Planners reject May Town Center; fate rests with Council

Friday, June 26, 2009 at 1:38am

After nearly seven hours of public comments and intense deliberation, the Metro Planning Commission on Thursday night rejected the controversial May Town Center zone-change proposal for rural Bells Bend.

The vote to disapprove the zone-change was 9-0 with commissioner Jim Gotto abstaining.

“We’re a big enough county to have one rural enclave where agriculture can happen and where there really can be eagles, and gulls and cranes,” commissioner Stewart Clifton said after the vote, adding that the uncertain nature of the proposal made it both bold and dangerous.

The commissioners’ decision has serious ramifications for the proposal, because it now needs 27 out of 40 votes on Council. (Approval would have meant the bill could carry with just 21 Council votes.)

The zone change proposal will be on second reading at the July 7 Metro Council meeting.

In reality, the Planning Commission was evenly divided on the $4 billion May Town Center proposal, which would encompass 520 acres of rolling hills in Bells Bend.

In order to pass the zone change Thursday, the Planning Commission first had to approve an amendment to the Scottsboro/Bells Bend detailed design plan. The amendment required six votes, but it finished 5-5 with the deciding vote coming from commissioner Victor Tyler.

Four hours into the public hearing, the Planning Commission considered a motion by commissioner Andree LeQuire to disapprove the amendment to the detailed design plan. LeQuire’s motion failed, with Tyler voting against.

But Tyler flipped when it came time to finally vote on the amendment to the land use plan, leaving proponents wondering if there was procedural confusion.

In order for a proposed zone change to pass it must be consistent with the detailed design plan, according to Planning Director Rick Bernhardt. Because the commissioners did not approve the amendment to the design plan they could not pass the proposed zone change, Bernhardt said.

“There was a lot of confusion there at the end,” May Town Center developer Tony Giarratana said. “There was a motion in the negative which I'm not sure was appropriate. There was a motion to not do something, and that's something I need to do some research on before commenting any further.

“But obviously I’m very disappointing how the vote came out because I feel the will of the commission was to approve this [alternate development area].”

Tyler declined comment after the meeting.

An overflow crowd packed the Metro Southeast Building on Murfreesboro Pike and about 70 spoke at the hearing.

Supporting commissioners said Davidson County lacked undeveloped land needed to build massive corporate headquarters like the ones May Town Center seeks to lure.

“There’s not another place or parcel of that kind of acreage that this kind of plan can be put in Davidson County,” commissioner Tonya Jones said.

At the meeting’s onset, eight Metro Council members stood up in opposition, claiming the proposal would bring heavy traffic through West Nashville, would steal business from downtown and would have a negative environmental impact on a city looking to become one of the greenest in the country.

In support, however, was Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr., whose district includes Bells Bend. Matthews touted the project’s economic development potential and the partnership with Tennessee State University.

May Town Center developers agreed to donate 250 acres and provide a $400,000 endowment for TSU to build an agricultural research complex. Commissioners suggested such a facility still made sense for Bells Bend.

How they voted

For May Town Center: Chairman James McLean, commissioners Gotto, Judy Cummings, Phil Ponder and Jones

Against: Hunter Gee, Tyler, Clifton, Derrick Dalton and LeQuire.

Staff writer Kyle Swenson contributed to this story

12 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 6/26/09 at 5:47

Great news! MTC was totally inconsistent with the detailed design plan for the area.

If the Mays want to do whatever they wish with the land, they should have bought something already zoned.

By: sumtraveller on 6/26/09 at 6:17

Bravo! Definetely the right direction for Nashville. There is too much undeveloped land in Nashville (downtown core). We don't need more land, we need to develop what we have -- stop the sprawl!

Well done

By: Alphadog7 on 6/26/09 at 6:32

If MTC is rejected, Bells Bend could eventually end up suburban sprawl. This is a chance for responsible planned growth while preserving green space. Growth is going to happen. Responsible, green, planned growth is a rare opportunity.

