Thursday, September 3, 2020

Apartments vs. "Mixed-Use" - also Neglect of Infrastructure Needs; Two Elephants in the Room

There are actually more than the two elephants in our City's room-- that is, the things that the administration does not want us to know, or talk about, particularly in an election year. Thus, I will let each of the above elephants stand for a group of issues. One elephant represents the financial challenges the City faces, due to past and current City leaders continually kicking basic needs down the road, and instead using taxpayer funds to seek external rewards and engage in self-promotion. The "boring" things like maintaining an aging water system (think: broken water mains and blue water stains),  ensuring the retirement account is properly funded , adding safety and  adequate space for the school system, and rebuilding the storm drains (think: floods) are all but forgotten. These things aren't nearly as sexy as building a big screen and high dollar outdoor venue in a relatively small space and narrowing Germantown Road, causing the resultant traffic jams and difficulties for businesses in the area. No matter who is elected as aldermen, there will likely have to be future property tax increases, simply to catch up with the infrastructure needs that have been long-neglected.  

The OTHER elephant in the room represents the development projects that will likely be coming before the BMA in the next two years. These projects have specifically been delayed so as not to influence the upcoming November municipal elections. A NextDoor poll found that 71% of citizens want no new apartment complexes, and 22% want just a few more apartment units. That means, of course, that every candidate will claim to be anti-apartment. But the loophole?? The moniker "mixed-use" takes care of that.  

"Mixed-Use" Means Apartments

 If you are among the 90% of citizens that wants to limit apartment growth in some manner, beware of the double-speak. Administration candidates claim to be against new apartment projects, which, by the way, are already banned, but in the same breath, they favor so-called "mixed-use" projects, which include, ahem, apartments.  An apartment complex with a laundromat and coffee shop attached could be labeled "mixed-use". 

So, these administration candidates say they are against new apartments, while they actually FAVOR new apartments. Two apartment/mixed-use projects that will come before the City in the next two years are 1) Viridian, an apartment complex on Winchester that our administration graciously exempted from the apartment moratorium and stand-alone apartment ban, and 2), Carrefour, a dense, 6-10 story multi-building complex at Kirby and Poplar. The City has already spent millions of dollars on extra infrastructure for this project, while virtually ignoring the infrastructure needs of current citizens.  

The former Germantown Country Club property has a contract to be sold, but the purchaser is unknown at this time and no plans have been submitted. Which candidates do you want in office when those plans are considered? 


Viridian, which is on Winchester at the Collierville border, stands out as the City's only project that did not get unanimous approval by a Planning Commission noted for unanimity. The outline sailed through that body with a mere 4-3 vote (the Mayor abstained, as he generally does). 

Yet Mary Anne Gibson, Rocky Janda, and Forrest Owens used that vote as a reason to pass the outline plan in the BMA. Dean Massey and John Barzizza voted against the measure. Viridian plans call for 310 apartment units, while the entire Forest Hill Heights small area plan only calls for 252 rental units. Director of Economic Development Cameron Ross misrepresented the Small Area Plan when presenting Viridian to the Planning Commission and the BMA. (see December 11, 2017 post).

When citizens objected to Viridian and other projects, the apartment moratorium was enacted, but this project was grandfathered in. It is now the only "stand-alone" project allowed. It could come through next at the planning commission with a coffee shop attached, just so it can be called "mixed-use" to assuage any aldermen that claim to be against apartments, but for "mixed use".    

Some more information: 

Opposition to Viridian Grows Across City  


Carrefour is the massive nine acre project planned for the Kirby Parkway/Poplar corner. It will require two additional traffic lights-- one on Poplar, and one on Kirby between Poplar Pike and Poplar. The Planning Commission unanimously gave the original outline plan its approval in the autumn of  2018 , and the BMA followed suit, in the same 3-2 vote as Viridian. The only candidate in the November election who voted on this project is Sherry Hicks, who voted for the Carrefour outline plan as a Planning Commission member.

Office 430,000 sq. ft.
Hotel  2 hotels 240 rooms
Retail 100,000 sq. ft
Apartment Units 0   


The original outline plan indicated no apartment units, but a new outline plan was submitted included 320 apartment units. The Planning Commission passed the measure unanimously.  Alderman Candidate and Planning Commission member  Sherry Hicks was absent for the vote. This was the most important vote of her tenure, and her only absence from the Planning Commission for the year.  

Office  320,000
Hotel 1 hotel, 174 rooms 
Retail 100,000 sq. ft.
Apartment Units  320


Last December, the new Carrefour outline plan passed the BMA in a 3-2 vote, this time with Aldermen Massey and Sanders dissenting. 

It is unknown if the Carrefour developers will need yet another outline plan due to the pandemic. Office lease rates have declined since many people are working from home. This June 10 Commercial Appeal article speculates that Travure would be the last new office building built for awhile. My guess is that the developers will build the apartment building first, and then seek modifications. If that happens, it can't even be deemed a mixed-use project, simply another apartment building.  

More information on Carrefour--  

320 high-rise apartments at Carrefour, and the 7% solution.

Germantown Country Club 

This project has not yet closed, nor do we know who the new owner is. What we do know is that Mayor Mike Palazzolo promised, in a statement made on January 4, 2019, that he would not support smart growth zoning changes for this piece of property. 

“I can state unequivocally that, as your Mayor, I will not support a proposal to rezone or develop this land for multi-family housing, nor will I support Smart Growth zoning for the area,” Palazzolo wrote. “If the property does not remain as a country club, any changes will occur with regard for the interest of the adjoining property owners.”

He could reverse course and plead that he has no final say in the matter, and that the Planning Commission and the BMA decide that. Please do remember that the Mayor alone decides who is on the Planning Commission. The BMA simply approves a slate that is submitted by the Mayor. This may become more difficult for the Mayor if his choice candidates are not elected. 

I need to add an addendum to this--this MBJ article names Spence Ray as the buyer, and states that the project is going to be 2,500 to 6,500 square feet homes. It states that no zoning changes are contemplated. As we know, there is a history of bait and switch in this City, so we shall see what happens after the election.


Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, and be very careful in your vote for aldermen. There are some very qualified people running for aldermen, but suffice it to say you can take the establishment candidates  "anti-apartment" stances with a big grain of salt. 

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