Sonya Smith speaks passionately about property restrictions by a proposed “conservation overlay” for 43 acres in Edgehill. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Bad experiences with metro planners were aired Saturday at a OneNashville meeting where several Edgehill property owners and neighbors said a zoning plan should be sent back to the drawing board.

“We need to go back to the table and do something better,” John Moore said of a proposed “conservation overlay” that would affect 43 acres. I’ve see the historic planning commission in action. They denied everything and I don’t like the restrictions.”

Restrictions on building height, roofline and appearance might be imposed to provide some consistency of structures’ design to maintain, or conserve, the neighborhood’s charm. The area where such conservation might be imposed is defined — highlighted — on a map with a color over-lay.

The proposed restrictions are seen by opponents of the conservation overlay as a government taking.

“It’s like taking money out of my bank,” Moore said.

Government takings are unconstitutional without compensation, according to a simplistic application of federal law.

“Don’t do it,” said Sonya Smith who lives near the area proposed for the conservation overlay. She argued against proposed restrictions by citing personal experience including: her family home; an adjoining alley; metro officials saying she had to prove the house was classified as a “non-conforming duplex;” and officials’ rejection of her evidence.

“They don’t care,” Smith warned.

Smith said she was told she could build a garage with second story living quarters. Later she was told she couldn’t because of the pending conservation overlay.

The idea’s been kicked around for several years.

“I should have the right to develop my property or live there as I like,” she said.

However, unbridled development is opposed by advocates of the proposed conservation overlay. It’s repeatedly been described as the “least restrictive” of such controls to preserve a neighborhood’s appearance.

Terri Chapman is “for the overlay” to “preserve the African American history” of the area; a black neighborhood before the Civil Rights movement forced Congress to enact equal housing laws.

Trey Fanjoy said she wants to support her neighbors’ wishes, but opposes government bureaucracy. She has an 800-square-foot “money pit with so many problems.” Fanjoy wants unrestricted property rights to “do what I need to do.”

Mike Slarve interprets the overlay to mean that Fanjoy “will be limited to [expansion with] another 800 square feet” and if her home is demolished for replacement, “what you build back has to look like what you tore down… I don’t want 12 rooms ands 12 baths,” he continued, having said “new buildings don’t need to be these big, ugly things…

“There must be another way to do this,” Slarve said.

Jill Bader, who’s gone door to door to talk with her neighbors about the proposal said she’s looking for common ground.

The discussion was at Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Enoch Fuzz says OneNashville meets there on the first and third Saturday each month at 8 a.m.

Councilman Colby Sledge got planning commissioners to postpone a public hearing until they meet at 4 p.m. July 26 in the Board of Education meeting room, 2601 Bransford Ave. Planning commissioners might then make a recommendation to Megtro’s council for or against the Edgehill Conservation Overlay.

Nearly 60 people were counted during the OneNashville meeting. Fuzz said five council members (two at-large), the vice mayor, the city budget finance committee chair, and the chair of the council’s minority caucus attended July 7 among several neighborhood leaders and homeowners.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...