Friday, October 4, 2019

Water Tower Bidding Process Begins Without Designated Location

The bidding process for the proposed water tower is going full steam ahead without a proposed location. No vote has been taken by GMSD on a proposed land swap with the City.  I covered the August meeting of the Board of Education in Proposed Water Tower/Softball Field Land Swap Meets with Skepticism by GMSD Board. The City wanted land by Forest Hill Elementary in exchange for softball fields that GMSD desired by the high school. Daily Memphian reporter Abigail Warren did a much more thorough job of reporting in Germantown School Leaders Concerned with Land Swap Agreement. I suggest that you read her report now if you have not already done so, because it may not be available online in the future. It has been replaced by a much shorter version Germantown Board of Education Discusses Land Swap  Searches in the Daily Memphian website yield only the shorter version, and both versions seem to be missing in Google searches.

At the GMSD meeting, Mayor Palazzolo states that he is more than willing to work together on a joint meeting between GMSD and the Board of Aldermen. To date, no such meeting has occurred, and I have found nothing to indicate that one is scheduled. I have also found no indication that the City is considering an alternate location. Yet the City seems to be charging ahead with plans for a water tower, presumably on land it does not own. 


Again, here is the full discussion at the executive session of the August GMSD meeting, with the YouTube link taking you to the beginning of the discussion about the water tower. See either my blog or the more detailed original article by Abigail Warren if you want details but do not want to spend time listening to the discussion. Among the many objections to the proposal was that the City forced GMSD to add hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of water pipes for a water tower during the construction of the school, and GMSD had not been repaid by the City.




As you can see, a BMA recommendation (?) is scheduled for a vote on November 11.
 

A citizen attended the "mandatory pre-proposal meeting" for potential water tower contractors held October 3, and he attempted to find out the various alternatives for the location.The City representative refused to answer his question. He recorded the meeting (audio), which I uploaded to YouTube.

I also learned through one question that the City does not have a software system for modeling, and uses the same "spot modeling" system it has used for forty years.  


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pulling Back the Curtain--The truth behind the Alderman's Censure



Rather than report on the debacle and embarrassment that was the last night's BMA meeting, which was adequately covered by The Daily Memphian and the Commercial Appeal, with video here, I am going to turn my attention instead to the actual reason for the censure of Alderman Dean Massey. It is not because he is a danger to the City's cyber security, because that simply is not true. He even has a separate email account now, but all that is all for another discussion.

The problem is that Alderman Massey exposes misdeeds of the current administration. His distrust of the City leadership likely begins with the failure of the administration to order an investigation of the double dipping car plus car allowance that City Administrator Patrick Lawton got away with for six years a few years ago. Massey submits open records requests for documents, and the City has a penchant for illegally blocking entire pages from him (without giving a reason) in return. I know he tells the truth because I have submitted requests where pages are blacked out, and no reason is given. Occasionally something interesting makes it through the City's censorship, and one such example was the covenant on the Reaves property next to Forest Hill Elementary School. This document called for a minimum lot size of one acre. The City administration hid the existence of this covenant from the Planning Commission, the BMA, and the citizens as a vote to rezone the property was considered. It was only after Alderman Massey uncovered it in an open records request that citizens became aware of it.

My past posts describing the particulars on this subject are:  


Alderman's Open Records Request Uncovers Key Forest Hill Legal Documents

Minutes from 2006 BMA Meeting Help Derail Zoning Changes on Forest Hills Reaves Property 


Restrictive Covenants Must Be Disclosed to Planning Commission

This incident was embarrassing enough to the administration that at least one administration-supporting alderman has since tried to cover up the City's own cover up, with the false narrative that the covenant was simply overlooked by the administration
. The proof that the failure to notify anyone of the covenant was intentional, and not an oversight, is in the audio of the March 28, 2018 Executive Session.  


1:40 Dean Massey-- "The way that this was discovered, Attorney Harris, was that I was going through the City files, is that it has always been in the City files, and my question for staff is that why was this not disclosed to the Board?" 


Cameron Ross, after a pause-- "The reason that this was never disclosed to the Board was that the document was never recorded with the Register."  Later he gave enough details about the property that showed he was fully aware of the covenant but dismissed it because it had never been filed with the Register of Deeds, He called it a "theoretical" document. He never said he had not known about it.

If you look at the blog post, "Restrictive Covenants Must Be Disclosed to Planning Commission" linked above, you will also see comments at the end from a City insider indicating the City knew full well about the covenant and failed to consider it part of the history of the property simply because the owner of the property had failed to file it with the County Register. The City apparently even ran title searches on the property because of the covenant.


