Thursday, December 12, 2019

320 High Rise Apartments at Carrefour, and the 7% Solution


In a strategically timed BMA meeting in the busiest season of the year, three of the five members of our BMA voted to approve 320 new apartment units at Carrefour. Below I have a blow by blow of Carrefour discussion at the BMA meeting last Monday, with links and summaries to comments made by various citizens, aldermen and other speakers.  

T
he recent Germantown Next Door neighborhood poll had 827 respondents, and 71% of the citizens indicated they want no new apartment units, 22% think some more apartments are okay if the ratio of apartments to homes remains the same, and 7% that want to materially increase the number of apartment units. The "solution" for Aldermen Gibson, Janda, and Owens was to agree with the seven percent of the citizens who want to materially increase the ratio of apartment units to single-family homes. A slightly older version of the poll was discussed in my October 26 post.

For the citizens that do not favor this sudden 25% increase in the number of apartment units, (now labeled "multi-family units in a mixed-use development") in the City, you can thank Aldermen Sanders and Massey, who sided with the 93% of citizens who want no substantial increase in apartment units, and therefore voted against the new site plan for Carrefour.

News Stories:

Germantown approves preliminary plans for 320 apartments at Carrefour (Commercial Appeal)   


Carrefour at the Gateway revised site plan approved (Daily Memphian) 


The meeting is divided into two videos, with links and summary of remarks about the Carrefour development: 

Here is the first video. It begins repeating in the middle, so the second video is posted below:

   


Citizens to be heard:

Pauline Lathram (me)  Presented the NextDoor poll discussed above, and stated that any alderman voting for the project was aligning with merely 7% of the populace (text and statistics below as footnote).

Sandy Davis Taxpayers paid for award that was the reason for all the development. Residents don't want apartments. Thornwood over 30% vacant, and Bridges Apartments has a move-in special. Not enough demand to support apartments. Nobody wants more apartments. Changing the word apartment to mixed-use doesn't change things. Not your place to substitute your judgment for ours.

Public Hearing 

Cameron Ross presents the new Carrefour site plan, which calls for mixed use development, including 320 apartment units.

Nelson Cannon, developer, makes his presentation of the plan. Before the 2018 election, there were no apartments in the plan. Post-election, the moratorium was lifted on apartments in multi-use developments, and Mr. Cannon was able to present his plan to substitute 320 apartments for some of the original planned hotel rooms and offices.

Doug Swett, Kimley Horn, presents the traffic study.

Mr. Cannon continues his presentation, saying Carrefour has one of the highest walk/bike scores in the City, including multiple MATA stops.

At this point, the first video begins repeating so I posted this second video, and continue with links to the Carrefour discussion.







The Public Hearing, continued- Citizens:

Toni Nygren   Was just here with this scouts, didn't even know about the hearing. This doesn't look like Germantown, it looks like an urban area. We were told before the election there would be no apartments and now they are. There is a lot of traffic in the area, concerned. Vote the way your constituents want you to vote.

Sam Andereck  Who are we? Long time resident of Germantown. I thought it was small town feel close to the City. Not against everything, like some changes, but concerning that several hundred apartments to congested area, lots of street lights already. Do we want to be midtown?

Sandy Davis Doesn't matter how many people talk against this, no one wants this, rules out the window, more traffic, stress on infrastructure. We know you will do this. It will be a 3-2 split as it always is. Representing the developers, but you ran against apartments. Changing the wording to mixed-use is a trick.

Pauline Lathram (me)  Live in the neighborhood, rush hour traffic awful there now, will drive more traffic onto Neshoba, which will become like Quail Hollow, metropolitan area not growing and apartments are going up everywhere, who do we expect to attract?  We already have empty apartments. Watch out for tax incentives in the future. That will not be popular.  



************ 

Alderman Owens  Mixed-use elements, needs to have residential- live, work, play, Carrefour is an opportunity, helps economic development, project fits, some residents excited, high-end. Outline plan better than last one. Public participation created this, this is a special place that will retain value. Complex process.

Mary Anne Gibson Thanks Alderman Owens, thoughtful process, false that we are helping developers, make good decision for not only current residents, but future residents, and what the City becomes, it is a special place that will retain value.

Alderman Sanders, Asks a question about the number of trips per day from traffic studies-- (answer: reducing office space, people will live and work in the development). Reduction of parking spaces, if people live and work there? (answer: shared spaces between shared use of office and residential). Why not condos, might be more palatable? (answer-- management issue, easier for one person to be in charge than lots of people).

