Saturday, January 27, 2018

The 1-22 BMA Meeting, and Jason Manuel Addresses Apartments Affecting Schools.

I will get to the new information from Jason Manuel after I discuss the recent BMA meeting, but first I want you to know that there were a couple of good things about the January 22 meeting: 

1. There were plenty of Citizens to Be Heard forms, and the Mayor also stated that anyone could fill out a form when Citizens to Be Heard was announced! As noted in Citizens Heard and Unheard, a number of citizens were unable to address the BMA at the last meeting due to lack of forms and failure to produce additional ones in a timely fashion. I always like to give credit where credit is due. Anyone can make a mistake, and I want everyone to know that this particular mistake was corrected. 

The remarks of several of the citizen-speakers were particularly informative (link to video). For example, we received a brief history lesson on the California Gold Rush and the Oklahoma Land Rush. Also, two developers threatened to sue if the broader moratorium was enacted (I will address these issues in a later post.)  This whole portion is worth a listen. The Mayor went a little overboard shushing the crowd, but it was rather amusing since fortunately he never followed through on his threat to clear the audience.   

2. For a change The Commercial Appeal actually covered this meeting, (linked here). This means I don't have to. I would much rather link CA articles than write. In fact, this blog started out just by tracking CA articles by Jane Roberts and and later Daniel Connolly, so I feel that I am returning to my roots. I confess that I probably would not have started this blog had I known the Commercial Appeal coverage was going to fade, because I am naturally something of a slacker. Ron Maxey's coverage is detailed, but pay no attention to the video, because it has nothing to do with the content. The Commercial Appeal has serious issues!

Now for the bad news: Everything else!

From the newspaper coverage, you will see that the moratorium amendment proposed by Alderman Massey (link to video) failed, leaving us exposed to all kinds of mixed-use projects, as well as apartment projects at various stages in the approval process--in other words, we are stuck with a toothless moratorium resulting from yet another 3-2 vote.

Particularly baffling is Alderman Forest Owens' doubling down on comments he made in the December BMA meeting (link to video). I had hoped, from his near silence at the the 1-08 meeting, that he had been humbled by the exposure of the inaccurate statements he expressed at the December meeting, Alas, my hope was unrealized, as Alderman Owens restated the very same points I debunked in previous blog posts, the principle ones being:

a. Jason Manuel says our schools will be fine, and he has planned for the apartment complexes, and  

b. We are following the Small Area Plan for Forest Hill Heights.  

Frankly, I was astonished by Mr. Owens' comments.  I have addressed both of these contentions in past blog posts, and I don't plan to waste my readers' time repeating the same things.  Please see:  

City Officials Misrepresent and Ignore Forest Hill Heights Small Area Plan 

Anatomy of the BMA Meeting- December 11, 2017   

Fact: Superintendent's Estimate of School Population Does Not Include Future Mixed Use Projects.

It is true, as Mr. Owens pointed out at the 1-22 meeting, that only two apartment projects (Thornwood and Watermark)  have received full approval at this time. Yet, as a Planner himself, Mr. Owens recognizes, I am sure, that the City must make school-population projections when additional multi-use projects are being contemplated. 


Meg Jackson (author of Learning from The Riverdale Expansion Project, this blog's most viewed post to date), informed me of a new video that GMSD just uploaded to YouTube--a recording of the 1-10-18 GMSD Work Session. In that Work Session, Superintendent Manuel addressed how residential property development is likely to  affect GMSD. 

Here is a YouTube Video of the Discussion:  

"We are zoning for the short term." 

"If they do approve all these apartments in the city, something that would present a difficult challenge for the school district, then our request from the City would be to fund another elementary school, and more capacity at the middle school."   

My note: You heard right--another school beyond the one we are currently planning on Forest Hill

Does this smack of higher taxes to support  developer profit?

