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.  

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.


  1. I think you've overlooked a few things for your poll. First, you placed it where relatively few people have access to it. Less than 10% of my neighborhood is registered for nextdoor. Several other neighborhoods are the same. You can't possibly claim to speak for those neighborhoods without allowing them to vote. I happen to be one of the people registered on nextdoor and I didn't see the poll. In fact, I don't know anybody who HAS seen the poll. It was hidden away only people who knew about it and wanted to respond were counted, so that skews the results tremendously.

    But, this doesn't really matter in the end. Our city charter doesn't allow mob rule (thankfully). Maybe you personally don't like what other citizens propose or what other citizens do with their own property, but our charter and laws provide a process that gives everyone equal rights. Our charter and laws don't allow for a few angry citizens to take over the whole town. For that, I'm grateful.

    Most people I talk to don't care about apartments one way or the other. They just want that old, rundown, half-empty Carrefour to be fixed up and look nice.

    1. We did not manipulate who saw or did not see the poll. Obviously if people do not check Next Door they don't see the poll. Nor do we control how it is shown in Next Door. I do know that there were many comments on the threads, so it certainly should have been at the top of the list at certain times. I also know that we referred to the polls in other posts. It was visible enough that over 800 people voted.

      If only 10% of your neighborhood is on Next Door, that is an aberration. I checked with several people and over 50% of people in most neighborhoods belong to Next Door.

      We had no idea how this poll would come out when we started. Also we have no resources to do polling any other way. There are controls on Next Door because it verifies addresses. I feel the average Next Door user in our City is representative of the City as a whole.

      I would welcome it if the City would undertake polling. I would not call this "mob rule"; instead, it is staying in touch with the pulse of the community.

    2. I checked with the three people posting the poll, and the NextDoor members reached was 17,063. That is almost as many people as vote in Germantown elections. Of course they don't always check NextDoor, I realize that. I believe NextDoor users are a cross section of the City, and if you read the statistical portion of the blog you would realize that the number of people answering, 827, makes the numbers HIGHLY statistically significant. That is a large sample of people answering, and there is no evidence that the people that happened not to see it would have responded any differently than the people who did respond. We did not attempt to influence the results in any way. I wanted as true of a picture as possible, given that we are not subscribers to marketing software, nor do we have email servers that can send out surveys.

      The City has all that capacity of course. But they close their ears to what the citizens want.

  2. Sounds like there are few emails to the politicians. Time to tell each BOMA member our needs.Can't depend on the pols understanding a poll.

    1. They understand. They just ignore. But I agree with you about emailing the politicians.

  3. I can't imagine anyone thinking that adding apartments and a ten story hotel is a good idea. Oh, you haven't heard about the ten story hotel? Check it out, it's a fact. Btw, is Riverdale school prepared for the huge influx of students? Incredibly bad idea all around but frankly I'm not surprised given the poor quality of leadership, both elected and the full time paid administrators in Germantown.

  4. Your note on Forrest Owens's words is interesting. Did you really not know that City of Germantown was paying for FHES and the GMSD offices completely? That's how this has been from the start. GMSD isn't having to pay anything for the land ad buildings. City of Germantown is paying for all of it. That's why the tax revenue is important. In TN, school districts can't levy taxes. Only city, county, and state governments can do that. Part of the City's commitment to support education is paying for most of GMSD's capital expenses.

    We're very fortunate in this regard. Many of Shelby County's municipalities don't support their schools like that. Most of them make the school system pay for their own capital items.

  5. The City does float the bond but GMSD makes the payments. You are misinformed. The City did pay for most of the Riverdale expansion, that part is true. But the City is not paying for FHE and the GMSD offices.

  6. Look at the budgets for the City and GMSD. City of Germantown issued a $29.3 million bond for the land that houses FHES and the GMSD office and for the construction of the FHES building. The City issued the debt and the city makes the debt service payments.

    According to the GMSD budget, the only debt service payments that GMSD is making are for the construction of the GMSD district offices. Their debt service payments are slightly less per annum than what they were paying for rent before that.