Council to Consider Soccer Stadium, Edgehill Overlay

Ronald Miller said that to the dismay of many Edgehill Coalition members, many opponents of a conservation measure for neighborhood appearance “did not know about the coalition,” Photo by Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Metro’s council on Tuesday is to consider favorable recommendations from planning commissioners to rezone: 10 acres of park land for a soccer stadium; and, separately, 43 acres in Edgehill where architectural integrity would be conserved.

The city council meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Davidson Courthouse where the planning commission’s unanimous recommendation for a soccer stadium at the fairgrounds will be considered. The council also has a split vote — 4-3 — from planners for adding restrictions on dozens of homeowners.

Both issues attracted hundreds of people Aug. 1 to the Sonny West Conference Room in the old Howard school office building complex along Second Avenue. Large crowds are anticipated Tuesday night.

Soccer stadium advocates emphasized the technical nature of the rezoning and development plan amendment questions before planning commissioners Wednesday.

Opponents reminded commissioners of the 2011 referendum said to have settled the issue on how the property may be developed; indicating stadium or mixed use development with commercial and residential structures is prohibited. Some officials disagree.

Wanda Lucia Moore is in a quandary. One brother favors a conservation zoning overlay proposal for Edgehill while another brother opposes it. It’s seen as restricting property owners rights and/or preserving the charm of the neighborhood’s appearance. Photo by Clint Confehr

It’s good for the neighborhood,” Marcus Whitney said for the stadium.

Paulette Coleman asked, “Does Nashville exist for the residents or the tourists? Without community agreement, this does not do a service for the city.” She’s for it, but wants local labor hired for jobs created by the project.

Whether that could be required by the ordinance facing the council Tuesday was questioned, but residents advocate jobs for Nashvillians.

Flea market vendors’ advocate Shane Smiley said the petition he submitted has signatures from 3,000 opponents of the fairgrounds’ proposed use.

Furthermore, the land must be declared surplus for it to be sold legally and it’s not been declared surplus, Smiley said.

“You’re opening Pandora’s box” if residential used are permitted on the land, he said, asking for a month’s delay for a complete traffic study. “There will be political and legal ramifications if this goes through.”

Former Councilman Tony Tenpenny complained, “Major League Soccer doesn’t even know where the parking will be.” When the land was given to the state and conveyed to the fairgrounds board, it was for a fair, the new plan doesn’t have room for a fair.

Several people said the soccer stadium should be built at Metro Center.

The proposed “10-acre give-away” is defined as an inducement for investors to enhance Nashville’s economy, Antioch resident Duane Downing said.

“The No. 1 definition [of inducement] is bribe,” he said.

Nashville Fairgrounds Executive Director Laura Watson is seated on the front row of the audience during city planning commissioners’ meeting when a proposed soccer stadium’s location is discussed. Photo by Clint Confehr

Alleged negative impacts were “hashed out ad nauseam” seven years ago,” said Councilman Colby Sledge. If the council approves the plan”the discussion does not end . More decisions are to be made…”

Pleased that many people spoke at the public hearing, Planning Commissioner Brian Tibbs said, the proposal “seems to fit” parameters of city law, so he voted yes.

Councilman Fabian Bedne, also a planning commissioner, agreed fairgrounds are needed, “But how do you preserve it?” The proposal seems to be a way to do it and how that’s done should be of paramount concern.

Commissioner Jeff Haynes said mixed uses will enhance the original use. Haynes moved to recommend the zoning and the property plan.

The vote was 6-0.

“We have a bunch of spineless fair board members,” Tony Watkins said. “…they’re puppets on a string.”

Caustic remarks were also heard after planning commissioners recommended the council consider on Tuesday the proposed Conservation Overlay at Edgehill. The split 4-3 vote was after two long public hearings. The meeting started at 4 p.m. It went later than 9:30 p.m.

“Thank you for wasting our time,” said A. Theressa Bynum, whose son, Phoenix Bynum added, “And treating us like children.”