Mr. Ross never even brought the covenant to the attention of the City Attorney, who, on finding out about it for the first time, immediately recommended putting off the third reading of the zoning change on the Reaves property.

Despite the fact that Mary Anne Gibson actively participated in this Executive Session, she continues to this day to allege that the failure of Cameron Ross to disclose the covenant to any of the members of the ruling bodies, or the public, was due to it simply being overlooked. Just recently a citizen reported to me that she discussed her lack of trust in the administration with Alderman Gibson. When she brought up the failure of Mr. Ross to disclose the covenant, Alderman Gibson stated that Mr. Ross had claimed it was a mistake.

No, he did not say that it was a mistake. All he did was respond to Alderman Gibson when she asked how thick the file was. Alderman Gibson was present and participated in the March 28 Executive Session where Mr. Ross stated that the reason he did not disclose it was that the document was "theoretical" and not filed with the County. So she knew it was not overlooked. Here is where she planted the seed that this was all a mistake, in deceptively worded questions to Mr. Ross (link to Sept. 24, 2018 BMA meeting):


Mary Anne Gibson: The question about the restrictive covenant from thirteen years ago, Mr. Ross if you're looking up a piece of property on the Register of Deeds website and it lists what the restrictive covenants are only if it has been recorded, correct?

Cameron Ross: Yes, Ma'am.


Mary Anne Gibson: So this file, in over thirteen years, how thick, this thick? this thick? (she stretches arms out)? 

Cameron Ross: This thick, about four inches. As we discussed in the timeline in attachment 9 references there is a lot of history to this property, a lot of plans, a lot of false starts.

Mary Anne Gibson: Thank you.
 

Please note the wording of the exchange. Cameron Ross never directly stated that he did not know about the document, but left the listener with the impression that it was simply overlooked.

Honestly, it might be worse if Mr. Ross had overlooked the covenant, and Mr. Massey found it in a records request. So I am not sure even of the reasoning behind this subterfuge. I guess it depends on what an individual values most-- truth or competence.

This is just a single example the threat that Alderman Massey is to the administration. He makes a nuisance of himself at meetings, daring to question outlandish and unnecessary expenditures, the latest being his questions about GPAC outdoor venue budget overruns. Naturally the administration response was more cover up-- hiding important expenditure items in a "preliminary agenda" where there is no discussion allowed. He is far too thorough and detailed for their liking. And make no mistake about it, that is why he was censured. 

And it isn't as if the administration has not tried public embarrassment on Massey in the past. The attempt to remove him as liaison to the Public Safety Education Commission was another instance where the City tried to hold him up to ridicule. That ended in a victory for Mr. Massey, a defeat for the administration. Two members of the PSEC resigned, including the Chairman, who wanted Mr. Massey gone, and the secretary, who illegally destroyed a public record, a recording of a meeting, after Mr. Massey requested that she keep it. That incident caused me to have to write these blog posts: 


Why Does the Chair of the PSEC Have a Problem with Alderman Massey?  

Old and New Business Removed from June 4 PSEC Meeting agenda  

Commission Members Indefinitely Table Motion to Request Removal of Alderman Massey as Alderman Liaison


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Large Residential component in New Carrefour Site Plan (Leaked by Website "Developments in Germantown")


Do you want a sneak peak at the new site plan for Carrefour, the shopping center development at Kirby and Poplar that is scheduled for a complete overhaul?  Thanks to John Peyton, owner of the website Developments in Germantown, and the Facebook group DIG-Developments in Germantown, you get a glimpse of the project before any commissions consider the plan, and before the plan is posted to the City website.

First a disclaimer: I have no idea how Mr. Peyton obtained this plan, and I also do not know which people at the City of Germantown have even seen it. Nor do I know if this is a plan that will be formally submitted.

An original version of the site plan was passed by the BMA earlier this year-- one that included a "boutique" style hotel, along with offices, a garage, and a shopping center. That plan was the same one shown at the public meeting about a year ago (see Carrefour Meeting in Video and Pictures, Sept 18, 2018). This new site plan is substantially revised, with two separate high rises labeled "residential" and another two large wings off the office building designated as "residential" as well. This change to "residential" was anticipated by most citizens, because of the administration's push to add more apartments in mixed-use developments in the City. This development was simply waiting for the apartment moratorium to expire this past June. Right now there is a moratorium on stand-alone apartment buildings in place, but currently we have no definition of a "stand-alone" apartment building. Not only do I have no idea when or if this site plan will be officially submitted for consideration, I don't know if the (likely) apartment buildings in the plan will meet the criteria of "stand alone apartment building" that the majority of the aldermen say they do not favor. Why not? These are part of a "mixed-use" development.


