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.
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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.