Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Germantown Mayor and Aldermen Campaign Financial Disclosures

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, campaign financial disclosures for the third quarter of 2018 were due October 10. All candidates submitted in a timely fashion and finally the information is posted. I want to shine a light on all the campaign disclosures of the candidates for Alderman, Mayor and the one and only PAC in this election.

The website where the filings are located is not particularly user friendly. First you have to select "Shelby County", and then, after waiting for the information to load, you have to scroll through pages at the bottom to get to the Germantown candidates (found on about page 16 or so) and the Germantown "Values" PAC (found on about page 30).

Then, since the filings are quarterly, you have to select two to four different time periods, depending on the candidate. It is therefore impossible for me to provide direct links for each candidate/entity. To make the information user friendly, I downloaded the quarterly reports for each candidate and the PAC, and combined them into single PDFs, and uploaded those to the cloud. I provide links for those PDFs; simply click on the candidate's name. I totaled the contributions to each candidate and PAC.  

Germantown "Values" PAC  (link to previous post)

Here is a mailer it sent out to voters, indicating its preferences.    

Here are its quarterly filings:    

Germantown Values PAC Total Contributions $23,650


John Barzizza Total Contributions $88,026

Mike Palazzolo Total Contributions $104,150, with carryover $16,729 totaling $120,879   *see below* for additional information

Alderman Position 1:

Scott Sanders Total Contributions $20,032

Brian White Total Contributions $44,915 

Alderman Position 2:

Dr. Jeff Brown Total Contributions $21,230

Mary Anne Gibson Total Contributions $42,623, with carryover of $1,918, totaling $44,541 



*Mike Palazzolo did not complete the (required) spaces for the donor's employer on the financial disclosures, so a private citizen did research and came up with this list, simply attempting to fill in the blanks for the missing information --

Palazzolo's Donors' Occupations/Employers 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Status of Apartment Complexes Exempt from the Moratorium

While I hear campaign rhetoric stating there have been no new apartments here since 1999, I need to remind the readers that the election itself has put some projects on hold. Here is the list of the developments that were exempted from the apartment moratorium, which ends in July 2019, and their status. 

1. Thornwood--this project, near the corner of Exeter and Neshoba, is under construction and has begun pre-leasing. 

2. Viridian, in the Forest Hill Heights area, on Winchester at the Collierville border, is still alive, on the Boyle website, and waiting until after the election before proceeding with final approval. This is discussed in the Daily Memphian article in September.   

Boyle Investment Co. received approval last year from the Germantown Planning Commission to develop a $45 million apartment complex called Veridian with 19 four-story buildings and 375 total units on Winchester Road in the southeast boot heel portion of the city. That project is moving forward but not under construction yet. 

Interestingly, the article makes it sound like it has 375 units, 76 more units than was approved by the Planning Commission about a year ago. Has the City decided to recommend increasing the density.......again? And not told us? At the Planning Commission meeting, the developer requested 16 units per acre, but only 12 units per acre approval was given, which was the density level initially recommended by the City.  Therefore, Viridian has "outline plan" approval for only 299 apartments. The question is whether that increases to 375 apartments with the next level of approval.

3. Watermark, south of Winchester in the Forest Hill Heights area, has been on, off, and now could well be on again due to a lawsuit that was filed by the developer against the City. Please see Watermark Project Voted Down By the BMA and  Watermark Apartment Complex Rears its Head Again  for details.

4. Center City Complex (west of the Apple Store)--The Carter project is dead, but John Elkington has publicly stated that he is waiting until after the election before bringing another developer forward for the same area. See Massive Germantown Mixed Use Project tabled until after the Election in the Memphis Business Journal. 

For more information on developments, see  


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The "Culture of Kindness" and the Germantown "Values" PAC

How do you know When the PAC is lying? When it
opens its mouth-- image from DisneyArt
I really hate writing or even thinking about the back and forth of election campaign rhetoric, and generally try to stick to substantive issues. But sometimes a line is crossed, and my devotion to transparency and honesty dictates that I tackle things I would prefer to leave alone. In the case of the Germantown Values PAC, several lines have been crossed.