By: ChickeringLife on 6/26/09 at 7:19

I agree with Alphadog 7. May Town is a very unique development and not your typical cookie cutter development. I hope we can get 27 council votes. Please e-mail your council members!

By: JohnR on 6/26/09 at 7:35

I watched the entire meeting. What a mess. McClean has no idea where he is half the time. On the first vote on the design plan, McClean did not even call for the no votes until Bernhardt expalined it to him.

And whats up with Tyler, someone tell him what day it is.

By: govskeptic on 6/26/09 at 8:02

AT THIS TIME: It makes no sense to make the most extensive/intense development on the least prepared ground in Davidson Co! We have existing investructure in many parts of the city that is still undeveloped that should be filled in before undertaking such a project as May Town Center. I hope those that have paid the price to purchase and hold these properties and have played by the rules will also contact their council members to do the right thing in their votes. Councilmatic Courtesy should not be a factor in a countywide decision this large!

By: louedwards on 6/26/09 at 8:31

So Tony Giarratana is going to look into the "wording" of the motion. I guarantee you that if the vote had been favorable toward him, he wouldn't care how the motion was worded.

By: grapa on 6/26/09 at 8:42

We did get our chance to speak. I would like to see a replay, though. There were sbviously confusion and some in front of the room were confused. There has been great pressure on these people, but they are expected to perform. Where was the leadership?

By: rubixcube on 6/26/09 at 12:50

there goes Nashville chance to be an economic powerhouse the could have been a 4 billion dollar boon to the local economy could have used that

By: DaddyYo on 6/26/09 at 3:31

Yahoo, good thing this failed. Stop the Planning Department's urban sprawl!

Why is it that the Planning Department can't stick to their own guidelines when they want to exploit a zone change to grap more power (Lenox Village)? They always insist that everyone just trying to live a suburban lifestyle be hearded into their New Urbanist communes.

Wait I answered my own question. With liberals, like the the Mayor and Mr. Berhardt, it is all about exploitation to gain power. They don't care about diversity, connectivity or the planet. They just want power.

By: Time for Truth on 6/27/09 at 7:11

The developers and politicians will wear the Planning Commission down over time. It will just take awhile. What we 'may' see out of this is some sort of security, such as a performance bond, to make sure this happens the way it's supposed to. Too many empty holes in the ground, including by this developer, and the one on Bell's Bend would be a doozie. Not to mention the bridge.

This is certainly sprawl and as such I would be inclined to oppose it. Right across the river, Metrocenter is only half full. Plenty of places to build that don't require a multimillion dollar bridge.

By: consultmlcesq on 6/27/09 at 12:33

I am very much opposed to the May Town Center, as I believe that there is a sinister motive underlying the entire concept. Based on my research, town centers are being developed all over the country and many are at the center of agrarian enviroments. One plan actually proposes to relocate pre-civil war antebellum homes to the center, to create a plantation style atmosphere. Others are actively recruiting "independent" businessess (code word for secessionist leaning) to set up office at town centers. Considering the fact that surrounding land was given to TSU (A&I) for the study of "sustainable agriculture," I envision Blacks being forced to labor for the benefit of "Independent" Businessess, with no viable means of escape.

Already, the neo Confederate - Independent - Secessessionists leaders of Tennessee have passed one statute after another arming and enabling the prospective Confederate Militia to employ their unique style of (in)justice in the apparently anticipated event of Marshall Rule. Also NRA magazines are training its members to hunt two legged animals with tactical weapons.

Though it may not be clear to most, for someone who reads everything she can get her hands on and who happens to have brown skin, Tennessee is becoming a scary place to live . . . Who knows to what extent neo-confederate independent secessionists will go to achieve their utopian dream - i.e. re-inacting those days which should be gone with the wind. In this day and time, when suburbians are moving back to town, who else would be motivated to drive to such a remote location to live, do business, or enjoy nature?