Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Twelve Months and Counting, and other Non-News and News Items

I have a lot of questions concerning our fair city, but not many real answers, as many issues seem to be left up in the air.  The following list is far from complete:

Where is Our Finance Director?

Number one on my list is that the one year anniversary of the date that former Finance Director Paul Turner resigned has come and gone (see my August 28 post). It has been over one year since the City has had a full time Finance Director. As a former Finance Director, I find this concerning.  Are we in the process of hiring someone?  It is listed as an open position on the City website.  I asked this same question last August.

What is Going on with the Travure Hotel project?

What in the world is happening behind the Travure building? Nothing. The construction of a hotel was halted and it has been boarded for months. The main building at Travure attracts a lot of attention due to the jarring angle against the street. It attracts eyes to the property, and what we see behind the main building is a complete mess. Repeated promises that construction will be started "soon" have not come to fruition. In August, the Commercial Appeal quoted the new developer, who expected construction to begin by September 15. This is not an auspicious beginning for our Western Gateway. Hopefully it is not affecting the commercial leasing of the main building.

What is in the Future for Thornwood Apartments?

We are all rooting for the success of all of our commercial and residential projects in the City, whether or not we favored them, or even like them. But it is legitimate to question the viability of an apartment complex that opens with only 20% occupancy. Hopefully things will work out and Thornwood, once fully open, will fill up quickly. I am sure the developers were hoping for more robust leasing by this point.  A new building in the center of town should be in demand. Will this complex be filled on the next few months? If not, what happens?  Does this experience call into question the entire presumption that there is a demand for luxury apartments in the City? And, if it does, what type of apartments do we expect to approve when the apartment moratorium ends this July?  More modestly priced apartments that cause an overflowing school population?   

What Does Thornwood have to do with Streetscapes?

Is the City going spend tax dollars to narrow Exeter and Germantown Roads, in the hopes of assisting the developer's vision of a walkable area that will attract leases? Have promises been made to the developer behind the scenes, in a non-transparent way? This sounds like a desperation move to me. I do think we need a light and crosswalk at Exeter and Neshoba, so that people can cross the street safely, and walk on the sidewalks. Hopefully that is the plan for Exeter, rather than a "road diet" that causes traffic tie-ups and safety issues for first responders. For more about road diets, see my posts The What of Streetscapes, and The Why of Streetscapes.

Why No Response to the Watermark Lawsuit?

One of my puzzlements has to do with the lawsuit against the City by the Watermark developers. The lawsuit challenges the pre-election action by the BMA that denied the developers the approval of a construction contract even thought the apartment complex in Forest Hill Heights had been given full approval. It has been several months since the developers filed suit, and the City has not even responded to the lawsuit. In general, a response is filed in thirty days, or at the most sixty days. It is possible that the plaintiff offered the City an extension, but if they did, why? Is it possible that there is a backroom deal that, in the end, this project will be approved and the denial of a contract based on "lack of trust" of the developer will be proven to be an election year sham? We shall see. For some background on this issue, see my July 24 post.

No news on Owens Triangle

And what is the status of the lawsuit by the Owens challenging the removal of Smart Growth zoning on the Cordova Triangle?  I haven't heard anything about that lately. See this Commercial Appeal article from August.

Germantown Country Club Development 

Some other issues the City is likely to face soon include whether the City should bid on all or part of the Germantown Country Club property. And, if it is to be developed, what kind of density will be allowed? This property was not listed as one that would be developed in the "full build-out" analysis performed by GMSD. Of course, I pointed out earlier that their "full build-out" analysis was more like a "no build-out analysis" (see my September 24 post). Alderman Massey has written several thoughtful 
pieces about possible uses of this property on his Massey for Germantown Facebook page. If you are interested in this, I urge you to read them.

Commission Appointments

One thing not left up in the air is the cronyism and political retribution that the BMA displays in making commission appointments. Among other questionable decisions, the BMA chose to leave positions on the Great Hall Commission open rather than fill them with qualified applicants who happen to be political foes of the administration.  And, Sarah Freeman, a full time history professor at Arkansas State University, was turned down as a member of the Historical Commission, despite having experience in archiving. I have requested the applications of the citizens and will likely write more about this later.  This is the point in last night's meeting when commission appointments were considered. 

Barzizza Lawsuit 

In the category of a "news" item, the Barzizza lawsuit against the Election Commission is ongoing, and The Daily Memphian reports that the lawyer for Mr. Barzizza has requested that provisional and absentee ballots be inspected. As I noted in December 4 post, The Aberrant Absentee Ballots, statistics reveal anomalies in the absentee ballots. In a razor thin margin, the absentee ballots made the difference.