Nashville residential subdivisions that were built during the housing boom but stalled during the nation’s economic downturn are in line for Metro aid to complete unfinished streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure, under a Mayor Karl Dean administration plan.
The Metro Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the city’s acceptance of “incomplete infrastructure” in 11 privately developed subdivisions that were abandoned mid-construction. Hastening council action: mistakes of the Metro Planning Department, which failed to properly monitor bonds and lines of credit that were supposed to ensure infrastructure was finished.
The plan’s approval has established an application process for up to $2.5 million to be authorized in street, light and other construction work in these neighborhoods.
“I’m comfortable with the city putting some money to it,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said. “We sort of owe that to the citizens who bought out there.”
Funds for unfinished infrastructure — deemed as “safety concerns” in the approved legislation — would be carved out of future capital-spending budgets.
Several stalled or bankrupt subdivisions set to benefit from the arrangement are in Antioch and Southeast Davidson County, an area that exploded in growth over the last decade.
One of the 11 designated neighborhoods is Edison Park, situated near Thomas Edison Elementary School in Antioch. Families live there despite lacking basic utilities.
“Edison Park, for four years we’ve struggled to get streets finished, to get lots built out, to get sewers and gutters finished,” said Councilman Robert Duvall, who represents the area.
“There’s no street lights,” he said. “It’s so dark at night out there, you can put your hand in front of your face and you can’t see it.”
The council reacted to the issue in part because of planning department failures.
According to council attorney Jon Cooper’s legal analysis, a 2009 report identified “a failure by the planning department to adequately monitor and administer” bonds that were issued as a way to ensure developers complete infrastructure up to standards.
“We lost the bond,” Duvall said. “We, the Metropolitan government, didn’t do what we were supposed to do, and we allowed that to happen. This is a way to fix it.”
Planning department spokesman Craig Owensby said, "It's very clear that any issues that we may have had in the past have been cleared up, and a lot of improvements have been made in the process."
Metro planners inadvertently allowed the expiration of letters of credit that banks had issued to back up the funding of infrastructure if developers went bankrupt.
“Specifically, the report noted the failure of the department to follow its own policies and procedures resulted in expired letters of credit and a backlog of 248 breached performance agreements exposing the Metropolitan Government to potential liability of $6.2 million,” the council’s legal analysis stated.
“The monitoring report made a number of recommendations to prevent future occurrences, which have now been implemented by the planning department.”
Metro attorneys had negotiated with banks and developers to solve the issue, but there were still 11 subdivisions that lacked security to guarantee the completion of infrastructure.