Friday, December 21, 2012

If developer won't sell, buildings should abide by zone rules - Nigel Hodge, The Tennessean

Posting the article that was published by the Tennessean
Opinion written by Nashboro's Nigel Hodge

This piece is being written in response to a Nov. 30 Tennessean article entitled, “Developer says Metro Council bill would strip property rights.”
First, it is essential to illustrate some very pertinent facts as it relates to the Pond Property on the corner of Flintlock Court and Nashboro Boulevard. The planned-unit development (PUD) on this particular parcel goes back more than 30 years, and during that time this open green space has been used as a park. I can speak to this personally, as I grew up playing on this property with my brother as a child.
Unfortunately, only after purchasing my first home in Nashboro Village did I learn that this beautiful piece of land that the community had grown accustomed to using as a park was actually zoned for two six-story buildings. This was extremely shocking and difficult for the residents of this community to comprehend.
This year, Councilwoman Karen Johnson initiated a periodic review of this property, which is absolutely legal in Metro Davidson County. Furthermore, the purpose of Metro having a periodic review process in place is to take into account present-day conditions to make a fair judgment in terms of legislation that is equitable to all parties involved. This requires a significant time commitment on behalf of the councilmember and the community. Hence, the periodic review process is quite applicable to this particular parcel as the PUD goes back more than 30 years. Obviously, in such a tremendous amount of time, there is a lot that can change.
Another important factor to understand is that the developer does not have any vested rights to this property. As part of the periodic review process, the Metro Planning Department visited the property and found no evidence of any type of infrastructure — no water/sewer lines, no footings or foundation, nor was the developer able to provide any type of documentation of activity on the property. Subsequently, the Planning Department staff found the property to be inactive. This only further asserts that the proposed legislation is not about stopping development, but rather getting ahead of development in a balanced approach.
This fair and balanced approach has included several meetings with residents of the community and the developer to determine an optimal solution for all parties. Additionally, it should be noted that the developer has rejected a $600,000 offer from Metro Board of Parks and the Land Trust of Tennessee for the property to remain as green space. Although the community would overwhelmingly prefer for this property to remain as green space, the community is willing to compromise.
Therefore, BL2012-301, sponsored by Councilwoman Johnson, zoned for multifamily townhome residential uses not to exceed two stories, is fair and consistent with the current character of our community.
Again, it must be reiterated that this legislation does allow the developer to build. Undoubtedly, the heart of this bill is that it ensures that if and when something is to be built, that it will allow the community to be viable and will fit in with the current character of the community.
Nigel Hodge is president of the Woodridge at Nashboro Homeowners Association and a board member of the Nashboro Master HOA.

Developer says Metro Council bill would strip property rights

A Nashville developer has asked Metro Council members to reject a zoning bill that it says would take away its rights to a 4.5-acre piece of property it owns by restricting what would be allowed there.
Vastland Co. says it bought the property as one part of a larger "planned unit development" in Nashboro Village about 15 years ago. The parcel in question has been declared inactive because Vastland hasn't developed it yet, though the Metro PlanningCommission recommended that Vastland be allowed to continue with its plans for a four-story, multi-family residential building.
Under the bill, proposed by Councilwoman Karen Johnson and scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday, the property would be zoned instead to "permit an assisted/independent living facility and multifamily residential townhome uses not to exceed two stories."
In a letter to council members this week, Vastland Vice President Ken Renner said the proposal is "one of the most dangerous anti-business, anti-development ordinances in recent memory."
"We believe this ordinance is a threat to the system of orderly, planned development that has helped maintain the quality of the Nashville community," Renner added. "It is an obvious threat to the principle of private property rights. It is a threat to people in the business of providing quality growth in this city and to the investors and lenders who support that development. It is a threat not only to our company and the jobs we provide, but to every developer and every job that is created by the people who risk their capital to help this city grow and prosper."
The council, under state law, has the sole authority to decide how property is zoned, according to Jon Cooper, the council’s attorney, and property owners don't get a say until they've started "substantial construction activity."
"It's a policy decision about whether zoning should trump property rights," Cooper said. "It's a long-standing policy question that's been discussed and debated since I've been here."
If the bill passes, the council "would be stating that's what it believed was an appropriate development for that property," Cooper added.
The council voted in 2007 to create a process for periodically reviewing older planned unit developments to determine if they are still appropriate for their communities after years of inactivity. Renner said Vastland has been "very active" in developing the larger planned unit development at Nashboro Village in Antioch, where it has built some 750 townhome and apartment units since the mid-1990s.
"But we haven't been able to develop all the parcels simultaneously, and there hasn't been a market for that," he said. "What this does is single out the later phases and put them in jeopardy."
Vastland wanted to build a six-story residential building but compromised and agreed to four stories, Renner said, after resistance from Johnson and some community members, who wanted to limit the height to two stories.
The council considered legislation in 2007 that would have canceled a zoning law that Vastland had been relying on to build two six-story condominium buildings in Nashboro Village. That zoning was approved in the 1970s. Vastland made similar arguments in 2007 about losing its property rights, and the proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
Contact Michael Cass at 615-259-8838 Follow him on Twitter @tnmetro.

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