TSU testing soil, water before taking possession of Bells Bend land

Friday, October 16, 2009 at 5:06pm

Before taking possession of the 250 acres of Bells Bend land given to the university as part of a gift from developer Jack May, Tennessee State University will conduct an environmental site assessment of the property, TSU officials have told The City Paper.

The school has hired the Franklin branch of Civil & Environment Consultants (CEC) to conduct the evaluation, which basically consists of water and soil evaluation. The contractors will work with the university's own Sustainable Agriculture Land Transfer (SALT) team, which has already been conducting tests on the property.

“This is the next step, the environmental assessment,” said Shereitte C. Stokes III, TSU’s vice president for university relations and development. “You don't want to transfer land unless it's environmentally safe.”

The university received more than 200 acres of land from May — the largest donation in its history — to establish the research facility. President Melvin Johnson had outlined plans for a proposed TSU Research Park and Center for Sustainable Agriculture in the Bells Bend area of Nashville targeted for the May Town Center, a project that is now in doubt.

Despite this, TSU officials are continuing in their push to make the university a global leader in sustainable agricultural research.

The CEC evaluation will test for the American Society for Testing and Materials standards, take a visual survey of the property, and review the current archeological surveys.

Part of the property going toward the 50-acre research park will eventually need a zoning change as well, according to Stokes.

“We have to make sure it's zoned commercial because otherwise it would be useless to us as a research park because a research park is a commercial endeavor,” Stokes said.

Should TSU take possession of the land and establish the center there, minimal infrastructure improvements would have to be made, according to Ron Brooks, TSU assistant vice president and director of facilities.

“There is access to the property,” Brooks said. “There would be some enhancements necessary for delivery trucks and those sorts of things that are not dependent upon the bridge that was in the May Town project.”