I'll try to make this short. Our very own unicorn-loving "culture of kindness" city has spawned an entity, the Germantown "Values" PAC, which, unsurprisingly, has nothing to do with values. It hasn't been in existence very long, and so far in its short life it has managed to give us these (and other) examples of its "values":

Polling at New Bethel  by  Partisan "Values" Group steps away from the building

1. Exit polling at New Bethel Church conducted by the PAC clearly shows the group has no compunction about lying. They publicly claim that they do not support any candidates, yet they had mailers coming out supporting three candidates--Mayor Palazzolo, Alderman Mary Anne Gibson, and Brian White. When asked about the group's endorsements, the employees deny that there are any. Furthermore the pollsters were approaching voters immediately after they left the building, in clear violation of election rules. 

As it turns out, many of the respondents do not trust this group, and are either opting out of participating or giving bogus answers. Reports on social media are buzzing, and people are giving suggestions on how to handle this "polling"-"Say the internet is your main issue," one person said. "Tell them you voted for the person you didn't vote for," said another. I have no idea how the PAC plans to use this poll, but no one can count on it being accurate, because a substantial number of citizens are attempting to nullify the results by using various methods of non-cooperation. In the video below, the pollster states that "apartments" has been a big issue that day. But overall their polling is bogus and will yield bogus results. Check this out:

After hearing numerous complaints, and looking at evidence, several days into early voting, the Shelby County Election Commission has finally determined the pollsters must stay at least 100 feet away from the building.

2. One of the PAC's pieces didn't stay up very long, most likely because a citizen who was attacked took legal action. It was a hit piece on a private citizen who has zero connection to any campaigns. Not only is that wrong, it is also not very smart to target private citizens because of libel laws. However, it was up long enough for people (including Alderman Janda) to circulate it, and false claims were made against this private citizen. No more attention should be given this matter and I therefore will go into no more detail.

3. Oh, yeah, the PAC cut and spliced a piece that made it appear that there was something nefarious about a comment that Alderman Barzizza made at a BMA meeting over two years ago. He was attempting to help broker a compromise on Travure, as he explains in the meeting. He is good friends with "Brown", a developer of Travure, AND Mike Perra, who lives next door to Travure in Nottoway. When Mr. Barzizza asked the City to "give them a bone" he was obviously trying to request that the City try to iron out some of the differences between the two parties. But, by slicing and dicing the comments, the PAC made it sound like he had a conflict of interest, and that his comment only applied to the developer! No, it did not, ithe statement referred to the Travure resident AND the developer. Barzizza wanted their differences to be mediated. Please see this for proof: 

4. The PAC took a photo from a charity event (wine auction for SRVS, services for people with disabilites) that Alderman Barzizza chaired, and photoshopped the picture, adding the words "self-serving-absolutely.". Barzizza has raised millions of dollars for this charity and recently won an award for all the work he has done. The original picture includes the emcee of the event, Ron Childers. Of course he was taken out of the photo by the PAC, because that would be the clue that Barzizza was raising money for his favorite charity. Here are the two pictures!

First the original:  

Ron Childers  is in this photo at the SRVS event
 Here is the photoshopped picture:  

This is sad. He is raising money at a wine auction at a charity event for his much beloved SRVS, and he even was honored for his service. Yet it was this picture that was snatched to try to show he is self-serving. This was done by a PAC with "Values" in its name. 

I told you I was going to make it short so I only picked out a few of the worst examples of the work product of this PAC.