Here is the complete PDF posted in Developments in Germantown. The above pictures were taken from that PDF. Just click on them to enlarge, or go directly to the complete PDF.  


If you are interested in this "Western Gateway" project, keep on the lookout for future public meetings, and join the Facebook group "Developments in Germantown".

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Proposed Water Tower/Softball Field Land Swap Meets with Skepticism by GMSD Board


At a work session yesterday afternoon GMSD board members discussed a proposed "land swap" put on the table by the City.  GMSD needs a softball field. The City is not allowing the girls' softball team to play on its fields by the high school. Instead, the high school is currently using a field at a nearby church. The City wants to build a water tower on the property of the Forest Hill Elementary School. Although obviously the City knew of the water tower plans at the time of the site selection, the public did not. It was only through citizens searching through capital improvement plans that the public learned of the issue.

Here is the draft of the agreement that was discussed:

Land Use Agreement   


Below is a YouTube of the work session and meeting:



Much of the work session cannot be heard very well, so I will just have to do my best with this brief synopsis.  


Here  GMSD staff described the history of the issue.

Some of the things discussed by the board members:

1. Why hadn't all the aldermen been consulted about this proposed agreement?  


2. The agreement seems lopsided. The City wants shared use of the softball fields, at least until alternative land is located. 
3. The City not only wants property for a water tower at Forest Hill Elementary, but also property for a park, taking up an entire 15 acres out of the 38 acres GMSD owns. In addition to that, there would have to be egress from school property, taking up additional space. 

4. GMSD has already paid over $230,000 for pipes for the water tower during the construction of the school. The City was supposed to pay for this, but now it appears that these funds are being used as a bargaining chip to get the terms that the City wants. The funds apparently will only be reimbursed to GMSD after an agreement is reached. 

5. What about the future needs of GMSD? Once the property is given up, GMSD loses options for the future. 

Board members seemed to differ on whether the swap is even a good idea, with some saying that use of the softball fields should be given to GMSD, and the funds owed to GMSD paid, before even discussing the property for the water tower. Others talked about compromise. The recording was not good enough to clearly understand everyone's exact position, so I will refrain from discussing the positions of each board member at this point. Those individual positions will become clearer in the future.

What they all agreed on is that there needs to be a joint meeting of the BMA and the School Board, and that this proposal did not make sense.

Mayor Palazzolo was there and made a brief statement, claiming he had not expected the board to vote on the proposal then. He also said he had been trying to repay the funds owed to GMSD.

GMSD Board Chair Rebecca Luter summed it all up here. The GMSD Board is calling for the joint BMA/School Board meeting on the issue.

Former GMSD Board candidate Brian Curry was one 

'citizen to be heard" that actually could be heard. He called the deal "extortion" by the City. He agreed to take a lie detector test as he described a meeting that he had with the Mayor.





Monday, August 12, 2019

Poll-- Overwhelming public opinion against new apartments



Abstract 

A recent NextDoor poll on apartment development was conducted of residents in Germantown neighborhoods. A total of 502 people answered the poll. The results show that citizens, 
by a wide margin, do not favor adding new apartment complexes to the City. 

Here is the wording of the poll, and the percentage of the respondents choosing each of the options is noted in red.

 
Germantown staff reported at a work session July 21 that an aggressive build out of 2,141 apartment units over the next decade will not strain city services. Mayor Palazzolo expressed the view that the City has a shortage of new apartments. Detractors are skeptical, and do not want the proportion of apartment units to total residential units to go from the current 6.3% to the projected 16%. Germantown residents-- Please respond to this poll.  


Zero new apartment units should be added over the next decade. 
71% of respondents want no new apartments


A few more apartment units are okay, but keep the same 6-7 percentage as now.
22% want the ratio of apartments to total residential units to remain the same 


Germantown has a shortage of apartments, and adding 2,141 apartments is a good idea..
7% support adding 2,141 apartments over the next ten years 


It must be noted that the respondents were encouraged by the pollsters to use write-in votes in the comment section for answers.other than the ones above if desired. There was one write-in vote.


10% ratio of apartments to total residential units- 1 response, % rounded to zero  
  
                                  

Background

After the apartment moratorium was announced in December 2017, the public rebelled against the approval of the Viridian and Watermark apartment developments. Several spontaneous apartment polls popped up simultaneously on Next Door. There was nothing systematic about this, and the polls were all worded differently. In the end, one poll was presented to the BMA, because none of its neighborhoods included Collierville or Memphis, as others had. The results of that poll and one other one, that happened to be clearly worded, were also posted in my blog post of January 2 (2018). In those polls, 94-95% of citizens were against new apartments.  