Alderman Massey, Question for Mr. Ross, Who was applicant when Western Gateway rezoned? (had to take recess for him to look up)- My Note: Mary Ann Gibson actually sided with Sanders and Massey on having recess, likely because of the emphasis on the 3-2 split being mentioned, and she wants to vote with the minority on procedural issues that are of little importance. Look for this in the future, she might be taking some percentage or something for a future election to prove she doesn't always vote in a block. Later she stated the recess could have been avoided if Mr. Massey had asked Mr. Ross earlier.


Mr Ross came back and stated the City was the applicant. Alderman Massey stated that the City is not listed as an approved applicant in the ordinances and cannot request that change, so it is likely illegal, and wants a written opinion from the attorney. That did not pass. 


Alderman Sanders: Now 320 apartment units in plan, doesn't surprise him, most citizens do not want apartments, public opinion hasn't changed. Can't support this change away from owner occupied single family.

Alderman Massey Asks about traffic study and possible conflicts, which was answered. Disingenuous to say  City doesn't consider profits of developers. Elected officials should act for the residents. In the Western Gateway plan, the City was acting on behalf of the developers. Betrayal, after betrayal after betrayal. Always developers over citizens. Residents suspicious. Why are officials making decisions that are detrimental to neighborhoods. Quotes Charter about trust of citizens and integrity of officials.

Alderman Owens: Cites education in planning, this development cannot reach lasting value without residential. Tax revenues $1.5 million a year. This can pay for the debt service of the elementary school (my note: WHAT? Is the City offering to take over the notes on the new elementary school, instead GMSD?) consistent with Western Gateway plan. This will be envied by others.

Alderman Gibson: We are citizens here and we go to events. Four negative emails, some people excited, talks about City study on multi-family, make decisions on evidence, supports it due to homework.

The vote- Resolution passes 3-2 

For: Gibson, Owens, Janda
Against: Sanders and Massey 

**************** 

Here were my remarks about the NextDoor apartment poll:

On August 12, I reported the results of a NextDoor apartment poll on my blog. I chose a poll over a petition because I wanted all pro and con voices heard, and because a poll can be analyzed statistically.

NextDoor  was chosen to be the platform,  because over  50% of the households in the City are subscribers, and all users are verified residents. The same poll was posted in broad southern, northwestern, and northeastern parts of the city.  Collierville and Memphis neighborhoods were excluded. Each account has one vote, by secret ballot.

The December 8 updated results were still overwhelmingly against adding apartment units to the City, and the statistical significance is now literally off the charts.
827 people have now voted vs. 502 votes in August. Each of the three geographic areas had almost the exact same result, demonstrating widespread agreement and internal consistency.
The definitive results have not changed:
71% want no new apartments  
22% say keep the ratio of apartment units to homes at the current 6- 7%
7% want a full build out

In the discussions, a few stated  that retirement places were fine, but not other multi-family, and some  expressed the view that condos were preferable to rentals.  No one said that multi-family was fine as long as it is part of a multi-use development.

For the 22% of citizens  who want the ratio of apartments to homes to remain the same, 320 new units at Carrefour is excessive, as it would require 4500 new single family homes to keep the ratio constant.  If you vote for this project tonight, know full well that you are representing seven percent of your constituents.

To those who say it is the same people speaking before this body every time, I say this. I am speaking for 827 people. Please respect the citizens you represent. This poll was a huge collective effort of three individuals who simply want the citizens voices to count. We welcomed all viewpoints and had no idea what the result would be when we undertook this project. 
************

  

All three of the large neighborhood groups had virtually the same results, showing internal consistency.  Most of the citizens in Germantown are members of NextDoor. Therefore we assumed that NextDoor users are representative of the large Germantown population, and the numbers were run through an online statistical program.  Because this program uses just two responses, those that do not want to materially increase the ratio of apartments to single-family homes were added to those who do not want any apartments, for a total of 93% of the population. I assumed there were about 30,000 adults in the City. The statistical program is located here.

Here is the screenshot of my entries to the program- 




This means that there is a 99% probability that the number of citizens not wanting to materially change the ratio of apartments to single family homes is 93% plus or minus 2.26% (90.74% to 95.26%) This is similar to the way political polls are taken.







Thursday, November 21, 2019

City Water Pressure Under the Microscope-- In Screenshots




Is the City Being Truthful About Water Pressure? You Be The Judge! 


I will allow the official City statement issued in 2016 speak for itself-   

"most plumbing fixtures are rated to 150psi"
"Water pressures on the City's northern border can reach 105psi"
"while unnecessary in Germantown, pressure regulating valves can be installed at the owner's expense" 




What do Other Sources Say?   