I have taken the three filings of the Germantown Values PAC for this year and put them together in one PDF, which I link below. You may easily peruse the donors and their vendors.  Caissa Public Strategy appears to be orchestrating this smear campaign. This is the same entity that planned the public meeting concerning the Carrefour project. (see my September 17 post) If you recall, sixty interested citizens attended, and no chairs were provided for the elderly. We citizens did not even rate a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, we simply stood or walked around the room viewing unrelated pictures of random tall buildings on foam-backed poster boards. The public feedback they said they wanted consisted of sticky notes we placed on the posters.

Note: I am not attempting to insinuate that all of these donors knew about the tactics of this PAC when they donated. Some may not even know now the extent or their dirty tricks. Let us hope that they contact this PAC and force them to cease and desist with their illegal and unethical behavior.
The Donors:  

First Quarter:

Richard Vosburg $5000 
Shea Hearing Aid Centers of America, Inc. $3000
Friends of Frank Uhlhorn $5,000 
Seth McNamee $5,000 

Second Quarter: 

First Tennessee Bank $300.00 
Brandoria Miller $200  

Third Quarter:

Committee to elect Forrest Owens $1500
Steven Chandler $1,500
Susan Threlkeld $1000
Donald Rose $300
Margaret Ueleke $200
Allyson Avera $250

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Watermark Apartment Complex Development Rears Its Head Again

Unsurprisingly, the BMA meeting of July 23 was not the last we heard from the Watermark developers. On September 7, the developers filed suit against the City. 

During the July meeting, the BMA, after having granted "full" approval to the development last December, unexpectedly voted to prevent the project from going forward. The BMA voted to reject the project because of either unhappiness with the project (Massey), unhappiness with the project and actions taken by the developer (Barzizza), or simply actions taken by the developer (Owens and Gibson). Only Alderman Janda wanted to continue this project.  Recall that, per an affidavit filed by Jaime Picunko in a lawsuit that she and Phil Conner had filed against the City to challenge the removal of residential density restrictions, one of the developers had offered to pay her attorney's fees in return for her dismissal of the case. It was this "action" that caused the Mayor and some of the aldermen to believe that the developer was no longer a "trusted partner." See the following Commercial Appeal article for the full details, or click on my the above link for more of the history.

Germantown Faces Lawsuit from Watermark Developer

Here is the September court filing by the developers--  

Watermark Lawsuit 
Seeking monetary damages, the developers claim that the BMA's July 23 rejection came too late-- more specifically, after their rights to continue with the project had already vested. The lawsuit alleges in a pertinent part:

It is interesting that the plaintiff claims that the vested right came with Planning Commission approval in November, which was prior to the approval by the BMA in December.

A Tennessee Zoning and Land Use blog discusses the issue of "vested rights":

When I speak about this topic, in fact I simplify it further: the developer must have (1) a building permit, and (2) substantial construction must've taken place. Of course, the governmental authorization does not necessarily have to be a building permit, but that is generally the type of approval given; and in addition although a substantial change in position is the actual legal formulation of the doctrine, generally speaking, it takes substantial construction on the property in order to vest the rights. Simply expending monies in preparing the property, doing architectural or engineering work, or other kinds of activities, is usually insufficient.

According to a source, the builder has not been issued a building permit in the case. Also, there is obviously no construction on the property.

When the City files a response in this case, I will let the readers know.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Smart Growth, Forward 2030-- The "Why" of Streetscapes


In my earlier post, The "What" of the Streetscapes-- Germantown Road, Exeter, and Beyond, I promised to address the "Why" of streetscapes. By this, I meant that I would, in my followup post, express my bewilderment as to why the City has seen fit to plan and begin implementing a comprehensive "streetscapes" program. Before doing so, I must first briefly discuss the nationwide Smart Growth movement, and, in particular, the transportation component of the nationwide Smart Growth concept.

Smart Growth  

"Smart Growth" (or, as it is now sometimes called, "new urbanism"), on which a substantial part of the City's Forward 2030 plan is based, is a decades-old, 
nationwide movement that is intended to reshape cities and suburbs. Transportation principles embraced by Smart Growth include the following:   

>Environmental Sustainability-- less dependence on gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing vehicles, with more emphasis on walking, biking, and public transport. 

