A strong majority of residents in the Bells Bend area oppose state legislation aimed at applying a rural conservation overlay to prevent development.
The opposition was revealed in poll results released by Rep. Gary Moore’s office on Tueday. Moore personally funded a poll of Bells Bend residents asking what they thought of state legislation to designate the area as a Rural and Agricultural Natural Resources Act (RANRA) community.
According to Moore’s office, 76 of the 99 respondents opposed the legislation. Moore sent the ballot to Bells Bend property owners in late March. The ballot was essentially a yes-or-no questionnaire asking property owners if they favored the legislation.
Designating the Bend as a RANRA community would have prevented new building on lots smaller than 10 acres in size and would have effectively downzoned the area to prevent the proposed $4 billion May Town Center development.
May Town Center is back on the agenda of the Metro Planning Commission eight months after it was deferred amid questions regarding its impact on traffic, infrastructure and downtown economy.
State Sen. Douglas Henry has indicated he would pull the legislation if it was made clear that most residents in Bells Bend were in opposition.
Bells Bend resident Sharon Work cautioned against interpreting the results of Moore’s poll to mean Bells Bend residents supported May Town Center. Work pointed out that there was significant lobbying against the legislation in the form of robocalls and mail pieces.
“I’d say a small percentage of those people (who voted in against the legislation) are really in favor of May Town,” said Work, who opposes the development. “There was nothing in that ballot that said you’re voting for or against May Town.
“I would say opposition is very steady, just as steady as it ever was.”
Tim Stewart owns more than 300 acres of farmland in the Bend and voted against the conservation legislation.
“I am not going to let anybody tell me what I can or can’t do with my property and that’s exactly what this would do,” Stewart said. “Those are my rights and my family’s rights.”
Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews, whose district includes Bells Bend, estimated last year that opposition to May Town Center was over 80 percent.
Stewart suggested that the results to Moore’s poll on the conservation legislation indicate support might be swaying the other way.
“I think most people are supportive of it who actually live in the Bend, I think this latest vote demonstrates that,” Stewart said.