Ding! The announcement of a $4 billion development at Bells Bend has sounded the bell for yet another round of neighborhoods fighting a developer.
The May Town Center has reignited the passions of nearby neighborhoods that fought previous plans for residential development and, earlier, a landfill. And they will hash it out at the Scottsboro neighborhood meeting tomorrow night.
On the surface, it has the typical markings of debating construction versus destruction. Developers pitch progress while neighborhoods pitch status quo and preservation of some sort.
But this fight has the potential for becoming extraordinarily interesting because of the different twists and turns the debate could take as issues and objections are raised. The Mays are pitching new urbanism and the opponents are asking about new ruralism.
Developer Tony Giarratana, who is working with May family for a fee, has made the pitch that this project next to the Scottsboro community eventually could throw off more than $50 million in tax revenue. That sounds attractive when Metro is talking about budget shortfalls that could mean scrapping a few capital expenditures.
So this pits what’s good for the city’s welfare as a whole against the concerns of opponents in neighborhoods who may be a vocal minority claiming to represent a majority. It could be a majority. It’s difficult to determine sometimes when a few are so vocal.
Sumter Camp is one of the voices leading the charge against the project. For those who don’t know who he is, Camp is a federal public defender. His list of clients includes that stellar former Nashville citizen Perry March, although a state-court conviction spared Camp of having to defend March in federal court.
“The Scottsboro community has worked for the last two and a half years to try to see to it that the community remain as rural as possible, and that any development be consistent with the rural character of the community,” Camp, who owns 40 acres preserved through the Land Trust of Tennessee, wrote in an e-mail.
That means no dense commercial and residential development on property and no new bridge across the Cumberland River and Interstate 40 interchange. Members of the community previously opposed a 1,450-home suburban home development.
They want rural-estate development that means one home per five acres. Camp said they group has made suggestions to the Mays and even considered figuring a way to buy the property before the Mays. With a price of up to $22 million, Camp said that wasn’t doable.
There’s also the environmental issue. The area is one of the last remaining rural areas in the county.
“In an age when food security, sustainability and availability are all issues of the moment and concern, trashing the last bit of farmable land in the county would seem to be as backward thinking as making a few more dollars off of anything hydrocarbon-producing while we burn up the planet,” Camp wrote.
Camp wrote further that members of the community suggest to the Mays that a better legacy for them would be the first ever “Institute of Organic Farming.”
“Apparently, that suggestion was not looked on favorably,” he wrote. “The plan of the residents of Scottsboro for our community is much more interesting, forward-thinking and exciting than anything that mentioned by Mr. Giarratana, though perhaps not as glamorous.”
Proponents point out that apparently the community isn’t pleased with 3,000 acres dedicated for park and open space. The concept is to concentrate the density in one location and surrounded with green space. Brentwood allowed a similar and much smaller version there with residential development.
An issue likely to arise is development scaring off the rare whooping cranes calling Bells Bend home. Those birds are a lot more obvious than the last minute discovery of some rare crawfish to stop development.
The Charlotte Park and Beacon Square Neighborhoods likely will oppose the bridge and interchange because it will cut through them or pass over them.
A recreational pilot offhandedly asked what the Federal Aviation Administration might do with respect to the project.
John C. Tune Airport is readying itself to handle some of the largest private jets on the market. The pilot said on calm days, jets take off over Bells Bend. Noise and parts falling off the planes or the planes themselves falling might be something to consider.
Giarratana has some experience with the FAA so perhaps that’s not an insurmountable issue.
The biggest hurdle of all, however, may be the Mays. Local real estate folks have pointed out that the family has limited experience in real estate beyond owning property.
Not to have Chapstick moment, but Giarratana has the stomach and smoothness to face the opposition and attempt to work out something. The big question is whether the Mays have the stomach for it.
The Chatter Class appears Mondays in The City Paper. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org