>"Complete" Streets-- a design concept that encompasses and promotes all of the above.

>Homes of various sizes at varying price points-- smaller lots, a variety of housing types, including multi-family, in a "live, work and play" environment that includes public spaces and roads that promote a "sense of place".

Significantly, Smart Growth rejects the notion that the primary function of streets is to serve as conduits for the efficient movement of vehicles. The following, taken from from the EPA's website "Smart Growth and Transportation", typifies Smart Growth's vision for the role that streets will play in reshaping urban communities:  

"Historically, transportation planners have overlooked the important role streets play in shaping neighborhoods. For decades, decisions about street size and design in many communities have focused on getting as many cars as possible through the streets as quickly as possible. Street design determines whether an area will be safe and inviting for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users."

The Germantown Forward 2030 plan, which our current administration strongly endorses, incorporates this same viewpoint:

Forward 2030 purports to be a citizen-led plan; however, the City Administration selected the leadership of the group that formulated its objectives. Moreover, the administration met with the group and likely influenced the group's work. Some  question whether the membership of the committee was representative of the City as a whole.

Intrinsic to Smart Growth policy, as you can see, is the notion that street design no longer should prioritize the efficient movement of automobiles. The chief goal is to promote walking, bicycling and public transit. 
Unfortunately, when moving traffic is not prioritized, traffic congestion, with all of its downsides, is the natural result. Don't get me wrong-- I am a big believer in bicycle lanes and sidewalks. My concern is that the anti-automobile bias that permeates Smart Growth will inevitably lead to long traffic delays for those of us who find automobile commuting essential to getting to work or shopping. Projects that lengthen automobile commute times are anathema to me.

Let's now look at two cities, Portland and Nashville, to see what happens when dense development overwhelms the surrounding streets. A
long the way, I will make a few observations concerning Germantown. 
Portland-- Smart Growth in Action

No city has more fully embraced Smart Growth than Portland; yet, mass transit usage
 has not increased (mass transit ridership has remained at 12% for thirty years), and traffic is now horrible. This is what happens when you reduce the number and size of traffic lanes in an effort to encourage commuting by bicycle. Although bike ridership is indeed higher in Portland than in other parts of the country, bicycle riders nonetheless comprise only 7% of Portland's commuters. The number of bicycle commuters is insufficient to reduce automobile traffic congestion. If slow, steady, one-lane traffic is your cup of tea, you will love the Portland Smart Growth model:   

"Even as Portland traffic gets worse, streets from East Burnside to Southeast Division and Foster Road are going on a "road diet," shedding car lanes to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists—mostly by creating slow, steady, one-lane traffic."  From Portland Made Driving Miserable, All You Can Do Now is Bike.  

For Portland residents who commute by car, shedding and reducing traffic lanes, slowing down traffic, and going on "road diets" has made life more difficult. This is hardly surprising. As I have explained, impeding motor vehicle traffic is entirely intentional in Smart Growth circles.  

Let's pause for a moment to focus on Germantown. Smart Growth advocates are sanguine about the congestion we now face on the "streetscaped" Germantown Road at rush hour. Should the citizens be accepting of the traffic backups that now regularly occur there at rush hour? Are we to believe that "road diets" will convert a substantial number of car commuters to bike riders, or to users of as-yet-unplanned public transportation?  I don't know about you, but I have yet to see anyone walking or biking on Germantown Road at rush hour, or, for that matter, at any other time of day. The City clearly has not realized its objective of significantly increasing the number of bike riders, and instead has managed only to inconvenience automobile commuters. Smart Growth can achieve its objectives here only if in the reasonably near future automobile usage is considerably reduced in Germantown. Color me skeptical. And, if my skepticism is borne out, Smart Growth's lofty goal of reducing emissions will not be realized. To the contrary, in keeping with the law of unintended consequences, emissions will actually be increased because cars will be idling in traffic for longer periods of time.

