Friday, April 24, 2015

The planning commission is basing rezoning decisions on NashvilleNext and it is not yet adopted!

I generally favor developments that promote greater density because I believe we must have greater density to curtail urban sprawl, have good mass transit, and to grow the tax base so we can meet the city's unfunded obligations and future needs without massive tax increases. However, specific rezoning must be evaluated on some adopted criteria. The planning commission should not be allowed to base a rezoning decision on a plan that has not yet been adopted, but that appears what is happening. NasvhilleNext has not yet been adopted. It is arrogance, if not illegal to be using an unadopted plan to approve zoning request. 

I don't know Margo Chambers but she is a leader of the Richland Westend community organization and often post thoughtful comments and essays on neighborhood-type websites. The below essay from Ms Chambers is reposted from the Nashville District 17 Google Group.

I realize traffic is a problem on 12th Ave South, but I would not want to stifle the growth occurring along that corridor. My concern is less about the outcome of this specific rezoning request and more about the process. This is in formative:

From: Margo Chambers 

Regarding the two messages for the proposed Bristol 12 South development (Public Hearing today at 4pm – Metro The last sentence in Mr. Hammond’s document (titled “Tabernacle Post.docx”), directs the reader to the March 26, 2015 Metro Planning Staff Report for the Metro Planning Commission.  It states:

“This recommended approval from Planning hopefully speak to the level of impact this project will have on the community and how well it fits into the planned context of 12th South. 
The details of the Planning Staffs comments are provided in the link below.
Page 23 of that link states the Metro Planning Staff recommends approval of the Tabernacle Baptist Church/Bristol Development based upon something other than the current General Plan. 
STAFF RECOMMENDATION Staff recommends approval of the plan amendment, including retaining and amending the special policy, as it reflects the area’s recommended policy change as part of NashvilleNext .”
According to Section 17.040.060.B of the Zoning Code, the General Plan is defined as “…an official public document adopted by the metropolitan planning commission…”.
If the proposed SP is inconsistent with the currently adopted General Plan, it is thus by definition, contrary to the General Plan.
If a zone change is inconsistent with the General Plan, the Zoning Code does not permit the Metro Planning Commission to recommend approval of it.
As the county legislative body who enacts Zoning Code changes, the Metro Council has reserved for itself the right as a body to adopt, and to each of its individual members, the right to recommend approval, of a zone change that conflicts (i.e. is contrary) to the General Plan.
The Metro Council has not delegated that authority to the Planning Commission, or to the planning staff.
The Metro Planning Commission has publicly announced it will not consider any new amendments to the General Plan until after the Nashville Next work effort is completed, anticipated in June 2015.
Therefore, based on these facts, there is only one recommendation the Metro Planning Commission can make to the Metro Council: Recommend Disapproval of the SP zoning as Contrary to the General Plan.
Example 2 of the Metro Staff providing a recommendation to the Metro Planning Commission based on something other than the approved General Plan:
The Saint Thomas Preliminary SP application (found in the same March 26, 2015 Staff Report, pages 32-39 of
This application had a Staff Recommendation of “not consistent” with the Conservation Policy (CO) up until the date this was presented on 3/26/2015.  Here’s what the public was given up until 3/26/2015: 
Consistent with Policy?
The request is not consistent with the existing CO policy; however, it is consistent with the draft preferred future policy. As proposed the SP would permit a variety of residential, office and commercial uses that are urban in form and in keeping with the existing Harding Town Center UDO. Since this site is already developed and already zoned for additional development, including the Harding Town Center UDO, rezoning this site to SP is not inconsistent with what is already planned for this area and provides a balance in terms floodplain/floodway protection and development.
Here is what Metro Planning Staff presented to MPC on 3/26/2015:
Consistent with Policy?
Yes. The request is consistent with the existing (Mixed Use) and draft preferred future policy (Regional Center). As proposed the SP would permit a variety of residential, office and commercial uses that are urban in form and in keeping with the existing Harding Town Center UDO.  While the SP would not necessarily be consistent with the Conservation policy, it does bring the site closer to conformance with the policy as it limits development in areas that could be developed today. Since the site has been previously disturbed then it is exempt from certain stormwater requirements. The proposed SP would provide a better balance in terms floodplain/floodway protection and development.
I’ve attached the public comments I made on 3/26/2015 (see “Letter to MPC March 26 2015 pdf”).  I reminded Metro Planning Commissioners that the Metro Planning Staff does NOT have the authority to recommend approval for anything other than the current adopted General Plan. 
My comments were ignored by the Metro Planning Commission and Metro Planning Department Executive Director.  The only Metro Council person serving on the MPC was late to the meeting (Walter Hunt arrived in the middle of this presentation), and the MPC Chair made a point to instruct the late arriving Commissioner that the MPC rules prevent the Commissioner from discussing or voting on the application because it had already been presented and discussion was underway.
I think the Metro Planning Commission needs to suspend all development approvals made since January 1, 2015 and until the General Plan is adopted. 
Currently, the city does not have a functioning Planning Department.  The Planning Staff is unable to review and advise approval of development applications based upon conformance to the current adopted zoning rules.
If anyone has a list of Mayoral candidate(s ) and/or Metro Council Member candidates who approve this type of unapproved activity by a Metro Commission, I’d appreciate it.  I could use it at the voting booth in a few months.
Bristol developers supplied articles supporting their viewpoint, so I’ve provided a few articles from other developers so that the public can have a more well rounded perspective of Multifamily developments:
1. Real estate trends in Miami track the new demand for larger units able to accommodate several generations of a family/lots of bedrooms (April 17, 2015):
(Hint:  it’s based on future growth projections, not current growth).  Does the developer believe that buyers, sellers, and lenders are all ‘on the same page’?  It’s too soon to tell and he thinks it’s getting harder to make a profit (aggressively seeks out low property acquisitions).  The article ends with “ doesn’t necessarily mean that we are moving in the right direction.”
3. Atlanta Developer says MultiFamily is not where the profit is anymore, but it can be found in their local Office space development.  However, he cautions that Office development is not for the faint of heart due to high rents required plus the necessity of a very robust job market (to support the high rent rates). April 23, 2015: 
All of these recent comments are from outside Nashville and from large developers.  Housing bubbles are inevitable and occur in cycles.  How is Nashville bracing for the next down cycle in the housing market?
Note: whenever a Planning Department breaks their own zoning rules in order to encourage development, this creates an artificial housing ‘demand’.  When somebody artificially creates any market commodity, this makes recovery from the inevitable down cycle worse than necessary.
Primer: a short video from Khan Academy that nicely explains housing Supply and Demand: 
“Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.” – Churchill 1935

Margo Chambers
Richland West End

NashvilleNext is going to be a done-deal before we know it. We need to put on the brakes and give people time to read and study the 1700 pages. We are being sold this plan without knowing what is in it and we will be told we had plenty of opportunity to know what was in it and that 17,000 Nashvillians "participated" in creating it. Just like no one knew what was in Obamacare until after it was passed, we are not going to know what is in NashvilleNext until development starts occurring that we do not like and then we we will be told, "but it is consistent with the general plan." NashvilleNext is a pig in a poke and will soon be the guide for future growth of the city. 

What is outrageous is that it is not even adopted yet and is being used to approve plans. It is difficult for the Council to stop a rezoning that is approved by the Planning Commission. The Council needs to ignore the recommendations of the Planning Commission if the Planning Commission is making recommendations based on something they assume is going to be adopted and the Council needs to slow down the process of the PC approving NashvilleNext until it is genuinely studied. 

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