From 
ThePlumber.com 
"80 is code throughout most of the U.S." 



From Angie's List--

"Most plumbing fixture manufacturers recommend their products be used with water pressure no higher than 80psi. Anything higher than that can cause fixtures such as water heaters, faucets, shut-off valves and toilet parts to fail prematurely.




From PlumbingSupply.com
"To reduce water pressure supply you'll need a pressure reducing valve. In fact, these are often required by code for water pressures above 80psi."



From Kohler 

Toilet fill valves, gravity toilet tanks, electro-hydraulic Toilets, pressure assist toilets and flushometers all have maximum water pressure at 80psi


 


From Popular Mechanics 

The typical inlet water pressure to a home is about 40 to 45 psi. Normally, it should not exceed 60 psi.



Is this "Excellence Every Day"? Really, truly?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Ex-Alderman Frank Uhlhorn Appointed as Election Commission Board Member

Frank Uhlhorn with Mayor Palazzolo at FedEx Forum

Former Germantown Alderman Frank Uhlhorn, a real estate developer, former alderman, strong supporter of Mayor Palazzolo, and admitted campaign law violator, was recently appointed as a board member of the beleaguered Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC).

The SCEC has been under fire, and is even involved recently in a lawsuit that seeks the use of verifiable paper ballots. Currently, the Election Commission uses machines that leave no paper trail, meaning that the results cannot be audited. The Sixth Circuit is being asked to review a lower court opinion that found that the risk of future harm to voters is "speculative".

Bennie Smith of Memphis is also a recent appointment to the SCEC board. He made headlines in 2014  when he discovered that a tape of numbers of voters in a Shelby County precinct did not match the Election Commission totals from that same precinct. He found that the GEMS central tabulator, used by Shelby County, has the ability to count votes as fractional, and he developed a program, named "fraction magic" that demonstrated that votes could disappear in seconds. He has since been lauded nationally and is well-known as an expert in election security.


 

The Election Commission will soon be making decisions on a new type of voting system. Mr. Smith advocates a system that uses images of paper ballots for tabulation, and does not favor any system that can be easily hacked by the covert insertion of a program from a flash drive.

Under this backdrop, one wonders why the State Election Commission would even consider Mr. Uhlhorn, 
an admitted violator of election laws a decade ago, as an appropriate candidate as a Board member of the Election Commission, 


After early voting ended in 2008, our citizens learned that Mike Palazzolo (candidate for alderman and current Mayor of Germantown), Frank Uhlhorn (incumbent candidate for alderman),  and Gary Pruitt (incumbent candidate for alderman) had sent out campaign literature strongly resembling a Republican "ballot", implying that they were being endorsed by the Republican party. They broke the law by not including the identity of the entity or people who financed the campaign literature. Of course, if they had shown that they themselves had paid for the literature, it would have defeated their purpose, which was to try to convince the voters that they had the backing of the Republican party. That was untrue, as neither political party makes endorsements in aldermen races. For more information on this see my blog post in April of 2017, District House Seat 95 and the Special Election, when Mr. Uhlhorn unsuccessfully ran for the State House of Representatives.
Even as he loses elections, Mr. Uhlhorn continues to benefit from a costly taxpayer-funded insurance policy. (see July 16 2016 Commercial Appeal artlcle).

   

Citizens Reported Uhlhorn for  Violations of City Sign Ordinances in Bid for House Seat in 2017

Uhlhorn also was a $5000 donor to the 2018 election "Germantown Values PAC"  that endorsed Mike Palazzolo, Mary Anne Gibson and Brian White in Germantown's 2018 mayor and alderman race. The PAC hired Caissa Marketing, which conducted illegal polling in the 2018 election within 10' of the polling place entrance (see Culture of Kindness and the Germantown Values PAC which details the illegal and unethical practices of this group). Caissa instructed the temporary employees to say they were non-partisan and had not endorsed anyone in the race, when in fact they had actually mailed three separate mailers endorsing Mike Palazzolo for Mayor and Mary Anne Gibson and Brian White for Alderman positions. Citizens filed complaints with Linda Phillips, SCEC Administrator on the 2nd day of early voting.  It took a full week and follow up by a campaign manager for one of the opposing candidates to get that illegal "exit polling" as they called it, stopped.

