|I M P R E S S I O N S
by Donnie Hall
|Donnie Hall is a husband,
father, veteran, runner,
writer, actor, dog
and freelance writer. He
is also an avid baseball fan
and suffers from a
chronic case of
wanderlust. He lives and
writes in Nashville, TN.
The question at hand,
however, was not what
any of them individually
desired, but rather, did
the application pass the
litmus test of the law?
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of Nashville's
Metropolitan Planning Commission. I dare say, watching paint dry might
have been a more pleasurable experience for most people However,
somewhere in the midst of it all, I witnessed something special that
would have made even old John Adams a proud founding father.
Chairman Greg Adkins and the other members of the Commission took
a seemingly unpopular stand and in doing so accomplished something
uniquely American: they championed the Rule of Law.
Here's the story...
Some twenty-six items were on the agenda that evening, three of which required lengthy discussion by way of public hearings.
One of those hearings was a request from a developer for approval of a concept plan for a new subdivision. The proposed
subdivision consits of extending a road and developing 37 lots, including nine two-family lots.
When the hearing opened, staffers provided a history of the project. The developer spoke next stating that he had followed all
steps laid out by the Commission and that he believed the subdivision should be approved.
In opposition, approximately a dozen neighbors waited patiently for their two minutes to address the Commissioners. Citing
increased traffic, lack of notification, and significantly smaller lot sizes, the opponents built and emotionally strong case for
disapproval. (Here is where it is important to note that I was an impartial observer and had no "dog in the hunt.")
After the pros and cons were argued from the floor, the Commission began its
deliberations. First, Chairman Atkins consulted counsel, who provided a synopsis
and advises on which state laws and local ordinances applied to the case. Next,
staffers from the Planning Department were questioned to ensure all elements of the
law had been effectively met. Once such assurances were made, the various
Commissioners took their turns to ask questions of staff and counsel.
Despite a couple of outbursts from the audience (which the Chairman firmly and
politely put down), the opposing points were tackled one at a time. Traffic and
notifications were explained. Discussion was held on why the proposed lots in this
subdivision are allowed to be a fraction the size of the neighbors' one-acre tracts.
There was also talk of green spaces and new versus existing development.
As the Commissioners discussed the issue, it seemed evident to me that there was a
modicum of empathy for the opposition. After all, who would want their peaceful
neighborhood to experience sudden change and have a marked increase in traffic?
In the end, the proposal was approved with only one dissenting vote, which was cast only after the outcome had become
In retrospect, I was reminded that we live in a nation of laws. For better or worse, I was encouraged to see the Rule of Law
upheld that evening, even it what may appear to be a seemingly insignificant forum.
As I was driving home, another thought occurred to me. Numerous reports of late claim Nashville will be growing by
approximately 150-thousand people per year for (at least) the next decade. If this Music City Boom really does happen, our
new neighbors will certainly need homes in which to live.
In the coming years, I suspect many more quiet neighborhoods will suffer from the pangs of growth and change. Likewise, the
Metropolitan Planning Commission will face many difficult decisions.
My hope for the future is that they will continue to approach each new challenge in the same thoughtful and professional
manner I witnessed the other night.
The question at hand, however, was not what any of them individually desired, but rather, did the application pass the litmus
test of the law?