East Nashville residents sent back to bargaining table

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 1:39am

An East Nashville property that once served as a junkyard and an auto garage, but now is being proposed to become an apartment building, continued to serve as a point of contention for several area neighborhood associations.

A bill to rezone the property was deferred by Metro Council at its Tuesday meeting. The deferral came after a contentious public hearing when those on both sides expressed frustration, leaving Council members to suggest interested parties return to the bargaining table.

The property is located at 837 Cleveland St. and its owner Sheridath Blackwood is facing charges in environmental court for violating the zoning code. Blackwood was using the property as a multi-family structure, but it is currently zoned single family.

Blackwood said the zone change would simply move the property within its previous use. He apologized for not complying with the zoning code.

The bill has the support of controversial Councilwoman Pam Murray, who supports the zoning change. Council voted with Murray 29-8 to defer.

“I really do appreciate your support,” Murray said. “My neighbors appreciate your support.”

But it was clear at Tuesday’s meeting that the neighbors remain divided. Those opposing the zoning change gathered the signatures of 151 residents who oppose the building becoming a multi-family unit.

District 8 Councilwoman Karen Bennett took up the cause of the opposition.

“[The owner’s] current concept I do not think the community would ever support,” Bennett said.

During the meeting, a contingency wearing green T-shirts expressed their support for the zoning change and for Murray.

Mary Coplen, a member of the Greenwood Neighbors Association, said newcomers to the neighborhood weren’t listening to those who had lived there for generations.

“When you first move here, don’t try to fix it,” Coplen said.

But Jamie Hollin, who lives adjacent to the property and is the president of the Maxwell Heights Neighborhood Association, said the proposal simply did not fit with the desires of those who want to see the neighborhood improve. Hollin led a contingency, wearing red t-shirts, which included neighbors from Cleveland Park, Maxwell Heights, McFerrin and Greenwood Neighborhood Associations.

“The opposition is not going to change its mind,” Hollin said, expressing hope the bill would be defeated when it was on second reading.

Murray came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed she lived a portion of the time in Detroit, where she works at a methadone clinic as a social worker. An ethics complaint was filed against Murray, claiming she lied on her ethics disclosure forms when she listed herself as self-employed.

The issue has turned into a budding feud between Bennett and Murray as well. After a community meeting earlier this year, Bennett alleged she was threatened and called Metro Police. No charges were ever filed and Murray followed by filing her own complaint.

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors suggested Bennett and Murray meet to mediate their differences, but as of Tuesday no such mediation had occurred.

“I think both parties thought the meeting would not be productive,” Neighbors said.

1 Comment on this post:

By: SRJ on 7/10/09 at 8:28

Karen Bennett needs to spend time improving her 17 pieces of RENTAL Property, before she condemns anyone else. I really believe that she needs to be reminded that she was elected to represent the 8th District. Karen seems to have all but forgotten the people who voted for her.