The battle over church property on Charlotte Avenue is the latest one between developer and neighborhood to wrap up.
This time the developer backed down in building a Rite-Aid on the corner of 46th Avenue and Charlotte.
For the neighborhood, it may have been a Pyrrhic victory in squashing a deal for Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ to sell to developer Newton Oldacre McDonald.
Developers who have been observing the proceedings believe it sends a bad message to Corporate America. The message: “We don’t want you.” By extension, the message also says, “We don’t want the tax dollars you will generate.”
Regardless of the zoning interpretation of whether the Rite-Aid must be built to the street, developers note the willingness of neighborhoods and supportive politicians to try changing the existing rules midstream to thwart development.
To delay the church plans, Councilman Jason Holleman rushed out with legislation, one seeking to make the church a National Historic Landmark. Usually, the property owner initiates that process.
It tells developer and property owner that it doesn’t matter how the property is currently zoned. If the neighborhood doesn’t like it, they can try changing the rules. Now, the church property won’t generate any tax revenue in the near future nor generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in sale taxes that a drugstore would have.
These battles can get epic.
Metro lost every legal battle in the fight with Harding Academy when the city sided with the surrounding neighborhood in trying to prevent the school from tearing down houses to build an athletic field. The Tennessee Supreme Court finally ruled on that issue, siding with the school.
After a war — or even battles during it — military leaders go through a lessons-learned process to figure out what they did or didn’t do well so they can devise new strategies. That doesn’t necessarily happen after neighborhood and developers do battle. But perhaps such analysis should happen.
One of the biggest lessons that comes out of those battles is that neighborhood people want to be able to tell developers what can be done with their property regardless of the rules in place. Turn the tables and many of those same neighborhood people don’t want anyone telling them what they can or can’t do with their own property. There are stories aplenty of neighborhoods fighting conservation overlays.
Anyone who is or has been a member of a homeowners association understands there is a governing body willing to tell others what can and can’t be done.
Over the past couple of years, the Sylvan Park neighborhood has beaten back attempts for conservation overlays. If someone came in and said all houses had to be painted blue, neighbors who don’t like blue or don’t like being told what to do would protest.
Generally, meetings developers hold to inform neighbors of development details start from a basis of mutual disrespect.
Neighborhoods tend to think developers are the evil, they are there to destroy the neighborhood not enhance it. Developers view neighborhood leaders with trepidation and like holding meetings as much as they like getting teeth pulled.
It’s not that some developers don’t want to work with the neighborhoods. But they say you would think that the neighbors own the property themselves.
Several years ago, a developer nixed plans for a development near Hillsboro Village before even getting started because of what he would have to go through with the neighborhood.
He asked the area’s Metro councilwoman at the time to arrange a meeting with the neighbors and she told him she’d show them the plans and would get back to him on what they wanted. Unless they were investing their money in the project, he said the input would be limited, not that they would have absolute control over the project.
Sylvan Park wants to dictate development in the Charlotte Avenue corridor, a commercial strip with deep roots. Remnants of its past still exist and as expected the neighborhood wants to preserve that and keep out suburban looking development.
The problem is there’s already a bunch of existing suburban-styled development.
A question developers increasingly ask is “where’s the balance?” There’s design and density and such. Then, there’s creating new sources of tax revenue.
For the Church of Christ property, that would mean putting a property onto the tax roles and creating a new source of sales tax.
If its use is limited, the property tax won’t be as high or the sales tax as lucrative.
But the church could be sitting off the tax rolls longer as another developer is sought. There may be some looking at that corner and like the location but have second thoughts about jumping into a hornet’s next.
If one can be scared up, whatever is done there may not generate the taxes.