"We have figured out a ratio (of school children per unit) for the City, "  

"We are using something that is more rigorous." (Mr. Manuel was referring  to the .18 figure that the Watermark developer used for school children per apartment unit).  GMSD is instead using a .27 ratio - a ratio 50% higher than that assumed by the Watermark developer. At 12:30 see video link here

My note: It is disheartening that Cameron Ross and some aldermen insisted on using the developer's .18 students per apartment unit figure in the December BMA meeting rather than Superintendent Manuel's own figure of .27 students per apartment unit. Is it that difficult for City officials to actually get on the same page? Or do they spout whatever statistics that they want in order to try to justify the desired result?  

You will find particularly interesting the Work Session's discussion of the challenges presented by the upcoming need to alter the district boundaries for the elementary and middle schools. At about 27:50 Mr. Manuel even states that Mr. Bond had so much difficulty with the process that his solution had a school being just as overcrowded as it is now, with 1500 students. Video link here (Note: Riverdale Elementary has an optimal capacity of 744, and the Middle School has an optimal capacity of 418).

Image result for large emoji images 

There are additional statistics that I would like to know:

1. For starters, what is the number of students per housing unit resulting from recent sales of single family homes? Anecdotal evidence suggests that this figure is quite high, as aging baby boomers often sell their homes to younger families lured by the advantages offered by GMSD. 

2. How many families are abandoning expensive private schools and taking advantage of the acclaimed GMSD? 

These two trends put pressure on our school system in addition to those resulting from new multi-use projects.  And, of course, there are also new single family homes in the works.

Superintendent Manuel, during the Work Session, appropriately observed the importance of avoiding overbuilding, noting that some development projects are planned but never completed. I fully recognize the need to balance the risk of overcrowding and the risk of overbuilding. The obvious solution, it seems to me, is to slow down development enough to let us better plan. This would eliminate the seemingly relentless need to come up with  stop-gap measures to combat constant overcrowding. 

"Too much, too soon" is what I continually hear from citizens on the recent doubling of apartment units. Do we really want to follow the national boom-and-bust trends that inevitably accompany rapid land development? We are already seeing signs of a national slowdown in apartment building. Why not wait to see if there is an actual market for the two projects that have been fully approved, and make all others subject to the moratorium, at the very least? We do not live in a county that is growing in population. Most of the pro-apartment studies or opinion pieces that I have read assume a growing population, and thus, those studies are not applicable to Shelby County.

Germantown, in the past, has been well served by its leaders' taking a conservative stance on development. For example, aren't you glad we are not having to deal with repurposing a regional mall, as many suburbs around the country are having to do? 

If we need yet another elementary school in the future, on top of the one we have yet to begin on Forest Hill Road, so be it. But keep in mind how difficult it was to agree on the location of the new school that is about to break ground in the Forest Hill area. In a city that is indeed "land locked", it is especially important that we be deliberate in planning developments. 

Please, no California Gold Rush! 


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Are you ready for another BMA meeting?

I thought so! 

Before I even had a chance to completely evaluate what happened at the last one, well, this coming Monday we have a follow up.

And if you thought you had heard the last of the apartment moratorium issue, you are wrong.

Because there are many citizens interested in the apartment issue, as demonstrated by the citizens who showed up for the last meeting and voted in online polls and signed a petition,  it is imperative to inform everyone that the apartment moratorium that passed on January 8 will once again have a vote this coming Monday, in the form of Dean Massey's proposed amendment: 

This is found in the agenda packet that the City provided for the meeting Monday, January 22: (The proposed changes by Massey are in red, which close some of the "loopholes" that Massey contends were in the one that recently passed.) As you can see, the amendment extends the moratorium to all mixed-use development across the whole city, and applies to projects that may have had a limited level of approval before a Board.  

Added 1-19--  The other red-lined versions of this proposed amendment are based on the original moratorium proposed at the last BMA meeting. Here is the red-lined version of the Alderman Massey's proposed amendment with the version that passed at the last BMA meeting.

