Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Planning Staff Supports MTC Contrary to Own Rules and Design Principles

In not only supporting, but also actively pushing for, the May Town Center, the Planning staff appears to have gone contrary to its own rules and policies.

In 2004, Metro adopted the Land Use Policy Application (LUPA) for use in the sub-area planning process. The Planning Department later determined, however, that LUPA "did not adequately address issues of community character and the form of natural and built environments to the satisfaction of the community." Its answer was the Community Character Manual which contains community character policies that are supposed to be more "form-based" and less focused on land use and density. (Find it here: The introduction to the Manual states:

Community Character Policies are applied to all property within
Nashville/Davidson County, during the Community Planning process. Future land use decisions – including recommendations on zone changes and subdivision requests – are made based on the Community Character Policies in each Community Plan. (p. 5)

The Manual creates what it calls "transects," which "describe the various development patterns of a region from natural areas to very urbanized areas in seven Transect Categories – T1 Natural, T2 Rural, T3 Suburban, T4 Urban, T5 Centers, T6 Core and D Districts." (pp. 5-6) The Manual further explains,

The Transect model calls for development in the different Transect Categories to be distinctive – rural development should, for example, look and feel different than suburban or urban development. (p. 6) (emphasis added)

Finally (for our purposes), the Manual explains:
The Transect is an ordering system, which calls for all elements of the natural and built environment to be consistent with the character of the Transect Category that they are within. ... The Transect calls for all development within a Transect Category to be consistent with that category. Alley access would be inconsistent in the T2 Rural area just as a rural road with ditch and swale would be out of place in a T4 Urban area. Development within each Transect Category should have the appropriate form, character, uses and density/intensity for the Transect Category. ... The design guidance in Community Character Policies, which guide decisions on future zone change and subdivision requests, is written to be consistent with the respective Transect Category.(p. 10) (emphasis added)
What the staff has done with the May Town Center is recommend putting a T6 or D District in the middle of a T2 Rural area. This goes against every principal described above.

The zone change request for the May Town Center is the most extreme possible -- literally from one end of the scale to the other. If this zone change is approved, what zone change in any other part of the city could reasonably be denied? Couldn't any other developer always point to this and say, "well, you allowed the May Town Center to be built in a rural pasture, so why can't I have my Wal-Mart/suburb/Jiffy-Lube in this already developed area?"

And if such an extreme zone change can be approved contrary to the principles that the Planning department claims to apply across the county, what resident would want to be involved in the planning process knowing that all of their effort and work could be cast aside in a minute for The Next Big Thing? The Scottsboro community's detailed design plan, approved by the Planning Commission in August 2008, describes a rural community that develops at a natural pace and in a way that is consistent with the community character. The introduction into the plan of an "Alternate Development Area" (to allow the MTC) was done by the staff over the very vocal opposition of the residents. Approving the MTC would send a message to neighborhoods across the city that -- contrary to the Community Character Manual -- their opinions about what character should be reflected in their community don't matter in the face of something that promises lots of money for the rest of the city. Ironically, that would suggest that the Planning staff wasted 4 years creating the CCM only to not bother to follow it.

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