Thursday, April 26, 2012

Former Salemtown association president expresses opposition to SNNA mixed use proposal

Tuesday, Freddie O'Connell, recent past president of Salemtown Neighbors spoke out against the association's executive board plan to request rezoning of unspecified sections of Salemtown from residential to mixed use. He sent his feedback to association elist:
Here are the reasons I'd personally oppose additional MUN zoning in the neighborhood:

  • Perhaps most importantly, it runs counter to the North Nashville Community Plan, which specifically recommends, after much community input, preserving commercial activity for corridors. Salemtown is recommended to be a residential neighborhood with part in maintenance and part evolving (basically, southern Salemtown is anticipated to benefit from slightly higher density of residential development). In fact, they recommend rezoning some existing MUN to conform to the plan. Dozens of meetings with Planning staff were held throughout last year, and erasing that plan would be a shame, especially since it involved many long-time residents who have not historically been involved in SNNA.
  • The retail establishments that have existed in the almost 5 years I've lived here have not, in my opinion, strengthened the neighborhood. What is now Amin's Market (and has operated under two other names since I've lived here) continues to be a source of vice (one shooting, multiple incidents of sex crimes at the intersection, multiple reports of drug activity, and enough of a general nuisance that a police camera was installed). There was a closed door / closed shades beauty parlor at the corner of Garfield and Rosa L. Parks Boulevard when we moved here. It did not have the neighborly atmosphere that Germantown's Gloss does. And there's a BP. I know some people enjoyed the market near 4th and Coffee. I never got a chance to go there before it closed, in part because of its unusual operating hours. But it never struck me as the sort of anchor that the Germantown businesses at 5th and Madison have been for that area. Non-retail establishments (Plumbers of Nashville, Franklin Finishing) also do not do much to improve the quality of either character or life in Salemtown (This isn't a knock against the businesses themselves, just a suggestion that they are here in some cases against zoning).
  • Nearby retail establishments of the variety bandied about when this topic comes up for discussion (e.g., "coffeshops") have had to curtail their operating hours as a result of a lack of business. Namely, both DrinkHaus (a coffeeshop I'd prefer to patronize over Starbucks, which is technically in Salemtown at Rosa L. Parks and Dominican) and Zackie's (whose owner, Mike, lives in Salemtown) have both cut back their hours over the past year. They're both in Germantown, which is closer to downtown, almost completely gentrified, and fully walkable from Salemtown. If we're not keeping good local businesses vibrant a few blocks away, how are we going to convince good businesses that Salemtown is a better bet? I suppose it's possible that Salemtown residents could consider Germantown "too far," but that position would make me more concerned, not less, that good businesses would fail here.
  • I have yet to hear a plan about how we will prevent shady businesses that offer undesirable services from taking advantage of laxer zoning or, the positive alternative, how we will recruit good businesses. Beyond that, I haven't heard much other than generics about what exactly we want in Salemtown. Personally, most of the things I could want in a livable neighborhood (including good food and drinks) are in Germantown or at the Farmers' Market. So I'm interested in what's missing and why it makes sense to invite very broad commercial uses into our neighborhood without a strategic plan preceding the zoning.
  • Werthan will continue to redevelop. Just across Salemtown's souther[n] border, Werthan packaging is slated for relocation and, ultimately, redevelopment. When this happens, it will bring mixed use to our border, under the purview of Germantown. I think waiting to see (and participate in) this redevelopment would be a much more reasonable time to consider whether MUN within Salemtown would be of benefit to the community.

I'm a former SNNA president myself. I echo everything Freddie wrote in his open email. I would also add that there is nothing, including the North Nashville Community Plan, that stops small businesses from requesting rezoning of houses to "Commercial" if they desire to start a coffeehouse or nail salon à la Berry Hill. Mixed use requests from businesses should be judged as they arise rather than jumped at prematurely. However, mixed use is not the only means of allowing commercial use in Salemtown, and any request should either be consistent with the community plan or have some ironclad, irrefutable reasons for altering the plan.

1 comment:

  1. I should point out that neither am I anti-developer nor context-appropriate zoning. I'm always willing to consider a project on the basis of whether it improves the character of the neighborhood. Through the years, we've had both good and bad developments and developers both willing and unwilling to engage the neighborhood. In my opinion, the latter do the better work, by far. Also, I'm struggling to think of either a business or a multi-family complex (not counting duplexes or townhomes) currently in Salemtown that I'd rate as improving the character or livability of the community.