If you want the moratorium approved last BMA meeting strengthened, or, if you don't, I suggest you email the aldermen

And, if you wanted to speak at the last BMA meeting, and were unable to because of the lack of Citizens to Be Heard forms, you now have another opportunity.  Again, here is the form if you would like to print it and take it with you.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Citizens Heard and Unheard at BMA Meeting; Thank the Citizens!

In my previous post, I mentioned that Citizen to Be Heard forms were unavailable for many of the citizens who wanted to speak. I therefore recommend that anyone who plans to address the BMA during "Citizens to Be Heard" print their own form, and take an extra one along for anyone else that happens to be looking for one prior to the meeting. Fortunately, I have one

Click Here for Citizens to Be Heard Form  

Future posts will consider other aspects of the recent BMA meeting, but I really wanted to focus solely on honoring our citizens, both unheard and heard, in this post. 


First, a little background is in order. As stated in an earlier post, on January 8, the day of the meeting, I hurriedly got ready and rushed to City Hall after posting the results of the NextDoor Poll and Petition Drive. I finally found a place to park behind the police station, and arrived in the lobby at about 5:45 for the 6:00 meeting. I immediately went to the table with the Citizens to Be Heard forms. There were none in sight! Although I wasn't planning to speak, I did see a friend who was looking for a form.  Alderman Owens was walking down the aisle after the Executive Session, so I suggested she ask him for some more forms. I overheard him say that yes, they were making more copies. I assumed there would be no further issue. The crowd was enormous. I was not sure why they had only printed a few forms for that many people.  

I was looking around for a seat or place to stand against the wall, and I lost track of my friend. I failed to find any room, and I moved to the lobby.  I should have snapped a photo of the spectacle of the overflowing BMA meeting. One young couple had a baby asleep on the dad's shoulder! The meeting began, and I could not hear from any vantage point. I therefore went home to watch online. As I left, people were still filing into the building.  

It was only later that I learned that, despite being told of the lack of forms, the BMA did not provide new ones until the break, which inconveniently (or conveniently?) came after the Citizen's to be Heard was over. Neither the Mayor nor Forrest Owens acknowledged the lack of forms, nor did they ask if there were any additional citizens who wanted to speak. Thus my friend was out of luck. I later learned of two others who were unable to speak for the same reason. The three people whom I know that were unable to speak at the meeting are Vicki O'Brien, Renee DeGutis, and Tex Sharp.  

If any of the readers had the same difficulty, I would like to add your names to the list, so please contact me.  

Tex Sharp plans to attend as many BMA meetings as he can this year. "I plan to have my time and be heard."  I hope he remembers to take a spare form along.

How many others missed out on speaking? I don't know. Three "unheards" is three too many. 

I was baffled by the way the lack-of-forms issue was handled. Given the circumstances, it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that there was a purposeful attempt to limit the number of speakers. I won't do that, due to lack of proof of motive-- I will go with gross negligence instead. Above all, this blog is devoted to transparency, and this is a transparency issue. The surprising and disappointing shortage of forms kept all of us from hearing fellow citizens.


Here are the speakers who arrived early and snatched up the forms when they were available, and my very brief notes about the content of the remarks of each person.  A commercial banker spoke first. The YouTube clip links are included.

Richard Marsh--  A commercial banker with no ties to these specific projects supports careful multi-family in mixed-use development due to research from nationwide Harvard study and other places which shows fears of residents generally not an issue.  YouTube Link

Margaret Jackson - Stated facts and figures showing schools are over maximum capacity, and the new school is not large enough to handle both this overcrowding and new students from all the new development. Make it a real moratorium to have excellence everyday, excellence always.  Applause. YouTube Link

Marlene Strube - Cited polls showing people don't want rapid buildup of apartments, the moratorium is too late, too little. It will cost us $$$ due to having to build new school from rapid pace of development, and taxes will rise. No checks and balances in approval process. Didn't get what we were promised with Smart Growth. Was supposed to be lofts, condominiums and townhomes, but getting only apartments. Slow the train. Applause  YouTube Link

