor.

Passed in 2007 after a series of community meetings, the Gallatin Pike Specific Plan requires future development along the road to abide by new landscaping, signage and street setback standards, while limiting future uses.

Embraced by the Metro Planning Department, the Gallatin Road SP took on several new urbanism themes. The idea was to bring future buildings up to the street, with parking in the back, for example. The code also limits the construction of establishments such as pawn and auto mechanic shops, which currently run rampant down Gallatin Pike.

A handful of East Nashville council districts are affected by the Gallatin Pike SP, including District 5 –– the area west of Gallatin Pike and south of Trinity Lane, represented by Hollin.

While Hollin, elected in a special election in November, said “good intentions” went into the plan’s drafting, he called the Gallatin Pike SP a hindrance to future development. Design requirements are too costly, he said, and unnecessary.

“I’ve had countless landowners approach me with concerns about this zoning overlay and how it functions within the fabric and rhythm of the neighborhood,” Hollin said. “I believe the current SP is not functioning and instead it is prohibiting economic growth and development.”

If Hollin’s bill is approved, a developer on the east side of Gallatin Pike would be required to place parking behind a building, while a developer in his district wouldn’t be beholden to such a regulation.

The ordinance would first go before the Metro Planning Commission before being considered by the council.

Hollin said financial incentives or “carrots” should be offered to encourage design standard. They shouldn’t be mandated.

“You have to ask the fundamental question, can a small businessman navigate the SP to get his business off the ground on Gallatin Road?” Hollin asked. “I think the answer to that question, at least from the small businessmen I’ve talked to, is no.”

District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson, who played a major role in the creation of the Gallatin Road SP, said he vehemently opposes Hollin’s ordinance.

“If somebody wants to maintain a street that’s filled with pawn shops, brightly lit fluorescent signs on 20-foot polls, negligible landscaping and little if any design review, then we just live on two different planets,” Jameson said.

Jameson also said around the same number of building permits have been pulled for Gallatin Pike over the last three years as other commercial corridors such as Charlotte Avenue, Dickerson Pike and Nolensville Road. The economic downturn is responsible for any decrease in construction activity from previous years, he said.

“As far as the data is concerned, I don’t think you can make the argument that the SP is deterring development,” Jameson said. “What has unquestionably gone on after the SP passed is that the economy took a nose-dive. So there’s been a generalized pall on development across the city on all streets. It’s not the SP’s fault that development is difficult on Gallatin Road.”

5 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 6/10/10 at 5:49

Keep the SP, in fact it should be extended all the way up to the county line.

By: Alphadog7 on 6/10/10 at 9:00

I understand Hollin's concern, but just completely exempting his neighborhood is not a solution. Sounds like something his predecessor would have suggested. Improvement comes with a price. Instead, lets find a way to make that price more palatable to the small business owner.

By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 6/10/10 at 9:07

Evidently, the auto mechanic and pawn shops are making money, or they would go out of bus. If they would allow the marketplace to work instead of trying to micro-manage everything on God's Green Earth, things would fall into place. Instead they have to hide behind the gov't and get laws passed against everything they disagree with.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 6/10/10 at 12:43

Your correct stlgh55, most of this overlay crap comes from the Planning dept itself, not the commission. They as well as most of our counsel persons have never made a payroll in their life, much less been infected with the small business gene that is so necessary for our a economy to flourish. Most of the overlays should be abolished along with 80% of the sign ordinance. And if Alphadog7 thinks that it's the small business that pays the price then he's crazy, it's always the consumer. The market must work, limiting advertisement and imagination of the small businessman only makes the economy smaller which makes taxes higher, productively lower and is a disincentive to be all one can be. This is a perfect example of how the government should get out of the way!

By: Big East Nashville on 6/10/10 at 1:21

Letter to the Editor of The City Paper about Jamie Hollin filing an Ordinance to repeal the Gallatin Pike SP in District 5

While there are many who will comment on the SP, there are few who actually understand the mechanics of how it works and the implications to property owners. This battle has only just begun and most likely to be highly contested, but when it comes down to the facts, Jamie Hollin may not be on such a different planet after all.