The Methodology and  Discussion 

NextDoor is a good place for polling because -   

1) everyone has verified addresses, and can only vote once,  
2) the poll is by secret ballot, and 
3) the proportion of households who belong to NextDoor in most Germantown neighborhoods is greater than 50%, although fewer than that check it regularly. A reasonable assumption can be made that the NextDoor users are representative of the City as a whole.

There are also some challenges with NextDoor polling. One difficulty is that no one poll is able to reach all Germantown neighborhoods, and another is that a few close Collierville and Memphis neighborhoods are included in the wider group of neighborhoods reached, unless they are specifically excluded. Also, there can be overlapping neighborhoods when different people post the same poll. In this polling, the northeastern, northwestern, and southern Germantown areas each had separate polls with the exact same wording, so that all neighborhoods could be reached. All Collierville and Memphis neighborhoods were removed prior to posting the poll. Care was taken so that no neighborhood received two polls. Neighborhoods were removed on one person's list if those neighborhoods were being polled by one of the other two polls. That way, the problem of the overlapping neighborhoods was avoided. The NextDoor results only give rounded percentage numbers in each category, and the total number of people voting in each of the three polls. The raw numbers in the answers are not given. Mathematical estimates had to be used to compute the final polling in each of the three polls when the NextDoor poll percentages did not exactly total 100% due to rounding by NextDoor. This did not affect the final tally.

The polling began in all three areas on Thursday, August 8, and the results were compiled at 4:00 PM Sunday, August 11, although the polls remain open. The poll wording was formed prior to the public notice of the nature of the resolution being voted on by the BMA on August 12. There were 502 total responses received, which was gratifying because families now are busy with getting back to school.


This poll wording took care to remind (or inform) people that an in-house study found that there would be no significant impacts on services or infrastructure with a build out of 2,141 apartments. Unlike the polls taken in January of 2018, a time span of one decade was used for the choices, because that was the time frame used for the in-house study. 


Mayor Palazzolo Objects

The statement "Mayor Palazzolo expressed the view that the City has a shortage of new apartments." received some push back from the Mayor, who stated that this was inaccurate.

At his request, a clarification was added in the comments of the three polls, to explain the context of the statement, which is found in a July 26 article in the Memphis Business Journal:

According to the article,   


We’ve got to introduce living choices in our commercial areas … [and] have more of a balance of housing stock and housing choice,” Palazzolo said. 

The city has a “gap in housing for millennials,” he said, with a lack of residences in walkable areas as well as a lack of new condos and apartments

Here was the exchange between the Mayor and Marlene, one of the three pollsters:   







Comments 

The polls were all open to comments but relatively few people took the opportunity to comment, at least in comparison to the number of people who took the poll. After the clarification of Mayor Palazzolo's statement, no one stated that the added information changed their viewpoint or their answer. In one poll the above exchange was posted, and a few mentioned that they did not understand his objection. 

No one stated that they were in favor of apartments in mixed-use developments but against apartments that were stand-alone. A few people in one poll mentioned that the demand must not be large for apartments in Germantown because our complexes are not filled. Some in the other two polls spoke about the need for senior housing and wished that the poll had taken that into account.The only other reference to the poll itself was the person (previously mentioned in the abstract above) that thought it unfair that more options were not given. As a result, the "other" option was immediately added, with answers (ratios) to be written into the comments. 



Calculations

Here are the screenshots of the results of three polls, and the calculations used to compile them. Roughly, the dividing line between north and south was Poplar, and between east and west was Germantown Road, with a few exceptions.

  
Northeast Germantown: 
  

Northwest Germantown

South Germantown:

 


Below the number of votes were extrapolated to compute an overall weighted average. This was a bit strange since the NextDoor results did not take percentages to the decimal point, and did not give the gross number of votes. Nonetheless, a weighted average was needed, so:  

  
Northeast Germantown 

Zero 181 votes
Same Ratio 51 votes
Add 2,141 18 Votes

Northwest Germantown

Zero 52 votes 

Same Ratio 21 votes
10% Ratio 1 vote (added in comment)
Add 2,141  6 votes

South Germantown


Zero 123 votes
Same Ratio 39 votes
Add 2,141  11 votes  


Totals 


Total Number of votes:  

*The numbers below may be off by one or two votes in each category due to the deficiencies in NextDoor reporting of polls. This will not affect the Final Tally. 