Steve Shields -- Infrastructure, budget, schools and safety the issue in Cordova Road Triangle, and everywhere in Germantown. Should not be exceptions to moratorium. There is data to support anything, but data must have context. Look at Germantown situation, not some other part of the country. Applause YouTube Link 

Jim Jacobs -- Citizens feel betrayed over the years, when Smart Growth started at the Triangle. Consider the citizens and how they feel about their neighborhoods. Do not disappoint anyone in audience. "We will remember." Applause YouTube Link  

Jaime Picunko-- Presented petition 2500+ votes in 60 hours saying strengthen moratorium to stop more apartments. Smart Growth has allowed dense development, Small Area Plan called for 278 apartments, and Watermark already 310. Viridian has 300. The Viridian is located in the area where the neighborhood was told there would be trails. Consider petition signers and comments!  Applause YouTube Link

Don Lossing --Thanks to the crowd,  Asks crowd--does anyone want more apartments, Crowd says no! Is traffic getting worse--yes!  He was corrected by the Mayor for engaging the crowd. We are citizens, not developers, citizens do not make money on developments, your job is to protect us. Applause YouTube Link

Barry Britton-- We are getting to be extension of east Memphis and that is not what we want. Are we paving the entire city? Brought pride, not notes to podium, Germantown needs nothing else developed, stay Germantown. Applause YouTube Link

Patsy McLaughlin-- Everything coming too fast, the poor people near new parking garage and large building (applause) How many people want more apartments in Germantown? Can't ask the audience. Admits she is a treehugger. BaZOOM all the trees went down and the buildings go up. Who voted for that? Who is zoning all this? Doesn't want apartments and buildings, wants to save trees Applause YouTube Link

John Peyton- Germantown remains the same, has codes and rules, now relaxing building codes, vastly overbuilding what we can support, loopholes in moratorium should be closed, should include mixed use, reports NextDoor poll showing 94% against more apartments, and other NextDoor poll only one person ok with more apartments, there is a pillaging of quiet bedroom community.  Applause YouTube Link

David Dickson--  Said there were good speakers tonight, he is against more apartments.  Applause  YouTube Link  


I thank all citizens who attended, who were either heard, unheard due to insufficient forms, or simply watched and applauded, whether seated or standing, whether in the room, or in the lobby. Thank all citizens who watched online as I did, or who watched the replay.  

And finally, thank all citizens who read this blog. 
I love Germantown. More to come!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What happened? And, no, I do not feel betrayed by Germantown Citizens

I have a few quick takeaways about last night's meeting. I will write a longer version with highlights and clips later in the week. 

1. The citizens of Germantown are amazing, as they showed up in droves to witness and eloquently speak at the live BMA meeting last night. 

2. The City did not have enough "Citizens to Be Heard" forms, as they ran out of those early. Although Alderman Owens said more would be printed, none ever appeared.  As a result, people that showed up and wanted to speak were denied the opportunity. I will obtain a copy of this form and include it in my blog so that interested parties can print their own copy to take to meetings. 

3. Channel 3 does a poor job of crowd estimation. There were far more than 100 citizens at the meeting. Because I was busy posting the NextDoor poll yesterday afternoon, I arrived "late" (which was still fifteen minutes before the meeting).  Along with approximately forty other people, I was relegated to the lobby. The walls inside the room were lined with standing-room-only attendees, as every seat was occupied.  

4. The BMA took action stating that the Triangle at Neshoba and Cordova Road should return to single family residential. Apparently, however, the removal of T4 Smart Growth overlay from this area must begin with the Zoning Commission. I am sure the very active Neshoba North neighborhood will keep us abreast of this story. In any event, it does now appear that apartments will not be constructed in this location. 

5. Alderman Massey wondered why the BMA is singling out  the Triangle area for favorable treatment.  Not surprisingly, however, his amendment to extend additional protections to all other parts of the city was rejected by the usual 3-2 vote.  

