Bells Bend residents have been working since October to develop a community plan that preserves the area’s landscape, but those plans may be water under the bridge thanks to the massive May Town Center proposal.
A meeting last night at the Scottsboro Community Center to discuss the community plan turned into a debate over development and growth as about a hundred residents turned out to voice their opposition to the project that could bring up to 5,000 residential units.
The idea for a community plan — which would include land-use guidelines for May Town Center or any other development — came out of several years of neighbors fending off projects such as Bell’s Landing, a subdivision project proposed in 2005.
“That process has been hijacked by the May Town Center,” said resident Sumter Camp. “Instead we’re talking about why we should accommodate a plan that is wholly inconsistent with everything that we’ve been talking about for two years.”
The May Town Center plan calls for 453 acres of the 1,434-acre site to be developed into a dense mix of office, residential and retail space that would drastically change the face of Bells Bend, which has been a low-density, rural area nestled in a curve of the Cumberland River.
Residents expressed concern Tuesday that they are now facing a debate not only over how to maintain the area’s rural character, but also on how to maintain Davidson County’s economic growth.
“We are unable to locate corporate campuses anywhere else in Davidson County,” said Jennifer Carlat, who works on Community Plans for the Metro Planning Department. She said the size of those campuses and the need to be close to downtown and to “executive housing” are all factors that can influence where major corporations relocate.
Developer Tony Giarratana is working with Bells Landing Partners, which is led by the May family. The family owns real estate around Nashville, including downtown properties Belle Meade Plaza and Belle Meade Office Park.
He said the Nissan North America headquarter relocation to Cool Springs is of a similar size to what would fit into Bells Bend. Projections on the development’s Web site estimate the $4 billion dollar project will create 40,000 jobs and contribute somewhere between $63.8 million to $99.5 million dollars in new tax revenue by the time the project is completed.
Giarratana did not make any comments during last night’s meeting, but afterwards, he also stressed the May Town Center project will preserve about 900 acres of greenspace.
“That is a very important consideration that seems to be missed in this dialogue… It’s a tremendous land area, and if I might add, Metro Nashville paid $12 million for the land that’s known as the Bells Bend Park.”
Residents, however, felt they should not have to sacrifice their neighborhood for the good of Metro’s or the state’s economy.
“You’re not going to find another one like it.” said George West referring to the Bells Bend community.
The community will continue working with the Metro Planning department to formulate a draft plan, which will be presented for comment in May.
If the Planning Commission adopts the community plan, any zoning changes, such as one for May Town Center, would have to reflect the community plan and be approved by the Metro Council.
That will take convincing of residents, many of whom like Jane Coble, said last night, “The minute this plan is approved, this community is dead.”