Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Letter to the Editor

The News Herald (Hermitage, Donelson, Old Hickory paper) wrote an article on the building approval. This is a letter that one homeowner has sent to the paper refuting some of the statements.

Dear Editor:

Re: The News Herald 5/17/2007 article, “Council OKs 3-Story Office on Central Pike, i.e., corner of Central Pike & Dodson Chapel Road

As an actively involved Hermitage neighbor, I am concerned that your recent article regarding the three-story medical office building on Central Pike in Hermitage included misleading information and was missing some very important facts about what actually happened.

To begin, there were NOT three community meetings held by the councilman or the developer for this project. Councilman Harold White told the Council that in 2005 he held a community meeting under a tent but that no one had attended. This was probably due to the fact that the only notice was a short paragraph in this newspaper delivered to neighbors two hours before the meeting. Many received it the day after.

White told the Planning Commission that indeed he had NOT held a community meeting in 2007 for this current rezoning. He claimed the setback was the only issue before them, when in fact there was much more. Now the developer (the same one as the Villages of Riverwood) wanted three-stories instead of two, a change from retail/office and residential to medical, 35,000 square feet, as well as the change in the building setback.

The Metro Council, concerned over a conflict between the comments made by the neighbors and the claims made by the co-sponsor, deferred the vote on second reading and asked the sponsor to meet with the community. After this, Hermitage Meadows neighbors sponsored their own community meeting. It was here that most neighbors first learned of the rezoning and voiced their concern and extreme opposition. They were extremely opposed to a three-story building and losing their Neighborhood Center land use policy designed by them in the Sub-Area 14 Plan. The neighbors asked for a compromise. As a result of this meeting, Councilman White agreed that neighborhood leaders and the developer should meet again to work out a compromise.

This action gave the neighbors and the other Council members in attendance the perception that the developers would work with the neighbors to come up with a compromise. The Council voted to pass on second reading and defer indefinitely because White told the Council that he wanted time for neighbors and developers to work out a compromise. Unfortunately, when this meeting finally occurred, White and the developers told neighbors that there would be no negotiating and no compromise. White's comments were, "You have two choices, you can get on board with the developers, or you don’t. Either way we are building a three-story medical office building here."

At third reading, White told the Council he had held three community meetings. Was he counting the tent in 2005, the neighbors meeting, and the negotiations meeting intended for a few neighbors where White and the developer broke their agreement to compromise? At least three members of Council spoke in opposition to the bill. The Planning Staff revealed that this rezoning would indeed change the building from two-stories to three, increase the square footage, change the plan from retail/office with residential, as well as the building setback. The Planning Staff agreed with what the neighbors had said all along, that the setback was not the only issue.

White's agreement to work toward compromise had been broken. A quick voice vote was taken with votes both for and against. This unusually quick vote had many believing they were voting to cut off debate and not the bill. A machine vote was not taken.

The citizens of Hermitage deserve to read all of the facts of what really happens with decisions that affect their community. Councilman White signed an agreement to support the Sub-Area 14 Plan, yet not once has this occurred. He has supported developers over constituents for the past four years. He ignored many signed petitions against re-zoning issues, i.e., re-zoning on Central Pike, ignored Donelson neighbors on a McCrory Creek office building, ignored over 500 neighbors who opposed Villages of Riverwood, ignored 600 Hermitage Hills neighbors against Ravenwood, and ignored 100% of Donelson’s Riverpoint neighbors who opposed commercial encroachment into their neighborhood. This current rezoning was no different.

It is important that the citizens know all of the facts when it comes to details about the actions and decisions made by their elected officials. The Sub-Area 14 Plan created by citizens for Hermitage and Donelson is being chopped up and destroyed by a councilman who refuses to respect the plan and his constituents. This has got to stop!! Remember, we have an election in August.

Bobbie Forrest

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