6. The loophole-filled moratorium passed.  

7. There was a lot of gavel banging, crowd shushing, and bottles of water consumed.

8. The Mayor continues to throw out red herrings. Honestly, it is embarrassing that he keeps doing this, especially now that the tactic has moved from his emails to the news media. Check out how he is publicly characterizing the 94% of Germantown citizens who want apartment development halted, at least for now.  "I got many emails that really betrayed people in multi-family."  Goodness! I may have to put in an open records request for these emails. I want to know who "betrayed"........ ME!!  Somehow, though, I don't feel betrayed by the 94%, even though I live in a multi-family development (condominium). If a citizen emails the Mayor and says, "Apartments will bring more crime," does the Mayor interpret the citizen's email as a betrayal of apartment dwellers? My take is that such citizens are concerned about protecting all of us, including apartment dwellers, from increased criminal activity that dense development may attract. 

Many opinions were expressed last night; however, not one of the speakers said anything remotely close to "betraying" any multi-family dwellers. Not only were the Mayor's remarks inaccurate, they were unnecessary. They were not only unnecessary and inaccurate, they were astonishing. His remarks also throw 94% of our citizens under the bus, by implying that they "betray"  apartment and condominium dwellers. Why did he do this? Perhaps, out of the hundreds of emails he received, one or two citizens asked, "Why do we need more apartment dwellers in Germantown?"  If in fact he received such emails, what was the point of giving these outliers, who in no way fairly represent the 94%, media attention?  Don't you know that Channel 3 loved the opportunity to get in a dig? Did he do this to marginalize the well-intentioned  citizens who are justifiably concerned about rapid manner in which dense development is taking place?  It is unbecoming to divert debate from the real issues, by publicly scolding citizens for views they do not even entertain. 

The Mayor's entire remarks were actually more extensive than depicted by Channel 3.  Lumping condominium developments together with apartment complexes, he read off the names of every multi-family development in the city. AGAIN, NOTE TO ALL CONCERNED: I DID NOT FEEL BETRAYED BY THE 94% WHEN THE NAME OF MY CONDOMINIUM COMPLEX WAS READ.  Furthermore, the Mayor has no power to force me to feel betrayal or shame against my will. I encourage all condominium and apartment dwellers not to fall for this line. Politicians should not promote divisiveness, and I resent it. Nor am I a fan of "public shaming". When a politician publicly calls out the citizens of his own city, it is jaw dropping. 

And, of course, by confusing the issue and lumping all condominium and apartment complexes into the same multi-family pot, he comes up with a 15% figure for multi-family units in the City.  A more accurate respresentation is in my January 5 blog post -- 7.5% condominiums, and 6.5% apartments. He will probably continue this confusing lumping process. I pointed out another example of "lumping" in this 12-20 post

To be fair to the Mayor, there were aldermen that played the same "red herring" game. Their statements just happened not to make it on the evening news. I'll have clips of these later, and you can see if you agree with me.

8. The bottom line is we are all going to have to remain vigilant. Our concerns about the limited nature of the moratorium were ignored last night, despite obvious overwhelming opposition to doubling the number of our apartment units during the past couple of years. 

The meeting may be viewed here: 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The People Speak On Apartment Complexes

As the BMA prepares to discuss the strength (or lack thereof) of its proposed moratorium on apartment complexes tonight, they best examine what their constituents have been saying. 

The petition that has been circulated from changedotorg has been  wildly successful, with over 2500 signatures. The petition has only been circulating for a little over two days! The supporters did an amazing job getting the word out, obviously.

But the neighborhoods group Nextdoor also indicates that  the sentiment is running high against approval of apartment complexes. This is from a wide range of verified Germantown citizens (NextDoor requires credit card info to verify street address),  Someone living in the center of Germantown circulated this poll, and the results are crystal clear. Take a look!


The locations in Germantown that were polled are on this map. Note that the affected areas of the city were not even included in this! This shows this is not a NIMBY effect (not in my back yard). 

The neighborhoods included are mostly east of Germantown Road, centered on Germantown East,  but do not extend to Forest Hill Heights. Neither the affected Neshoba North nor the Forest Hill Heights area were covered in this poll. The way NextDoor works, there is no way to cover the entire city with a single poll. I will publish other NextDoor polls as I obtain the results. 