Zero New Apartments  356 votes  
Keep the ratio the same 111 votes
2,181 new units (Ratio increases to 16 percent)  35 votes

Other--10% ratio  1 vote

Total 502 Votes   

Final Tally





Statistics 

Because the response level was high (500+), using an online calculator, it was determined that the poll is statistically sound, given the assumption that NextDoor participants are representative of the City as a whole. There is a total of 93% (71% + 22%) of respondents who want the number of apartments to either stay the same, or only increase in proportion to the increase in the number of single family homes, over the next ten years. Statistically there is a plus or minus 5% margin of error with a 95% level of confidence for this poll. Translated, statistically that means there is a 95% probability that the true number of people in Germantown who want either zero new apartments or to keep roughly the same ratio of apartment units is between 88% and 98%.



Conclusion



Aldermen are voted on by the public, and represent the City of Germantown. Planning Commission members are appointed by the Mayor, who is also an elected official. The residents of Germantown pay the salaries of the City staff and elected officials. New zoning ordinances should be written that pay heed to the wishes of the tax-paying public at large, and the tax-paying public either wishes no new apartment units (71%) or just a few more (22%).

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

City's Future in Hands of Unelected Planning Commission??




A big thank you to John Peyton, webmaster and owner of Developments in Germantown website, and founder of DIG Facebook group, for recording the July 21 work session of the BMA. He live-streamed the video to a few Facebook groups. Since I can't post Facebook videos to the blog, I extracted the audio, and (mostly) added the photos of the people speaking, along with corresponding identification, and embedded and commented on it below. 



 

Update added August 8--

The resolution that will be voted on by the BMA is on the City website--  


Here is the definition of an apartment development in a  "vertically integrated mixed-use setting":

From the moratorium study:  



Clearly, Thornwood type apartment buildings would continue to be allowed with this resolution. Viridian and Watermark, which originally were part of the apartment moratorium but no longer seem on the horizon for separate reasons, would not.



************

Although the newspapers and television stations covered the July 21 BMA work session on the apartment moratorium, they don't have the space or time to cover all the nuances or back history which you will get here. It is apparent from the work session that the members of the Planning Commission, appointed by the Mayor, will draft their recommendations, and those recommendations will likely be accepted by three members of the BMA. At first I wrote that the appointees to the Planning Commission were approved by the BMA, but I was told by Alderman Massey that this is not the case with this particular commission. The BMA will vote on a resolution at the August 12 meeting--that resolution will be the instructions given to the Planning Commission. Because the mayor has sole authority for choosing Planning Commission members, it is instructive to read this recent quote from Mayor Palazzolo in the Memphis Business Journal: "The city has a “gap in housing for millennials,” he said, with a lack of residences in walkable areas as well as a lack of new condos and apartments." 

What is a "stand-alone" residential project?


In the work session, "stand-alone" apartments were rejected by all, but the definition of "stand-alone" has different meanings to different people. Actions taken by the BMA in the fall of 2017 included approvals of different stages of two full-fledged "stand-alone" apartment projects --Viridian and Watermark. These approvals incurred the wrath of citizens, and the three aldermen who voted for those complexes (Owens, Gibson, and Janda) now are effectively backing away from those votes. For background see Anatomy of a BMA Meeting for my description of a contentious BMA meeting in December of 2017. At the January 8, 2018 BMA meeting hundreds of citizens showed up to protest the apartment approvals.

Even though Viridian and Watermark were in Smart Growth areas, which called for multi-use, they were stand-alone complexes, with no "multi-use" component planned along side. Although it was exempt from the apartment moratorium, Viridian developers so far have not gone forward with the project. Thanks to the BMA's disapproval of the actions of the developer during a lawsuit by citizens Jaime Picunko and Phil Conner against the City, Watermark has been halted for now, although a ruling against the developer in the Watermark developer's lawsuit against the City is being appealed.  


So, Viridian and Watermark type complexes are likely out, (unless Viridian reappears and is grandfathered, or Watermark wins its appeal), but what exactly is in? One point of contention could be the stand-alone type of apartment building that is in Thornwood's multi-use development. It is in a gray area-- is it a stand-alone building? Yes. Is it part of an integrated multi-use area? Also yes. And, what about apartment complexes that have token things like laundromats and a small coffee shop or automat on the first floor? Will all buildings with apartments be required to have concrete and steel construction, as commercial projects have, rather than wood framing? Requiring that would go a long way towards helping to ensure true multi-use, rather than allowing an apartment project with token businesses attached, simply to pass muster with the new ordinances that may be passed. It would also help the buildings hold their value, which is important in keeping the impact on city services down, according to the discussion at the meeting.

