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. 


  1. To say the the GMSD projection didn't factor in any mixed-use projects is subterfuge. GMSD's projection factored in all approved developments at the time it was written, which included 4 mixed-use developments, only 1 of which appears to actually be happening. At that time, there weren't any other mixed-use developments that had been talked about, so there wasn't anything that could be discussed and there wasn't anything they could place a student population value on. Now, with Carrefour coming before the Planning Commission, there's no residential component, so there's no students added to GMSD.

    1. Please see the blog post where I thoroughly discussed the subject of the GMSD analysis. I made it abundantly clear that the only exceptions were the four projects exempt from the moratorium, and that 200 acres of undeveloped land in the T5 area that has no restriction on residential density was not considered in their "full build out" analysis. The only future projects on empty land considered were single family homes. There are charts included and the analysis is straight forward and easily understood. The blog posts I write build on each other and I cannot add the same detail on each subsequent post or I would be writing a book each post. I added a link in the blog post which you could have followed. If you have a problem with my GMSD analysis blog post in any way be sure to comment on the post that discusses it.


  2. This is tragic all around.. curious as to why dean massey voted for this. I didn't attend.the meeting because i assumed this would happen, as they don't care about citizens input at all

    1. Dean Massey is not on the Planning Commission--the only BMA member who sits on the Planning Commission is Forrest Owens. He voted for it. Mike Palazzolo is also a voting member of the Planning Commission, but he did not attend.

  3. I get impression already decided this before that supposed neighborhood meeting.

    Anyone up for election on the planning commission to vote for? Please clue me inπŸ˜‚