Aldermen, please take notice!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fact: Superintendent's Estimate of School Population Does Not Consider Future Mixed-Use Projects

Mayor Palazzolo recently wrote a constituent an email that included the following statement:  

"My goal is to remove the emotional, anecdotal assumptions and hysteria toward this subject to a factual and data driven strategy with a process of extensive due diligence before we take a step forward." 

Oh, really? Citizens who are wondering why this factual, data driven process wasn't done before the Planning Commission and BMA decided to double the number of apartment complex units are guilty of hysteria?   

In this post I follow up on the last one, adding more detail as to why the proposed moratorium is inadequate. I submit that if the Mayor's version of the moratorium is passed unamended, it is conceivable that as many as 800 students could be added to our school system from additional residential units being added to our City as a result of various developments, rather than the 500 estimated by Superintendent Manuel.

Let us examine the facts, without hysteria:  

I previously explained the fact that our Superintendent, Jason Manuel, assumes .31 students per residential unit to calculate the projected student population (also see video embedded below). I also revealed the fact that Director of Economic Development Cameron Ross used a figure of .18 students per residential unit. This is the estimate proposed by the Watermark developers, and they based it on an apartment complex located in Colorado Springs. Rather than continuing to hammer this .18 vs. .31 factual discrepancy, I would like in this post to switch gears and discuss the number of new residential units being used to estimate the future school population.

As I explain below, GMSD, when projecting student population, did not consider additional units that might come on line either in single family homes nor as part of a future multi-use project. Yet, it is a fact that future multi-use projects are excluded from the moratorium proposed by the Mayor. In other words, multi-use apartment complexes will go forward without the moratorium's benefit of "a factual and data driven strategy with a process of extensive due diligence." 

You may listen to two minutes of Superintendent Manuel's discussion of the number of residential units he is using to estimate student population. (This was the November Planning Commission Meeting). 

In these remarks, Mr. Manuel observes, among other things, that the new school will have at least some excess capacity because, if necessary, the school could use the "extra" spaces (for example the STEM room) as classrooms. Of course, that is precisely what is taking place now in the newly renovated and severely overcrowded Riverdale School. The mere fact that Mr. Manuel is even contemplating this possibility suggests an ominous beginning for the new school.

It is a fact that Mr Manuel, in projecting that roughly 500 students would be added to the overall school population, assumed a total of 1400 new residential units. In my earlier 1-05 post, I actually arrived at a total of 1500 residential units. But, again the fact is that neither my calculation of 1500 units nor Mr. Manuel's 1400 includes future multi-use projects not yet in the pipeline. Nor do these calculations include any future single-family units.

It is undisputed that when future multi-use residential units are approved, they would, when added to the single-family units likely to be built, generate a total of new residential units that substantially exceeds Mr. Manuel's 1400 and my 1500 estimate. This is so even if Mayor Palazzolo's proposed moratorium is adopted. Consider the following:

1. At the December Planning Commission meeting, the Parc proposal for Forest Hill Heights was pulled by the out-of-town developer at the last minute. A source told me that the Planning Commission told the developer to resubmit the plan as a multi-use project. It was at this meeting that  Mayor Palazzolo, responding to negative feedback from citizens, proposed the toothless moratorium currently under consideration. It is a good bet, I think, that Parc will  be reworked as a multi-use project-- perhaps an apartment complex with a coffee shop attached to it.

2. Citizens residing near the Cordova Road Triangle have been approached by Former Director of Economic Development Andy Pouncey, who now consults with multiple property developers. The would be out-of-town developers of this land are thought to be planning to propose a multi-use residential project (apartments plus something arguably multi-use in order to exclude it from the proposed moratorium).

3. It is a fact that, in the December BMA meeting, the BMA decided to modify the zoning for the entire Forest Hill Heights area so that it would be governed byT5 Smart Growth. This opens the entire area up for potential multi-use apartment projects. One cannot help but ask: What new projects are being contemplated for the Forest Hill Heights area?