The illegal polling caused a dramatic shift in Mayor Palazzolo's campaign strategy, as the lack of support for more apartments in the City was apparent. He suddenly switched from being the author of "Smart Growth" to being the author of the "apartment moratorium", a moratorium that has since expired. The change in strategy likely influenced the election, which resulted in a narrow victory by Mayor Palazzolo. The margin of victory was determined solely by statistically aberrant absentee ballots (see December 2018 Aberrant Ballots post). Since the apartment moratorium expired, now apartments that are part of "Smart Growth" are allowed, and over 300+ apartments are part of the proposed Carrefour redevelopment. Unsurprisingly, Caissa Marketing also represents the owners of Carrefour (see Caissa Public Strategy Holds Public Hearing on Carrefour).

Caissa continues to engage in questionable practices throughout the county. As reported by the Commercial Appeal (see 7 things to know about the Co-ordinated Effort to Distribute Election Materials in Memphis and How Pay to Play Ballots Landed in Voters' Hands on Election Day ): 


 
"Four candidates appeared on both a genuine Republican ballot and a bogus Democratic ballot. Their management company, Caissa Public Strategy, distributed both ballots, according to temp workers."  

  
and 

"Temp workers say Caissa Public Strategy trained them to misrepresent themselves to the public.


Workers paid by Caissa described being trained to tell people they were distributing the "official" ballots endorsed by the parties and that they were volunteers. Caissa's CEO Brian Stephens didn't comment on the training, saying he wasn't part of it."   

Furthermore, the same article also reports that text messages show that after Caissa was notified by workers that an injunction had been issued against distributing the misleading "ballots". Despite that, the workers were told by their superiors at Caissa to continue to hand them out at the polls.

What is the likelihood that an admitted campaign violator  and a major contributor to a PAC that hired Caissa Public Strategy will, as a Board member of the Election Commission, favor SCEC policies that stop the distribution of fake ballots and illegal polling?

It is time for election reform in Shelby County. Questionable campaign tactics must stop, and the entire system of voting, from aberrant absentee ballots and unverifiable campaign results, to the distribution of misleading "Republican" and "Democratic" ballots must be examined. Votes should be verifiable, and not be subject to hacking. Fair and honest elections are at the heart of American democracy. Admitted violators of election laws and supporters of firms that continually violate campaign laws should not be sitting Board members of the SCEC. This undermines the confidence of the electorate and leaves the distinct impression that the results are "cooked".

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Update-Apartment Poll-More New Apartments Not Wanted by Citizens-New Statistical Milestone



Abstract
An extended NextDoor poll on apartments has been ongoing. On my last report on August 12 (see Poll-Overwhelming Public Opinion Against New Apartments), a total of 502 people had voted on the poll. Now, a new statistical milestone has been reached, as now the respondents total 775. I will repeat most of the text of my previous post here, substituting the new numbers and calculating the new statistics with the help of an online statistical program. The results at the earlier cutoff had 71% of Germantown responders favoring no new apartments, 22% favoring keeping the about the same ratio of apartments that the City currently has, and 7% favoring a full build out. This update has the figures at 73% (no new apartments), 21%(a few more), and 6%(none), respectively.
**********
Text with Updated Figures:

A recent NextDoor poll on apartment development was conducted of residents in Germantown neighborhoods. A total of 775 people answered the poll at the latest update, October 26. The results show that citizens, 
by a wide margin, do not favor adding new apartments 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.
73% of respondents want no new apartments


A few more apartment units are okay, but keep the same 6-7 percentage as now.
21% 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..
6% 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 of percentages.

The polling began in all three areas on Thursday, August 8, and the results were compiled on Saturday, October 26, 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 775 total responses received. 


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:   


Note: The correct link to the MBJ article was used in all three polls. 


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 voted 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.  On another platform, Facebook, one person asked how they should vote if they liked the apartments over the businesses in Thornwood, but not the apartment building at Thornwood, even though it is part of the mixed-use development. I answered that a reasonable way to vote would be to keep the same percentage if that is the way she felt, because if those are the only kinds of apartments approved, the ratio of apartments to total residences would likely stay the same. 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. Only one person took advantage of that option.

In this updated poll with new numbers, no new comments were added to the three polls that were remarkable.



Calculations

Here are the screenshots of the new results of three polls, taken on Saturday, October 26, 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. As you can see, the results were virtually the same in each neighborhood, with between 69% and 73% favoring no new apartments. 