The In-House Study, and the Aldermen's Viewpoints--the Work Session Chronologically  

Alderman Massey was unable to attend the work session, but he is a known foe of more apartments in the City. For the views of the other four aldermen, and for what may lie ahead, watch the video of the meeting and/or read my notes on the meeting below. My personal commentary is in red, to distinguish it from what people said at the meeting.  


  




APARTMENT MORATORIUM STUDY DISCUSSED 

Jason Huisman- Assistant City Administrator And Staff 


Mr. Huisman and City staff discussed the Apartment Moratorium Report.

The City has 16,081 residential units, single family are over 13,000, current apartment units are about 1,000, which is 6.3 % of the total of residential units. 


The study found no disproportionate impact on services from apartment units My note: per unit, not per acre, since there are more apartment units per acre than single family homes per acre, and that was not considered.  

Westminster and Farmington Gates, two current apartment complexes, have a preponderance of  two bedroom apartments, and being lower priced, they have a disproportionate amount of impact on City services and the school system.  

Using the City's small area plans, an aggressive scenario of development is 3,642  total additional residential units, of which 2,141 are additional apartment units, in the next ten years.  If 2,141 apartment units are added, the percentage of apartment units to total residential units will go from 6.3% to 16% in ten years.

Impact on fire, police, ambulance, and schools were discussed. The impact on schools begins at 13:49 and is discussed below: 

Schools will have a total capacity of 6,665 this year, with the new school online. That is an extra capacity of 1,000 students. My note: Why, if there is that much excess capacity, is Dogwood School still planning to have portables this year? 

There are two types of apartment complexes detailed in the study, (go to 14:28 of video):
 

Type a vertical mixed-use (Thornwood is an example)-- with half of units being one or fewer bedroom 50% are two bedroom plus. My note: For reference sake, please remember the term "vertical mixed use" as it applies to the Thornwood apartment building.  

Type b 60% or more two bedroom (Watermark is/was an example),
 

The less expensive the development, and the more bedrooms per unit, the more new GMSD students are produced from the development. 
  
Estimate--Type a apartments result in 2.7 students per 100 residential units, Type b apartments result in 15.3 students per 100 units.

My Note: This seems rather low to me since GMSD has been using a figure of 31 students per 100 residential units based on
 its own analysis. The previous GMSD analysis did not distinguish between types of apartment complexes.  

There are 9 sites where 2,141 apartments could be located, and City staff estimate that 123 students would come from these apartments. My note: Using the former GMSD ratio, that figure would be over 600 additional students.   


Using demographic figures and all residential construction estimates, there will be a spare capacity in our schools of 600 students in ten years. My note: I am not sure if this study accounts for extra rooms needed for art, music, etc. 

The study found that the infrastructure is strong and can take the impact of the new development, and that by the end of this year, all the infrastructure will be in place for all the development expected.  


THE ALDERMEN

Each aldermen spoke more than one time. This is in chronological order, so keep scrolling until you read it all-- 

Alderman Scott Sanders: 34.23 

Asked about options, re: moratorium, attorney stated next step to consider changes in zoning ordinances, the answer-- goes to Planning commission with guidance from BMA   

Alderman Forrest Owens: 36:50 

No zone left for stand-alone apartments My note: If there is no zone left for stand-alone apartments under current zoning,  why would we need a new ordinance to prevent them?, only land left in gateways (mixed-use). My note: Then Viridian and Watermark should not have even come to a vote originally because they were not mixed-use!!

Apartments are needed for downsizing and millennials where they have fewer responsibilities and it's easier to be mobile.

Apartments don’t provide a disproportionate strain on resources. My note: Again, this was calculated on a per unit basis, not per acre, and $$$ impact was not part of the study.

“Create special places”. Ability to create special places go away with the same use. The land uses have to work in concert together, and this is complex, sustainable, lasts for centuries, multi-family has a place for vibrancy and sustainability, Thornwood is a good example of starting that, not knowing it,  but would rather have vertically mixed use, where residences are over retail. My note: He seems unsupportive here of the separate apartment building at Thornwood, though he tries to be delicate. As with Watermark and Viridian, he voted for the Thornwood development with the "stand-alone" building. Also note that when calculating the GMSD student ratio, Thornwood was labeled a "vertically mixed-use" by the staff. Someone needs to get definitions straight!. So Alderman Owens prefers vertically mixed use rather than the Thornwood apartment building, but City staff considers the Thornwood apartment building as being an example of vertical mixed use. Confused?? Me too!!
  

