Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin filed an ordinance Wednesday that would exempt his council district from the special zoning plan for Gallatin Pike, a set of relatively new guidelines adopted to enhance the aesthetics of East Nashville’s main corridor.
Passed in 2007 after a series of community meetings, the Gallatin Pike Specific Plan requires future development along the road to abide by new landscaping, signage and street setback standards, while limiting future uses.
Embraced by the Metro Planning Department, the Gallatin Road SP took on several new urbanism themes. The idea was to bring future buildings up to the street, with parking in the back, for example. The code also limits the construction of establishments such as pawn and auto mechanic shops, which currently run rampant down Gallatin Pike.
A handful of East Nashville council districts are affected by the Gallatin Pike SP, including District 5 –– the area west of Gallatin Pike and south of Trinity Lane, represented by Hollin.
While Hollin, elected in a special election in November, said “good intentions” went into the plan’s drafting, he called the Gallatin Pike SP a hindrance to future development. Design requirements are too costly, he said, and unnecessary.
“I’ve had countless landowners approach me with concerns about this zoning overlay and how it functions within the fabric and rhythm of the neighborhood,” Hollin said. “I believe the current SP is not functioning and instead it is prohibiting economic growth and development.”
If Hollin’s bill is approved, a developer on the east side of Gallatin Pike would be required to place parking behind a building, while a developer in his district wouldn’t be beholden to such a regulation.
The ordinance would first go before the Metro Planning Commission before being considered by the council.
Hollin said financial incentives or “carrots” should be offered to encourage design standard. They shouldn’t be mandated.
“You have to ask the fundamental question, can a small businessman navigate the SP to get his business off the ground on Gallatin Road?” Hollin asked. “I think the answer to that question, at least from the small businessmen I’ve talked to, is no.”
District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson, who played a major role in the creation of the Gallatin Road SP, said he vehemently opposes Hollin’s ordinance.
“If somebody wants to maintain a street that’s filled with pawn shops, brightly lit fluorescent signs on 20-foot polls, negligible landscaping and little if any design review, then we just live on two different planets,” Jameson said.
Jameson also said around the same number of building permits have been pulled for Gallatin Pike over the last three years as other commercial corridors such as Charlotte Avenue, Dickerson Pike and Nolensville Road. The economic downturn is responsible for any decrease in construction activity from previous years, he said.
“As far as the data is concerned, I don’t think you can make the argument that the SP is deterring development,” Jameson said. “What has unquestionably gone on after the SP passed is that the economy took a nose-dive. So there’s been a generalized pall on development across the city on all streets. It’s not the SP’s fault that development is difficult on Gallatin Road.”