A new zoning overlay currently under discussion for the Germantown area could mean more stringent guidelines for developers and residents.
The overlay is still in preliminary stages. Currently, members of a committee of residents are working with the Metro Historical Commission, Metro Zoning, and Metro Department of Housing Association to develop guidelines for the overlay.
With Nashville’s growth, combined with several larger properties in the area starting to turn over, now is the time to set rules in place, said Ben Mosley, a Germantown resident and architect with Carnell Mosley Architects. He said proponents of the overlay are currently working to refine guidelines and regulations through community meetings.
“It started out of the neighborhood’s desire not to be reactive to situations that come up now,” Mosley said. “It’s not convenient for folks to have to drop everything and show up at a council meeting to oppose a project that may not be good for the neighborhood.”
Legislation that would establish the overlay likely wouldn’t be filed until this fall, after the new Metro Council is elected. The proposed border includes the corner of Eighth and Jefferson to Third Avenue.
The overlay would affect new construction, additions and demolitions, as well as outdoor features including fences, walls, parking and curb cuts, said Tim Walker, the Historic Zoning Administrator for the Historical Commission. Exterior changes, such as the appearance of existing buildings, might also be affected.
“It protects what’s historic, and it lets you grow. It just manages that growth or change in a way that’s compatible with the historical context,” Walker said.
The overlay wouldn’t restrict developments to a specific architectural style. Contemporary developments, for example, would still be acceptable, as long as they meet requirements including height and setback.
Parts of Germantown are already subject to rules and guidelines. Most of the area where the overlay would apply is part of the large Phillip-Jackson Redevelopment Area, which runs along Jefferson Street from 12th Avenue almost to the Cumberland River. The Phillip-Jackson area is administered by MDHA, which sets in place design guidelines and allows Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to be used in some developments. The Historic Commission regularly participates in the MDHA’s review of designs in historic areas of the Phillip-Jackson area.
About 80 percent of the proposed overlay area is already in the redevelopment zone, Mosley said. Parts of Third and Fourth avenues would be in the historic area, but are not in the redevelopment zone.
Also, the core of Germantown — an area smaller than the proposed overlay — is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Though residents of the neighborhood say the process of creating rules for the overlay has been a civil one, there is some opposition. David Singelyn, a Germantown resident who also owns two rental properties, says the existing guidelines are already stringent enough. More rules, he believes, could discourage responsible developers from wanting to invest in the area.
But though Singelyn said he is not alone in opposing the overlay, he doesn’t think the opposition will stand in the way of the rest of the neighborhood if the majority want to move forward.
To read the full rules of the overlay as it currently stands, visit historicgermantown.org.