Monday, August 12, 2019

Poll-- Overwhelming public opinion against new apartments


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  


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:   


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. 


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  


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


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%.


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%).


  1. This reminds me a lot of the polls with 2000 respondents, when you said the polls indicated that Palazzolo and the other BMA incumbents had no chance of winning and that more than 95% of the citizens opposed them. The actual poll (the 2018 vote) proced to be very much different than your online polls.

    1. I have no idea what you are talking about. I know nothing about the poll you are referring to.

  2. I would disagree about the soundness of the poll. There is no evidence that it is representative of Germantown as a whole. I'm on nextdoor, and the percentage of millenials represented is almost nil. Many single people and young families - teachers, doctors, nurses, etc., that we rely on for our well being live in apartments. I think it's foolish to be so anti-apartment. Not everyone can afford the high prices of Germantown real estate. Nor does everyone have the time/desire to maintain a home.

    1. Most neighborhoods in Germantown have 50% or greater participation in NextDoor. What evidence do you have that millenials are unrepresented? What evidence do you have the millenials agree with you about apartments? You may disagree with the results of the poll, and that is fine. I hope you voted. I am just trying to get accurate numbers. What better way of polling would you suggest? It is consistent with what Alderman Sanders said. When he was walking the neighborhoods campaigning, he said less than 10% of the people he talked to were for more apartment building. I doubt seriously that he was avoiding millennials in his campaign.

  3. A better way to see what the public wants would be to hire a professional pollster who can come up with a more random method of sampling to get responses (an online poll that people choose to respond to is going to get a very different set of people responding than a poll that seeks out responses directly via phone or email), poll a more representative population and weight the responses to Germantown's demographics (even if 50% of Germantown residents are on NextDoor, that doesn't mean those who are on it and responded to this poll are representative of the whole city), and conduct the poll with better-worded questions (the wording of the third option in particular requires one to both support the statement that "Germantown has a shortage of apartments" and then approve of all 2,141 proposed units, which the other options don't have).

    Online opt-in polls are not very good ways to measure public sentiment in a 38,000+ person city and I think it would be worthwhile to commission a professional pollster instead if a true measure of what the residents of Germantown think is desired.

  4. I would love for the City of Germantown to take a poll. It should. Professional or not. We know that the polling before the election for the Mayor was strongly against apartments. That is why Watermark was cancelled, so he would not have to run on that legacy. And his messaging changed to "I instituted the apartment moratorium." That came about directly after the illegal polling done by Caissa, who was hired by the PAC. So, the Mayor knows the public is against apartments. If he didn't know it before, Caissa told him.

  5. Did you take any sort of demographics based questions?
    How do the stats by age reflect those currently residing in Germantown? This survey seems a little skewed in responses if it was only posted to one website.

    Was there any other sort of distribution of this survey outside of NextDoor? If not, are you willing to rerun this survey with better distribution to provide more accurate results?

    Many people in Germantown take the posts you create as fact and fail to do any outside research. Especially when surveys like this are presented as accurate representations of the City as a whole. Any professional statistician would never present this as accurate at all.

    1. No, I did not ask demographic questions. I gave clear reasons why I picked NextDoor for the poll. Most households in Germantown belong to NextDoor and all are residents. I am just one person here and this survey took an enormous amount of my time. It would be easy for the City to do a survey/poll, because it has more capabilities, survey subscriptions, etc. I feel this poll is representative of the City, and the results were clear. However, to satisfy all doubts, I would welcome the City to do a similar poll. However, I don't think the City wants to do it, because it would likely get the same answer as this one. By all means, please encourage it and advocate for it, though.

  6. Can you provide an accurate count of apartments currently in Germantown and how that compares to the proposed 2000+?

    1. The current number of apartment units is 1,014 according to the Executive Summary of the City's moratorium study.