Another round will be added to the May Town Center debate today when the Planning Commission continues the public hearing on the controversial proposed development for rural Bells Bend.
The public hearing will take place at 4 p.m. at the Metro Southeast Building, 1217 Murfreesboro Pike. The hearing is primarily tied to the economic impact study performed by University of Tennessee economics professor Dr. Bill Fox.
The public hearing for all other components of the May Town Center debate took place last month and, as expected, drew a large and emotional crowd, which figures to return for today’s meeting. Interested parties will likely have to wait for the Planning Commission to actually vote on the $4 billion proposal, because a special meeting has already been scheduled for next week.
Upon the release of the economic impact study, opponents and proponents claimed the study’s findings supported their view.
The economic impact study admitted some overlap in potential office space and residential competition with downtown, but said overall the two business districts would complement each other.
“Notwithstanding some overlap in their features, downtown and MTC will appeal to different markets, and provide more options for urban living in central Nashville,” the economic impact study stated.
The study pointed out that May Town Center – a proposed $4 billion development for rural Bells Bend – would compete closely with suburban counties like Williamson, Wilson and Rutherford.
However, the study also stated that half the jobs created by the development would have come to Nashville anyway, which opponents say gives credence to the notion May Town Center would detract from downtown.
District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson, whose district includes downtown, said every downtown business owner and property owner he’s spoken with opposes May Town Center for that reason.
“My soft spot is environmental issues generally,” Jameson said. “But in this case, I’m even more concerned about the effect this will have on downtown.”
Developers for the proposed May Town Center say it will keep Davidson County competitive with suburban counties, especially Williamson, and help lure large-scale corporate headquarters.
“Another 15 years like the past 15 years would surely jeopardize Nashville’s position within the region,” May Town developer Tony Giarratana said. “May Town Center will help Davidson County retain companies that need more room to expand, and will make Davidson County more competitive with neighboring counties for new companies moving into the region.”
Although a vote is unlikely, the Planning Commission’s decision is a critical factor in whether May Town Center ever sees the light of day. The 10 commissioners must approve amending the area land use plan with at least six votes in order for the proposed zoning change to take affect.
If the Planning Commission gives its approval, then May Town Center only needs 21 votes for approval, instead of 27, from Metro Council. Several observers have said the development’s chances are shaky if it needs 27 Council votes.
Since the last public hearing, the Planning Department has released its staff recommendations for approval, but with 17 conditions including that the developers build a second bridge connecting May Town Center to west Nashville.
That has drawn the ire of area Council members who were already lamenting the potential dramatic impact of traffic on their districts. West Nashville Council members Emily Evans, Jason Holleman and Bo Mitchell are leaning toward opposing the development. Fellow West Nashville Councilman Buddy Baker, previously presumed to be a supporter, joined in opposition after the second bridge requirement was revealed.
If the Planning Commission does not vote tonight, then the meeting will finally conclude Tuesday, June 30.