Closer to Home, Nashville 

Although Nashville, unlike Portland, has not gone on "road diets", Nashville has similarly terrible traffic problems, due in large part to rapid population growth and dense commercial development. Nashville's commercial growth is simply too dense for the surrounding streets.    

Green Hills, the "hip" area of town, was developed around narrow streets that are now insufficient to handle the ever-increasing volume of traffic. The area features
 a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods, just like Germantown. But, that's where the similarity ends. Whereas our Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are easily accessible and have available parking...........for now, those establishments in Green Hills are experiencing traffic and parking nightmares. Indeed, I myself had an actual nightmare about Green Hills traffic. More on that later. 

Rather than doubling down on narrow streets like Portland, Nashville, choking on traffic congestion, is taking just the opposite approach. Nashville's leaders propose a realignment of Hillsboro Road.
 The price tag? $143 million! This is hardly an example of "sustainability". First, Nashville creates a problem with overly dense development, and then seeks to "solve" that problem with an exorbitantly costly road realignment. (See Hillsboro RoadRealignment.)
Rush Hour Traffic on Hillsboro Pike in Nashville
Ah, yes. Road Realignment. It seems like I have heard that before. Is it possible that the streetscapes planned for Exeter, Poplar, West, and Farmington, as well as the one already completed for Germantown Road, will create traffic headaches so severe that Germantown Road Realignment will be touted as the only viable solution? Even though the BMA, in this election year, stated by resolution that it has no intention to realign Germantown Road, that resolution, as we all know, is not legally binding. It can be reversed with a simple vote. As an opponent of realignment, I would feel more comfortable if the City requested that the project be removed from the  Metropolitan Planning Organization's now-being-formulated 2050 plan. The City Administration has made no move to do this. (See my Feb 10 post and my Feb. 19 post.)

Nashville's traffic problems are further exacerbated by growth in the surrounding area. Neighboring Williamson County, for example, was forced to initiate a fiscal impact fee for building schools, because the capital costs associated with new residential growth was causing a strain on the taxpayers. Although Germantown has its own swelling student population and school infrastructure needs, it fortunately does not, at least for the time being, have to deal with traffic problems associated with explosive growth.

Nashville's leaders initially sought to solve the city's traffic congestion via public transportation. The voters, however, turned the leaders down. Please see  
Why Traffic-Choked Nashville said No Thanks to 'Public Transit'  (explaining that public transit does not put a dent in car trips because people just fill up the roads if they sense any slack).

Exeter Plans and My Green Hills Nightmare

Ever since Smart Growth's adoption in 2007, the plans depicting permissible zoning uses have included the following renderings (from the City website):  

It was after viewing these plans that I had my Green Hills nightmare. As you can see, all of Exeter is lined with buildings. Please note, in particular, the  reference to "multi-story mixed use buildings on low speed streets" in the upper left of the above graphic. A mixed-use building is of course retail on the bottom floor, and apartments above. The entire area around Exeter is zoned T5 (Smart Growth), which allows for buildings of five to six stories in height. The whole area is thus zoned for a Thornwood type development, yet at the same time the streets are designated "low speed", presumably due to removing lanes of traffic! And, as I discussed in The "What" of the Streetscapes-- Germantown Road, Exeter, and Beyond, lane removal is indeed in the works. And, we are to believe dense development with fewer traffic lanes is "smart" growth?

The similarity between Germantown's "Smart Growth" vision and Green Hills (see below) jumps out at you:

Green Hills Area of Nashville- Trader Joe's and Whole Foods highlighted

The difference between the two areas today is that Germantown, because it is way behind Green Hills in development, does not yet have a serious traffic problem. But, a "road diet", followed by mixed-use construction, will land us in the same hot water in which Green Hills is now boiling.   My Green Hills traffic nightmare will have proven prophetic.