4. When considering anticipated total housing units, in order to project school population, we not only need to discuss the multi-use projects that would be exempted from the moratorium, but also future single family developments. 

For example, the Reaves property next to the new school  was redesignated R1 residential. It had been zoned for estate lots. When this property is developed for single family homes, it of course will not be included in the moratorium. Such development, nonetheless needs to be considered when projecting the future student population. 

How many additional residential units, beyond 1400-1500, will actually be added in the months ahead? Obviously, no one knows. Indeed, at the current time, it is hard to even come up with a ballpark figure. We can say that it makes sense for the City to actually follow the Small Area Plan rather than giving it lip service while simultaneously changing the zoning to allow more apartment complexes in the area.   As I showed in my earlier 12-20 post, the number of apartment units in Forest Hill Heights (Watermark plus Viridian) already exceeds the number of units contemplated by the Small Area Plan.  But, with Parc still hanging out there, not to mention what may happen in the newly designated T5 area, there is no telling what is in store.

It is not farfetched, I submit, to conjecture that, unless the current way of thinking substantially changes, the City, even if the moratorium is adopted, could, in the next eighteen months approve as many as 2400-2500 residential units rather than the 1400-1500 units estimated by Mr. Manuel and me. Please pardon me if I am being hysterical.  Fact: 1000 new residential units over and above our original estimates would, using Mr. Manuel's ratio of .31 students per residential unit, add approximately 310 students more than the 500 additional students projected by Mr. Manuel, for a total of 810.  And, again, this influx of 810 new students would take place if the proposed moratorium passes in its current form. 

Fact: All three of our elementary schools are well over maximum capacity, and far exceed ideal capacity. Our high school and middle school are also at or over capacity.

Fact: There is evidence that overcrowding of our schools is detrimental to our students.  Please refer to this article: Do Crowded Classrooms Affect Learning?  

In conclusion, the moratorium, as proposed, because it  excludes multi-use projects as well as those already in the pipeline, will do little to prevent the continued overcrowding of our schools. 

If Mayor Palazzolo is genuinely interested in a "factual and data driven strategy", the proposed moratorium should be expanded to include both projects in the pipeline and multi-use residential projects.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Recent Rental Apartment Unit Approvals Greatly Exceed Ownership Units

The Cordova Road Triangle is on the left

Many Germantown homeowners have expressed concern about the sheer number of rental multi-family units that are being approved. They believe this will shift the culture of ownership that is traditional in Germantown. Since this is really a numbers game, I will give a brief overview: 

Currently the households are comprised of the following housing units:

At the current time--the following rental apartments are either being constructed are in some level of the approval process:  
Watermark should read 310 units, and Viridian 300, although the Planning Commission could approve more

The following housing units are being constructed:    

Additionally, the Reaves property by the school in the Forest Hill area has been zoned for residential, and residents of Neshoba North have been told there will be a development of apartments (most likely mixed-use) in the Cordova Road Triangle. The Parc Apartment Complex in Forest Hill Heights was told by the Planning Commission to come back as a mixed use project. We are excluding these in the numbers, since we do not have them.

After we add the numbers above to the current household units, we come up with the following: 

In just a couple of short years, the percentage of rental units will almost double, going from 6.5% to 12.8%. 

For this reason, many residents are calling for the proposed moratorium on apartment building to be strengthened, so that multi-use developments are included in the proposed moratorium, as well as developments not yet fully approved. 

1500 new housing units are being added, with more being considered. If 1800 units are eventually approved, and we use the Superintendent's estimate of 31 school children per 100 units, that would mean 558 new school children in GMSD.  And every year estimates of school children are far below the actual because of the current growth pattern in numbers of students in our schools. This is due to younger families flocking to the district and purchasing the homes of older residents.  Because of these two factors, our new school will have a difficult time alleviating the severe overcrowding we are currently experiencing. 