The Gallatin Pike SP is essentially a redevelopment district without TIF (Tax Increment Financing "The Carrot"). Much like the MDHA Redevelopment Districts there are design guidelines for construction and improvements to existing properties, but with the SP there is the specific EXCLUSION of certain business types that have been deemed undesirable (pawn shops, auto repair, check cashing, etc.). The main reason that MDHA Redevelopment Districts are so effective is because of “the Carrot” of TIF and the design guidelines that award extra bonuses for density.

The problem with the Gallatin Pike SP is that the pre-existing businesses, that are of the excluded group, are now permanently entrenched based on two factors: lack of future competition and design guidelines that make buying these properties more difficult for new owners.

If for instance you owned a former gas station (2100 SF building for sale at $200,000) that would make for a great restaurant conversion with a 1200 SF ($120,000 cost) addition for a rear kitchen, the design standards would mandate that you tear down the whole building and build a new building out to the street. While that may seem fine to the average homeowner who thinks the SP is protecting them, it is actually preventing viable new business from entering the area. It makes the cost of the same 3300 SF restaurant increase by more than $200,000 because the new owner can’t reuse the existing building. So much for Adaptive Reuse.

If the only businesses you want are Corporate Box Stores then the SP is ok because the sales price of the property becomes essentially the land value, and this works for Corporate Box Stores because they have corporate funding. From the economic standpoint someone has to pay for the dirt and you typically pay more for dirt if it has a pre-existing building attached.

If you really want the character that many people in East Nashville desire to remain in the hands of local business people then the SP has huge issues in the way it is written. If people somehow expect that Real Estate prices will continue to rise they need to understand that the increase comes in the land value and that buildings have depreciable life cycles. The SP makes it very difficult, and in many cases impossible, to modify or adapt a building on Gallatin Road for a business that may actually be desirable.

An analogy for a typical homeowner in East Nashville would be as follows: What if you paid $200,000 for a small home and wanted to add an addition? If a new SP (that slipped in at the end of the previous Metro Council in an extra session before the 2007 elections) said you have to tear down your house and build a new home to meet the guidelines of the new SP then you would have effectively paid $200,000 for a LOT with no house. Well that just doesn’t seem fair.

Who would pay $200,000 for a lot in East Nashville to build a house? The old school rule of thumb for the banks (good luck in getting a construction loan these days) is that a new construction home should be 5 times the lot cost, or more simply, the building should be 80% of the appraised value…..How many Million dollar homes have sold in East Nashville? NONE

Back to the Gallatin Road SP and commercial property; similar financial guidelines apply to commercial property but the standards for downpayments are considerably higher, try 25% as a starting point. If a small business owner wants to buy a building on Gallatin Road and modify it for his/her specific business type, the financial burden is in most cases, insurmountable. If you are a current property owner on Gallatin Road your property value has decreased because the SP renders the value of many of the buildings useless.

And when it comes to keeping out the business types that are excluded in the SP, how effective has the policy been? How did a new used car lot get built at 1200 Gallatin Road (in District 5) after the SP went into effect? How did the Burger King (in District 5) get torn down and completely rebuilt in the same location without moving out to the street?

So as to the question of the Jamie Hollin filing an ordinance to exempt his district from the Gallatin Pike SP: how many changes need to be made to the existing SP (time & money for small business owners) to effect investment in District 5?

Most of the property on Gallatin Road in District 5 is affordable and could support the types of business that many people desire. But the SP in its mission to keep out the "undesirable" businesses has also kept away the types of businesses that we would like to see.

As with most political battles it will be interesting to see how much emotion will outweigh the facts of how the Gallatin Pike SP is written. Stay tuned, this battle is sure to get hot.

If you're financially capable and interested in investing in commercial real estate in East Nashville and would like to know more please feel free to send me an e-mail at BigEastNashville@gmail.com .

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