With dense development and increased vehicle traffic, parking naturally becomes an issue. And, that is certainly the case in Green Hills. This is hardly surprising, given how crowded together the buildings are (see above photo). Not only is Hillsboro Parkway difficult to traverse, once you get to Green Hills you typically have to circle the area several times before finding a place to park. Smart Growth's endorsement of reduced parking-- "parking diets", if I may-- will, in the absence of public transportation and/or an unprecedented huge switch to bicycle commuting, only make both the parking and traffic-congestion conditions worse. I should quickly note here that Smart Growth endorses "parking diets". See Reduced and More Accurate Parking Requirements.  

I have chosen to focus on two cities, Portland and Nashville, but please understand that Smart Growth is the rage among city planners across America. Conferences all over the country present programs devoted entirely to Smart Growth (or some spin-off of Smart Growth), and city planners are falling in line. The "in crowd" in city planning circles heartily embraces Smart Growth. 

Smart Growth in Germantown-- practical, or not so much?

These streets all have long-term plans to become "streetscaped".
A central theme of Smart Growth is the need to accommodate a rapidly growing population within a confined space-- typically, an increasing population encroaching on farmland.  When this condition exists, the need to conserve space is vital. Another hallmark of Smart Growth is its condemnation of "suburban sprawl". Accommodating a growing population in a confined space,while simultaneously discouraging suburban sprawl, may be just the ticket in places like Boston, San Francisco, and Washington DC. Germantown, however, has little in common with the suburbs surrounding these cities. Two principal differences are readily apparent: (1) Memphis is not growing, and (2) Germantown lacks a viable public transportation option. 

1.  We need to get real. The proverbial elephant in the room when Germantown's Smart Growth plan is being discussed is that the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area is not growing. I am sure many of you saw the recent report that Memphis is second only to Cleveland in "lack of growth". See Memphis 2nd Slowest Growing Big City in US. The metropolitan area thus is under no pressure to fit more people into a confined space. The primary condition on which Smart Growth is premised, i.e., the need to accommodate a growing population, is missing here.   

In the Memphis metropolitan area, the population is simply moving around from one part to another. Because our metropolitan area has plenty of room, virtually every real estate project built in one place ensures that an older project will become empty, and open to blight. How does this benefit anyone? No wonder citizens looking twenty years down the road question whether new apartment projects in Germantown will stand the test of time. Memphis' experience suggests they may not. A number of Memphis apartments that once were luxury units no longer enjoy that status today. That is an outcome we must strive to avoid in Germantown. 

Ironically, implementing Smart Growth in Germantown would actually undermine the application of Smart Growth principles in the city of Memphis. Smart Growth encourages denser population in the core city through infill development. This is laudable. Efforts should be made to remove urban blight and make the best use of space when such space is available to satisfactorily accommodate more people. If, however, Germantown attracts Memphis residents to new, dense residential developments, it will cause a decline in Memphis' population and thereby impede Memphis' ability to make the best use of its space. It simply makes no sense for Germantown to burden its schools and infrastructure by taking on an increased residential population while simultaneously depopulating Memphis. The inefficiency resulting from such action would be palpable: Memphis has the infrastructure to handle the population, and Germantown does not. Luring Memphis residents to Germantown apartments flies in the face of Smart Growth's tenet that resources should be conserved via infill development where infrastructure is already in place. 

2. public transportation option is central to Smart Growth strategies, yet Germantown has no viable public transportation. Smart Growth transportation policy objectives emphasize promoting denser residential growth around transportation hubs. In case you have not noticed, there are not a lot of transportation hubs in Germantown. And, at the risk of undue repetition, I feel constrained to note again that traffic-congestion-generating road diets and streetscapes are, given the unlikelihood of viable public transportation options in Germantown in the foreseeable future, particularly problematic.

So what should the City do?