Paulette Coleman, wants local labor hired for jobs created by construction and operation of the proposed soccer stadium. Now, it’s planned for the fairgrounds, but others want it at Metro Center. Photo by Clint Confehr

Zaya Moutou, 18, 1715 Villa Place, a Tennessee State University student of commercial music and business, advocates guidelines on what may be done to buildings that contribute to the historic appearance of Edgehill.

“The neighborhood is historically black,” Moutou said. Homes there were built in the 1920s and there’s a marked difference in architecture between them and new, so-called tall-skinny houses built to maximize the use of land for increased population density and developer profit.

She complained the house next to her home is rented as an Air B&B.

“I wouldn’t want the whole neighborhood to be like that,” she said. “It’d be like a hotel.”

Sledge said he and his fellow Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who represents part of the area proposed for additional controls, said they’ve discussed the issue with many residents.

“It’s to prevent demolition of architecturally and historically significant homes, but it’s not an historic overlay” of strict regulations, Sledge said.

The word guidelines is used by the city to describe conservation overlay protections.

Speaking for the Edgehill Coalition was Ronald Miller, 905, Villa Place.

“To our dismay, many in opposition did not know about the coalition,” which funds scholarships, petitioned for a community track, and saved the statue of a polar bear which has become the symbol for the coalition and opponents of the overlay.

The coalition advocates protections and hosted a pot luck supper at Belmont Church where the city’s zoning appeals board chairman led 100 people in a discussion on the pros and cons about the protections.

Another advocate, Rob Benshoof, said the historic zoning commission tries to be flexible about applying standards in zoning overlay areas. There are more than 30 in Nashville. “People make changes all the time.”

During the hearing, Joel Dark sat next to someone who’s grandfather built his house.

Edgehill is “arguably the oldest, intact, livable community in Nashville. The McKissack homes are the most notable,” said Dark

McKissack & McKissack is the first African-American-owned architectural firm in the United States.

“Developers are greedy and change our neighborhood,” Don McCord, 62, 15th Avenue, said. “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Terry Chapman moved from Jefferson Street to 15th Avenue South and said community discussion was like the children’s game of telephone played on the Internet. “It’s stoked fear in people,” she said.

David Yates of South Street said a survey was conducted to indicate the community favored the overlay, but it’s flawed.

Dr. Sean Kelly criticized the advocates survey: “My vote was counted as not applicable, but it is.”

“Our neighbors,” Isabella Kearney said, “were counted as for, but they oppose it.”

“Don’t force this on us,” said Carolyn Rambo.

Casting it as a property rights issue was Kindra Thompson, who said owners should be able to do what they want with their property.

Andy Wehby lives in an 1890s home and doesn’t want to lose the right to demolish it if he must. He doesn’t want to leave that decision to a third party: the Historic Zoning Commission.

Commissioner Jeff Haynes said during his seven and a half years on the commission, the Edgehill issue was “the most difficult” and divisive.

Commissioner Daveisha Moore agreed, noting the diversity of people speaking during the public hearing.

Commissioner Fabian Bedne said he expects the councilmen — Sledge and O’Connell — to do a good job of selling the proposed ordinance when it’s being considered by the city council.

“They are the ones who have to bring it forward or amend it,” Bedne said.

The mayor’s representative to the commission, Dr. Terry Jo Bichell, sought clarification and noted that even if a house was seen as contributing to the character of the neighborhood and salvageable, then the owner could demolish the building if the replacement was built to be in context with the architectural nature of the neighboring buildings.

Bichell also noted from staff comments that the city has no study saying property values go up because of such zoning, but national studies say values are not affected.

Commissioner Lillian Blackshear said she likes the idea of protections, but feels there’s more room for conversation.

Commissioner Brian Tibbs noted: the neighborhood is split; most of the homes are contributing to the aesthetics of the neighborhood. “This is a tool” for the appearance of the neighborhood.

Knowing the proposed ordinance is “divisive,” Tibbs moved for approval, adding that it “meets the requirements” as set forth in procedure and city code.

The vote was 4 yes, 3 no.

Controversy arose during the meeting. Look for more news stories about the Edgehill zoning issue in The Tennessee Tribune’s print edition, at tntribune.com and on social media sites such as Facebook.

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