This article appeared in The Green Hills News:
Rules may change on subdividing lots for denser infill housing
The Metro Planning Commission is set to discuss and could approve new rules next month on how lots can be subdivided, part of a controversial practice of tearing down one house to build two or more.
Hot urban neighborhoods such as Green Hills, Sylvan Park and 12South have seen hundreds of older homes on large lots torn down and then replaced with two or more new homes. Developers and planners say Nashville’s boom requires denser housing targeted to those who want to walk and bike rather than drive. But residents complain the packed-in houses destroy the character of their neighborhoods.
Charlotte Cooper, president of the new Green Hills Neighborhood Association formed to fight a 16-story apartment tower on Hillsboro Road, said the group is “definitely looking forward to new regulations. The way they were interpreted in the past was very harmful to our neighborhoods.”
The new rule are on the agenda of the Thursday, Dec. 12, planning commission meeting. But already the planning department’s staff has changed its interpretation of the subdivision regs adopted in 2011, weighing surrounding properties more heavily.
And one Green Hills property owner and developer cried foul at the most recent planning commission meeting. Planning staff recommended disapproval of the request to split a lot on Lyndawood Drive to build two detached homes. The developer and property owner argued identical requests had been approved until a few weeks ago. Doug Sloan, deputy director of the department, agreed the interpretation had changed based on legal advice. The interpretation now looks at comparable housing to determine if a subdivision fits in. The prior interpretation relied more on the land use policy. With that admission, a majority of the planning commission was ready to overrule its staff and approve the subdivision. “Until we vote on new regulations, we need to stick to the prior interpretation,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jim McLean.
But a Metro Council member at the meeting urged the commission against that. “This has significant implications to our districts,” said Emily Evans, who was present for a different zoning case. She persuaded the commission to defer the Lyndawood case so that council members whose districts are targeted for infill could offer comments. Evans argued the original interpretation in 2011 when the subdivision regulations were adopted was to look first at comparability and then policy. “Somewhere in there it shifted. When staff was asked, they went back … You’re changing what you told us in 2011. If that’s what you’re going to do, I’m going to downzone my district, which is not in the best interests of Nashville.”
Subdivision of property only needs approval by the planning commission, not an OK by Metro Council like zoning changes. But Metro Council members can recommend approval or disapproval.
Council member Carter Todd , whose Green Hills district includes Lyndawood, had urged disapproval of the request and was shocked by the commission’s action. “On a zoning issue, if the local council member says to reject it and staff agrees, it is reckless for the planning commission to go against that. Why have staff if they are not going to listen to them?”Todd said real estate professional typically know that a project is provisional until approval is grants. He suggests that all pending subdivision requests be held until the new regulations are adopted. “And then treat all the cases the same,” Todd said.
Todd said he’d also back community meetings to explain the new regulations and get citizens feedback.
End Of Story.
MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD!
Community meeting December 9: proposed amendments to the Subdivision Regulations
- A draft of the proposed amendments and an online comment form on the Metro Planning Department’s front page
- A public hearing during the regular Planning Commission meeting at 4 pm Thursday, December 12, in the Sonny West Conference Center on the ground floor of the Howard Office Building at 700 Second Avenue South