Do I think it is a good idea for the City to encourage people to rely less on automobiles when commuting? Yes, I do. But, given the lack of viable public transportation options and weather conditions that generally make bicycle commuting unattractive during much of the year, the only practical options are programs to encourage ride sharing and telecommuting. What I do know with certainty is that this city does not need "road diets" in areas lacking other practical means of commuting. And the citizens agree with me-- 94% of those polled do not want a reduction of the number of lanes on Exeter. Road diets serve only to increase commute times and pollution, both of which defeat the objective of making our City a healthy place to live. As one would expect, Forward 2030, which devotes a section to "Wellness", stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy city.

I began this two-part post
with a quote that bears repeating here:

"What you may not realize is the extent of the effects heavy traffic congestion can have. This gridlock can have a tremendous impact on your personal life, career, your future and even your safety. Finding a solution to traffic congestion could mean a vast improvement in the quality of life in your area."  (USA Today)    

A city that fosters the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of its citizens should be the central goal not just for the year 2030, but for any year. Implementing "road diets" and streetscapes while simultaneously encouraging dense development is, for our city, counterproductive to achieving this goal.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Highlights from the Planning Commission Meeting Approving Carrefour Outline Plan

The Planning Commission approved the outline plan for the Carrefour project at its October 2 Meeting. Below I provide highlights of the meeting with time markers. The most significant highlights are linked and/or in bold text.  Even though hotel, offices and retail were the uses shown in the presentation, those could be shifted during the next level of approvals to any uses that are allowed by the Smart Growth Code -- that includes apartments after the moratorium expires in July 2019, or at any time if the property is exempted from the moratorium. (See Carrefour Meeting in Video and Pictures and Carrefour Exempt from Apartment Moratorium? Request from Economic Development Commission)

Another takeaway that I have is that nearby residents that have questions or concerns about these plans need to make sure that they are notified of neighborhood meetings with the developers, so that they can attend and ensure that their concerns are heard. In some cases the leaders of neighborhood associations might be representing their own viewpoints about the project, without considering the viewpoints of their membership. Residents need to be in frequent contact with their boards and insist on getting notification if they want to have input.

Also see the quote from Cameron Ross where he likens the Poplar area from Memphis 240 through the Germantown Western Gateway to Peachtree Street in Atlanta in the Buckhead area. Also of interest is that one commissioner lamented that the project could not fulfill the "live, work, and play" mantra.

A few highlights from the meeting 

48:25 Cameron Ross begins the presentation. 
49.26 Explains T5, T6 uses (include residential)  
51:22 Shopping Center with FedEx Office and Petra Cafe remains, will be refaced  
52:10 Uses will be office, retail, and hotel  
53:16 Shows Sidewalk, Civic and Green Space Plan, shows no green space on street  
54:39 Outline Plan is First Step in any Mixed Use Development, gives approval to roadways within the area and how buildings are sited, not uses 
57:18 By Chairman of Planning Commission: "Can we assume that hotels, or retail, or anything like what is shown tonight is only the "conceptual idea" and is not being approved? We are only approving the site plan, and when it comes to the buildings themselves, they'll have to come back with a final plan? YES, SIR. [Uses will be approved later.] 
58:35 "Within T5 and T6 there are a litany of uses that are allowed, which they have the opportunity to use depending on market conditions as they come in with final plan approval, Board would consider those things at that time and take input from public." 
59:28 Applicant Makes Presentation--shows his slides and concept for the development. It looks good. [Aside: Why was the public not presented with something like this, instead of foam poster boards with sticky notes? I wonder how foam boards with sticky notes would have gone over with the Planning Commission? Not to mention the Planning Commission got to sit down!]

1.05:21  The Traffic Study is Discussed. Two stoplights will be added, one on Kirby, and one on Poplar.  

1.10:25 Applicant shows a "movie" of the development. Again, it is a nice presentation.

1.15:05 Applicant speaks of interactions with neighborhood associations and individual property owners through meetings and phone calls. Some have written letters of support that are found in letters of submittal. Wants to work with community.