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 I extrapolated the number of votes using the NextDoor percentages:  

  
Northeast Germantown 

Zero            252 votes
Same Ratio  70 votes
Add 2,141    17 Votes 
Total            339 votes (10 short due to NextDoor %)

Add 6 to none, 3 to same ratio, 1 to 2,141 more

Northwest Germantown

Zero             94 votes 

Same Ratio  30 votes
10% Ratio     1 vote (added in comment)
Add 2,141    12 votes  

Total           137 votes 

South Germantown


Zero           204 votes
Same Ratio  60 votes
Add 2,141    12 votes 

Total          276 votes  (13 votes short due to NextDoor %)

Add 8 to none, add 4 to same ratio, add 1 to 2,141






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    564 votes  
Keep the ratio the same 167 votes
2,181 new units                43 votes

Other--10% ratio                1 vote

Total 775 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 94% (73% + 21%) 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 4% 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 90% and 98%. Because the number of respondents is greater than the last update, the confidence interval has narrowed.

The lack of exact numbers of votes from NextDoor was difficult to work with, but the overall conclusion cannot be denied.



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, when the results are clear. The tax-paying public either overwhelmingly wishes no new apartment units (73%) or just a few more (21%). There was no favoritism expressed in comments for mixed-use apartments over stand-alone apartments.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Caissa Public Strategy Holds Public Meeting on Carrefour-- in Video and Pictures.

Like the meeting one year ago, also hosted by Caissa Public Strategy, (see Carrefour Meeting in Video and Pictures ) there were large posters on foam board around the room, yellow sticky notes, and no power point. This time there were more seats along the back, but there seemed to be fewer elderly people attending that needed them.

I arrived a bit late but got the spiel about the plans recorded, and some of the questions that the public was able to squeeze in before the crowd was forced to break into groups-- you know, so we can't hear anybody else's questions and concerns.  This technique keeps the crowd under better control by the organizers. Of course Caissa Public Strategy representatives don't say that, and when several people complained about the format, they said it is preferable for citizens to engage in private conversation with the experts.

The developers want all three phases of the development finished in five or six years, if the marketing goes well.

A few questions were left hanging, the most notable being "Are the owners applying for tax incentives?". 
The answer: I don't know.

Why is a hotel needed?
Answer: We aren't marketing people. 


How is Fountain Square going to fit in?
Answer: That has not been decided. This is an outline plan. 



How many residences will there be? 
Answer: 250, but the crowd corrected him that at the Planning Commission the number was over 300.

Will the residences be apartments or condominiums? 

Answer: We don't know, this is for the site plan, not usage or ownership. 


How tall are the buildings? 
Answer: First, "I don't know", and then someone read the T5 and T6 zoning code which stated that the Phase I building could be eight stories by right, and ten stories by warrant.  

Here is the video of the main presentation for Phases I, II and III of Carrefour, and a video clip of someone talking to the traffic expert afterwards. I urge you to listen to the traffic questions and answers. The traffic study is several years old.

 


I headed over to an empty table where there was a ten question "online" survey. I tried to answer by touching the screen but it required using arrows and a touch pad on a small computer. Since I am used to a mouse, I had a bit of a time with it.  I asked if this was really online, as had been claimed, and could people take it at home? No, they said, they did it this way because it was "secure". Caissa, which is a PR and marketing firm, apparently has never heard of a secure online survey. There are, of course a wide variety of ways online surveys can be made secure.  







There were ten questions on the survey, and the above are three typical examples. Click on the pictures to enlarge them and read, if need be. As much talk as there is about the Thornwood Residences not having balconies, I was happy to be able to select my preferred design for the balconies.

I think I was the only person that took the survey, and that was only because I wanted to snap a few shots of the questions. The Caissa employee at the survey table did not seem exactly happy that I was doing that but she was quite polite anyway. There were some cool virtual reality glasses at the same table, but after I put them on, I could feel myself sort of reeling and leaning, so I took them off pretty quickly.

Nobody much really bothered with the yellow sticky notes either. Here are the only ones I saw:  




Caissa Public Strategy has been in the news lately, as a temporary employee charged that he was told by a supervisor to continue issuing "ballots" at the last election after a judge had issued an injunction against their use. The company states that they had not been officially told about the injunction, which happened just before noon on the election day.

From the Commercial Appeal,  7 things to know about the coordinated effort to distribute deceptive election materials in Memphis

"Four candidates appeared on both a genuine Republican ballot and a bogus Democratic ballot. Their management company, Caissa Public Strategy, distributed both ballots, according to temp workers."

Renditions of the site plan for Carrefour are on the Developments in Germantown web page.

The Planning Commission will discuss this application on November 5.

Citizens and other people affected may express their viewpoints by emailing 

SPounder@Germantown-TN.gov

Here is the audio of the subcommittee meeting last week. I have not yet listened to all of it, but did not want to delay posting this. Carrefour was discussed, as were the latest suggested Smart Code changes, banning " single-use, stand-alone" apartment buildings (see Oct. 24 Daily Memphian).

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