Administration needs to direct Planning Commission, but administration also needs input from Commission. My note: Please do not try to pass the buck. Whatever the PC comes up with, the aldermen who vote for the changes and Mayor who selected the PC members will own that decision.
  

Alderman Owens supports the following, which he read:  "multi-family residential development in a smart code zoning district, as long as it is part of an integrated mixed-use setting, in a non-dominant mixed-use development application, appropriately designed and scaled to its surroundings."

Reiterated that he's not in favor of any more garden style, single-use apartments in any area of the City  My note: like he voted in favor of (Viridian and Watermark) just months ago.  


Alderman Mary Anne Gibson: 43:45 

Agrees with Forrest Owens, What impact on schools will apartments be now and next ten years?  Asks why numbers start to fall off in 2023.
 

GMSD Superintendent Jason Manuel: 45:08 

GMSD doesn't have a say in this process but appreciates the fact that he has a seat at the table, and would like to see that continued process. Hopes at each step in the process of development over the next ten years that GMSD will be able to re-analyze where their numbers are and impact of development. What we see now may not be the same now as one or two years from now.    


Reminds us that price point of apartments can change, and that a development planned at one price point could have to lower prices, which would mean more students from the development.  What causes most empty nesters to move is the death of a spouse, and the demographer therefore looked at mortality rates.

My note: Reasonable answer, He may be skeptical of  the City staff's new student ratios, at least over the long haul. In any case, he realizes that projections can be way off.  


Alderman Mary Anne  Gibson: 47:15 Asked staff a question about drainage. 
 

Economic Development Director Cameron Ross: 48:16   

Any storm water will have to be retained on site until the current drainage system is ready for the water, this involves an above ground or below ground retention pond until peak flows subside. 
My note: Several residents noted in Shining a Light's drainage survey that they had no drainage issues until developments came to their area, so I am skeptical of the findings of the drainage studies paid for and submitted by developers.   

City Administrator Patrick Lawton: 49:29 

Follow the Small Area Plans, takes drainage into account.  

Alderman Rocky Janda: 51:20 

Apartments have less impact than his expectations. He gives thanks to Alderman Owens for his viewpoint. Likes Thornwood apartments, they are stand-alone but part of the community that is there. My note: He is the only aldermen who gives a ringing, specific endorsement of the Thornwood apartment building.  And it has no impact on schools, mixed- use the way to go, worry about the schools being able to cover overhead with extra capacity. My note: That does not worry me. If that is a problem ever, more transfers could be allowed.


Alderman Scott Sanders: 54:18 

Not for stand alone apartments, residents don’t want apartments, may consider *some* multi-use.  Citizens may not know that City has been spending money on infrastructure for a long time, has spent a decade preparing for additional development,--lists some of these projects, adding to millions of dollars, such as the water tower in this year’s budget,  


The Tischler Bice study commissioned by City in 2016 My note: discussed in my blog post here clearly says that the additional growth is not going to cover expenses until the outlying years, (Mayor Palazzolo interrupts and says infrastructure is capitalized over 50 years), Sanders continues and says we do not break even until year 21, and The Tischler Bice study underestimated new school cost,

Sanders lists expenses, more fire stations, salaries, etc., in comparing status quo growth vs. higher density, five million dollars more in cost to support the higher density growth, and when older Germantown  residents move into apartments those houses will be sold to families, who have school children. We will need more roads, traffic signals, and we may not always have 80-20 match available for new traffic signals, which are very expensive, what if responsible for 100% of those in future? 

Need to take slow measured approach to future growth, does not like stand-alone apartment buildings, not what citizens want (clapping) (admonishment from MP), a lot of infrastructure has been paid for, doesn’t think citizens knew it. High density in Carrefour and Arthur proposals. Both way too dense to offer “a sense of place” or an inviting atmosphere, density is something he wants planning commission to look at (and presumably limit)

Thornwood type of apartments with retail and restaurants on the first floor, and apartments over--he might agree to that, but the Thornwood  type of stand-alone apartment is not something he would vote for, even though it is in mixed-use area development, he would not want any more like that. Stresses we need to know definition of stand-alone apartments. (My note: I definitely agree. It is hard to figure out what anyone thinks when definitions are not consistent.)



