By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — A metro councilman and the executive director of historic zoning in Nashville anticipate amendments to a proposed set of restrictions over how homeowners could change their homes in this historically African American neighborhood.
“There is a probability that something changes before passage, if we get to a final reading,” Councilman Freddie O’Connell says of a potential third and final vote by metro’s council to enact any new ordinance.
O’Connell represents the north end of a nearly 43-acre-area proposed for a Neighborhood
Conservation Zoning Overlay. Nashville’s Historic Zoning Commission might be voting on whether new construction, additions, demolitions and building relocations if conservation guidelines are imposed by the proposal. Such changes would require a permit in addition to a construction permit.
The north end of the proposed Edgehill Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlay area is where there is more opposition from neighbors, according to O’Connell and Tim Walker, executive director of Nashville’s Historic Zoning Commission.
With more than 20-years experience in the Historic Zoning Department — nine years as director, and several years as a zoning administrator — Walker says, “We don’t want to be where people don’t want it.”
Jill Bader, of Villa Place, and several neighbors, canvassed residents and owners of homes in the area proposed for guidelines to conserve the neighborhood’s appearance.
“Many of the neighbors we spoke with are our longterm African American neighbors. We’ve spoken to many residents – old and new – who are upset like we are. We don’t want this overlay,” Bader and four of her neighbors said in a letter to planning commissioners who were to consider the proposed ordinance June 28. A public hearing and vote that evening are postponed to 4 p.m. Aug. 1 in the Sonny West Conference Center of the Howard Office Building, 700 2nd Ave., South.
“Our survey … found at least 57 resident homes in opposition of the overlay,” the letter states. “In total we have at least 93 homes within the overlay map opposed.”
The “pro-overlay group” submitted a request for government restrictions with “misrepresentations,” the letter states. People counted as for restrictions were found to be opponents, according to the letter from Bader, Charles Howe of 15th Street and Villa Place residents Janet and Kenneth Parham, and John Moore. They list 24 properties with discrepancies; most found to have been counted by zoning advocates as yes when they oppose the change. A vacant home and ownership issues account for other “misrepresentations.”
Speaking of standard practices when applications for zoning changes are submitted, Walker said, “We always caution that they have a strong majority … I wouldn’t be surprised that it [the 43-acre area] be cut back to an area where there is a strong majority” of support. That happens “sometimes,” Walker said, noting the proposed ordinance “could be redrawn at the council level.”
O’Connell said he hopes for a consensus among neighbors on what should be done with the rezoning proposal. Better sidewalks seems to be something on which there’s agreement among neighbors, he said.
Consensus might have been found during a potluck supper a few nights ago in Belmont Church on Music Square East, an event organized by advocates of the rezoning, according to O’Connell. Bader said she asked that rezoning advocates include her group on the potluck dinner’s agenda. Bader and O’Connell planned to attend.
“Once you get into this [kind of conflict] there’re going to be people who are enthusiastic supporters and those who would object to anything that would constitute a regulatory environment,” O’Connell said.
The councilman’s Germantown home is subject to zoning overlay restrictions as are many other areas. “Each one of them is [customized],” O’Connell said, noting height restrictions that resulted in “some people removing their objection” to an overlay. “An early topic for a concession is front dormers. You can get pretty far down in the weeds … Guidelines can be modified as a result of community input.”