In addition to the impact on the school population, services and infrastructure such as police, fire, and traffic could also be impacted.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NextDoor poll on apartments; Bait and Switch in Forest Hill Heights Area?

Over the long holiday weekend, a flurry of activity on Nextdoor, a social networking site for neighbors, indicated a strong pushback by citizens against plans for any more apartment complexes. Generally the site is filled with messages of lost pets, giveaways of unneeded household items, crime and possible crime in the neighborhood, and recommendations for contractors and other service providers. 

This weekend, the subject of the proposed moratorium filled the Germantown Nextdoor neighborhood groups. Someone in one of the large Germantown neighborhood groups finally created a poll on the subject. Another person followed suit in order to reach even more neighborhood groups. I happen to live in an area that the polls did not reach, but the two polls together did reach most of Germantown. While certainly unscientific, it definitely indicates that there is substantial pushback from citizens in almost all parts of town against the idea of more large apartment projects in the city, whether or not they are part of a "mixed-use" project. A screen shot at 9am this morning revealed the results: 

They could be a little blurry. The first one reads--The City has approved several new apartment complexes in the near future. Right now, it looks like about 1,000 units in several complexes have been approved. The mayor's moratorium is only for standalone complexes. 


I am AGAINST more complexes 94%

I am FOR more apartments 3%

Unsure 3%

Voted: 212 Votes 

The second one reads: 

Poll for or Against New Apartment Development? And notes that apartment complexes could increase City revenue


Against New Apartments 95% 

Unsure   3% 

For more apartments 2%                    

A few Germantown neighborhoods had both polls, and a few had none. The neighborhood format of NextDoor is confusing. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the numbers of people voting No to more apartments certainly sends a message that the citizens strongly oppose the loophole in the proposed moratorium which allows "mixed- use" projects to be excluded from the proposed moratorium.  As noted in an earlier post, apartments in mixed-use projects impact services and schools as much as stand-alone apartment complexes, so there is no real rationale for excluding them from the proposed moratorium. I had nothing to do with proposing the poll or posting the poll. It is true that someone linked this blog to it, so I wanted to clarify that I had nothing to do with the polls, other than to ask someone to screenshot these and send them to me. As noted, I live in an area of our City close to Memphis, and my neighborhood was not even included, so I didn't vote in it.  

This also shows that it is not NIMBY at work (Not In My Back Yard). A broad spectrum of neighborhoods voted in this poll,  (added information)--This poll did not even include Neshoba North neighborhood or much of the Forest Hill area, which are the neighborhoods most impacted by future apartment plans.

Bait and Switch--The BMA approval of More Possible Apartment Areas at their last meeting

The goal of the proposed moratorium seems to be at odds with a major decision made at the last BMA meeting, when three of the five aldermen (Janda, Gibson and Owens) voted to EXTEND Smart Growth T5 designation to the entire Forest Hill Heights area and increase the density allowable. The practical effect of that extension is that it allows apartment complexes like the fully approved Watermark anywhere in the area. While the proposed moratorium would include stand-alone apartment complexes such as Watermark, it would not include Watermark type complexes as long as they had something like a public coin operated laundry attached to it, or a FedEx office attached to it (either of these two things would satisfy the "live, work, play" goal of Smart Growth). I thus do not see any reason for the exclusion of mixed-use apartment complexes from the proposed moratorium. An apartment building with a public coin operated laundry attached to it is still an apartment building, from my reckoning.

Of course, I also do not see the rationale for the extension of the T5 Smart Growth designation to the entire Forest Hill Heights area. As noted in a previous post, the number of rental apartment units in the Viridian and Watermark alone already exceed the 10 year planned buildout of the total rental and ownership units in the Small Area Plan developed just two years ago by RCLCO. And, of course, that includes mixed-use and stand-alone projects. The Small Area Plan meetings were attended in good faith by citizens in the area. How is the approval of the T5 overlay to Forest Hill Heights allowing more apartment complexes of increased density anything other than "bait and switch"?