1.16:17 Q & A by Commissioners begins here.  Questions about the traffic study, when they are tearing down the building, parking spaces, traffic signals, widening of Poplar on south side, intersection needs work in future after all built out, functional obsolescence of shopping center, does not work for tenants anymore due to layout 

1.21:28 Question about the neighborhood meetings, met with Poplar Estates twice and had very good results with Poplar Estates, and can continue talking with them, met with Green Trees, Kirby Woods, and English Meadows. They got the most kickback at English Meadows meeting which had the most (16) attendees! Fountain Square meeting will be later. Positive feedback from landowners. 

1.24:30 Cameron Ross speaks in general about the Western Gateway.

1.27:03 Cameron Ross: "Poplar Avenue Corridor from 240 to going into the Western Gateway in Germantown is poised to become something akin to Peachtree Street in the Atlanta area in that Buckhead area and Germantown wanted to make sure that we had the redevelopment opportunities and that enabling legislation in place to allow for the next evolution of Carrefour for the redevelopment of the intersection of Kirby and Poplar and how we can be part of the "Poplar Avenue story" within office and Class A space and mixed-use development".  [aside: Buckhead, really? Please, nobody wants that kind of traffic here. 

1.27:46 Talks about property tax revenue, and capital improvements such as sewer (not paid by developer)--will begin by the end of the year--two million dollars coming out of the utility fund. 

1.30:53 Citizens speak against the project, traffic is terrible in the area and cannot imagine another traffic light between railroad track and Poplar 

1.34:52 Commissioners make comments. They like the green space and ice skating ideas, the green rooftop, they mention traffic as being a concern. 

1.39:29 One commissioner states "It is an exciting project, unfortunately we can't make it "live, work, and play" as our original concept was.  

The measure passed, unanimously.


If I could be assured that this project would go forward as planned, I would be tempted to support it, even though I personally prefer buildings that are shorter, set back from the street more, with landscaping in front. Even though I feel strongly about my aesthetic preferences, I realize that others may not share them, and that is okay. The traffic concerns me, and I wonder if Riverdale is going to take on an extra burden as cars cut over to Wolf River Blvd. just to avoid the Kirby/Poplar intersection. I also feel that the developer should foot some of the bill for the sewer project. Still, these are just negatives to balance against the overall positives of the project. And definitely no, no, no to any type of tax incentives given to the developer. That happened with Travure, remember? Mid-America Apartments, the large tenant, got a PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes). If current taxpayers are going to put up with the extra traffic, at least we need to get the benefit of all the tax revenue!

The deal breaker for me is if this outline plan is a subterfuge, and the hotel/office component of it turns out to be apartments by the time the phases are approved. There certainly is evidence that this could be the case, as indicated in the Oct. 2 meeting, and it is easy enough for the developer to pull a big switcheroo once the apartment moratorium is over, if our developer friendly administration is still in power.

As I pointed out in GMSD Student Projection Analysis Fails to Consider any New Mixed-Use Projects, the GMSD school population analysis shockingly did not factor in any new mixed-use projects, from this or any other Smart Growth area. And therein lies the rub. Yes, we face continual overcrowding of our schools and the need for large capital projects if we allow dense residential growth. Overcrowded schools, and a city burdened with debt from capital projects= lower quality of life and lower home values. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Candidate Interviews-- Get to Know the Candidates

I love this idea! Houston High Students interviewing our candidates. Thank you Houston High students! And thank you to our candidates! Get to know the candidates and their positions: 


John Barzizza 


Mike Palazzolo 


Alderman Position 1

Scott Sanders 


Brian White  


Alderman Position 2  

Dr. Jeff Brown  


Mary Anne Gibson  

Board of Education Position 2

Brian Curry  


Betsy Landers  


Board of Education Position 4

Angela Griffith 


Robyn Rudisill 


For more information see the Candidate Websites 

For my latest blog posts click here