Alderman Forrest Owens: 1:05:45

Says he agrees with more with Alderman Sanders than he disagrees. City not growing is dying. Need quality thoughtful development. Need to retain value, and eventually they will pay off. Expounds on value of mixed-use. Wants vertically integrated mixed use above retail. Mentions Sugar Land, Texas. Need a phasing plan so developers don't leave after they plan just apartments. Wants Planning Commission to study that. Asks staff, what types of developments help retain value and keep student population low? Mentions Thornwood apartment has no balconies, no exterior patios, as if that might hold its value more. My note: Does he approve of the stand-alone apartment building at Thornwood or not? I guess so. I am also wondering why a building without balconies would hold its value more? My feeling is that the higher quality steel and cement construction would likely cause the structure to last centuries, as Alderman Owens had said he wanted. Earlier, I thought he implied he wasn't fond of the apartment building at Thornwood. Is he undecided or wishy-washy? He seems to want the Planning Commission to decide everything. He is a voting member of the Planning Commission.

Alderman Rocky Janda: 1:10:13


My note: I had trouble hearing a lot of this. We aren't here to make a profit, The planning that has been done here has led to a great community, sales taxes are up, not for stand-alone apartment except for those that are part of a community, likes Thornwood, we don't need to make a profit on development, breaking even would be nice, let Planning Commission look at this,

Alderman Mary Anne Gibson: 1:13:50


As a realtor, she feels there is a bit of a difference in what young people want now, more movement, we need more diversity of housing Her key focus is schools, we do things for posterity, like her father planting a Japanese maple for the future, we need to make good decisions now for the future.  



***

The rest of the meeting was discussion about how long the Planning Commission can take before finalizing the decisions. Scott Sanders wanted to extend the moratorium until the Planning Commission could look at everything. The City Attorney feels that the City cannot go on indefinitely without a firm decision, and he mentioned October as enough time for the Planning Commission to come back with needed changes.

There will be a resolution that the BMA will vote on August 12, requesting *something* from the Planning Commission, likely to consider the possibility of new ordinances.

 


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Park Commission Voting on Severe Restrictions in Park Use With No Official Notice; Poll Favors Adult Courts by 10 to 1 margin



It is the last minute notice that bugs me the most. You just DO NOT spring major park use changes like this on the public without a full public discussion. Our parks belong to the citizens, and are there for the use of the citizens. We pay for them, and we use them. The parks are a major part of our lives. PLEASE CONSULT WITH THE CITIZENS before making major changes. Alderman Scott Sanders found out about these proposals yesterday evening, and has been posting all over Facebook warning people that various restrictions are scheduled to be voted on this afternoon: Here is his Facebook post:

 

PLEASE NOTE in the above:  

 

Before going any further, for those following his suggestion to attend the meeting, fair warning--the parking in the area is horrendous. One time I was going to attend a meeting, and I turned around and went back home after finding no place to park at 5:15. So either get dropped off (preferable), go very early and take your book or tablet to entertain yourself while you wait, carpool and be prepared to walk quite a distance, etc.

I presume the new rule changes will go to the BMA in the form of a proposed ordinance after the Park Commission holds this vote, but I do not know that for sure.

Park usage of the basketball court has been discussed before, and because of an outcry by the citizenry, a compromise was (supposedly) reached, that the new multi-purpose court at Farmington would be adjustable, so that adults could play on the regulation sized hoops. It was Scott Sanders who originally brought the changes to Farmington Park to our attention in this March 9, 2019 blog post.  


When these changes involved removing ten foot goals from the court, a public poll taken on the Germantown Bulletin Board Facebook group (Dear Admininstrators of GBB Facebook group: I have written permission from the author of this post to republish the poll results. I reprinted the totals at the side for readability):   





Furthermore, the Park Commission received feedback from citizens indicating that the Farmington neighbors desired that a full-sized basketball court for adults should be available. An open records request would be able to confirm that. Supposedly a compromise was reached whereby the goals would be adjustable from eight feet to ten feet.

But..........there are other changes proposed. Here are the proposed rules for Farmington Park:  



   









































When the Farmington basketball court was discussed in the past, the issue of "outsiders" playing on the courts was brought up. Apparently some neighbors complained of speeding/language/trash. However, most blamed all of this on Germantown citizens rather than outsiders. I personally would love to see speed bumps by Farmington Park to prevent speeding in the area. Are the proposed rules a way to ban "outsiders" without expressly doing so? I would argue that this is the case, and that we are not truly living up to our claim of embracing a "culture of kindness" if we enact these rules. 


But the rules extend far beyond that. A family can't even play H-O-R-S-E together under these restrictive proposed new rules. And check out the new walking trail restrictions, etc.


The Parks and Recreation phone number and email is listed at the bottom of this City of Germantown page: