February 25, 2013, was supposed to be the City Commission's FINAL reading and vote for The Streets of Brentwood project. Instead, the developer withdrew the plans after revising them and presenting the revised plans to each Commissioner individually just before the voting day. Below is a synopsis of the Commissioners' comments made about Streets of Brentwood at the regularly scheduled Commission meeting.
City leaders speak out on Streets of Brentwood
With the constraints of a rezoning vote off of their
shoulders, Brentwood City Commission members took the opportunity to
share their first public thoughts on the withdrawn Streets of Brentwood
mixed-use development plan at the commission’s Monday night meeting.
A second and final vote on the requested rezoning of 17 acres of
prime commercial property from C-1 (Commercial Office) to C-4/SR (Town
Center with Special Restrictions) was long expected to be on the Feb. 25
agenda. Public outcry among other issues led the developers, H.G. Hill
Realty and GBT, to withdraw the request on Feb. 15.
A handful of citizens, at least one newly engaged in city politics,
also spoke out on issues related to the now-defunct proposal,
specifically the future of the city’s C-4 (Town Center commercial)
The commissioners speak
Betsy Crossley spoke from a prepared, multi-page statement that served
as both an explanation of the rezoning process and a lesson in civics,
citizenship and civility. She told the audience, which was significantly
larger than usual, that the process had worked and that she appreciated
that so many citizens had the “courage and patience” to work together
and get involved.
She pointed out that the rezoning was the first true mixed-use
development plan to come to the city under amended C-4 zoning
requirements and that everyone involved had grown through the process.
Crossley chided many of those who were against the rezoning, however,
for the condemnation of the developers who brought the plan and
development in general.
“While many might characterize the (development) industry as
opportunistic, in reality, none of us would have the very homes we live
in had there not been a developer willing to invest in Brentwood. We
would not have Kroger, Brenthaven, nor Maryland Farms. We would not
have the office buildings that house thousands of jobs nor the many
corporate headquarters we have here,” she said.
“Whether you like developers or not, they are part of the reason
Brentwood is now a great place to live, and I might add, many of them
are our citizens and your neighbors.
Crossley also spoke out against the “innuendo” and accusations of malfeasance made against the commission.
“The ethics of the members of this board of commissioners have been
questioned. While I can agree that there are elected officials in
office today throughout our nation whom many of us consider less than
diligent, less than well informed or less than ethical, that is not the
case with this group of public servants…
“While opinions on various issues may differ between our members, you
will find that a singular purpose of making Brentwood, Tenn. the best
city possible for her constituents -- and that purpose being carried out
with integrity -- is a hallmark of each member of this board of
The second-term commissioner gave the first public description of a
revised concept plan shared individually by the Streets of Brentwood’s
development team with city commissioners the week prior to the plan’s
The revised plan featured a total of 750,000 square feet -- a
200,000-square foot reduction from the original. It had only one
residential building that backed up to Maryland Way Park. The office
buildings were reduced in size, as was the proposed cinema. There was a
substantial increase in the space allocated to retail development.
“Beyond this reduction in density, this reduced plan included the
originally proposed infrastructure changes,” Crossley said, “including
the new street connecting Eastpark and Chadwick, retail along Franklin
and within the interior of the complex, and office buildings facing
“With the same infrastructure changes and less density, the resulting
traffic impact would have also been substantially less than the plan
most of you are familiar with.”
She shared that she believed there were still issues to be resolved,
she was extremely disappointed to have come so close to publicly
considering “a more reasonable, substantially reduced proposal that was
very much like what I have heard so many of you say Brentwood needs”
only to have it never “reach the point of public consideration”
Crossley’s 18-minute address ended with this: “It is my hope -- and
prayer, honestly -- that we continue to have meaningful discussions
between this board, citizens and our commercial partners regarding the
future impact of redevelopment in our northern business district, our
Crossley’s statement can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
Going forward together
Regina Smithson said the most important thing she has taken away from
the past few months is the need to revisit C-4, particularly the
amendments that were made in 2010 that expanded the Town Center
district’s potential footprint, increased allowed density and made part
of it contiguous with residential properties.
Now, she said, the most important thing “is to talk about what we’re
going to do moving forward.” Smithson has suggested the city host a
public workshop that will bring all interested parties to the table to
learn about what’s currently allowed under C-4 zoning and to gather
ideas on how it might be improved.
Smithson also read a statement she sent to Brentwood Home Page following the withdrawal that has not yet been published:
“The proposed development for The Streets of Brentwood has been very
difficult for everyone involved. I respect the decision by the
developer to pull this project due to ‘financial’ risk. The number of
citizens involved has been tremendous and included people in
neighborhoods all around the city.
“The concerns seemed to focus on the ‘rentals’/apartments/condos,
additional school enrollment, density and of course, the traffic a
project of this magnitude would bring. I share those same concerns and
believe it is time to revisit the C-4 Zoning (Mixed Use) Ordinance and
the area that could possibly be rezoned to C-4.
“I would like to thank everyone who contacted me whether for or
against TSOB project. I have served on the Brentwood City Commission 22
years and have found citizens involvement to be the key element of our
Playing by the rules
the commission’s representative on the city’s planning commission, Rhea
Little heard an additional presentation and cast an additional vote
concerning Streets of Brentwood. In December, a majority of the planning
commission voted to recommend that the city commission approve the
rezoning request and concept plan, though it did recommend that the
density be reduced by 50,000 square feet.
Of his vote at the Planning Commission, which some have criticized,
Little explained that by law the Planning Commission’s charge is to
determine if a project brought before it meets the technical standards
of the city.
He used an analogy of a Little League umpire who can’t change the
rules in the fifth inning of a baseball game. “I have to decide on the
game on the rules when the game started,” he said, which in this case
were the C-4 zoning standards as they are now stated.
In response to a citizen who spoke out Monday against aspects of C-4
then admitted he had lived in the city since 1992 but had never voted in
a municipal election, Little gave an update on Brentwood resident Charlie Carr. Carr, a member of the US Army’s 510th Combat Engineer Clearance Company, just returned from a tour in Afghanistan.
“They do that so we have the right to vote,” Little said. “Many, many
people have paid a high price for that right. We make it easy to vote,”
he said, citing early voting opportunities in addition to Election
Days. He called voting “a blessing I think we too often take for
Everyone can’t be the ‘last one in’
First-term commissioner Jill Burgin noted that a wise mentor had recently told her, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
The city’s population has grown by 50 percent since 2000, she said, “because of our greatness. People don’t just end up here.”
She cited projections that the greater Nashville Metropolitan Area is
expected to grow by a million people in the next 25 years “and a great
many of them will look at Brentwood.” But she many people want to “close
the gate” after they get here.
Burgin shared a story about one of the hundreds of emails she
received in response to the rezoning proposal. It was sent from a
citizen complaining about the city’s growth. She wrote Burgin that the
meadow with a beautiful rolling hill behind her Brentwood home was being
turned into “spec home hell.”
Burgin said she checked the address of the author to see what new
development she was talking about. What she discovered is that the
writer lives in a subdivision that’s less than 5 years old, one built on
property that just a few years ago provided those who came before their
own views of rolling hills.
“The truth is, we can’t all be the ‘last one in,’” she said.
The process that ultimately ended in the Streets of Brentwood plan
being withdrawn gave all a “clear vision of what is allowed under C-4,”
Burgin continued. “Now that we know what we’re dealing with,” the city
has an opportunity to review it.
No evil in this
Dunn has survived many rezoning conflicts in her long tenure on the
city commission. If there’s one thing she’s learned, she said, it’s that
even when people disagree, “it doesn’t make anyone evil.
“If you find you are in disagreement with a project, it’s not the person bringing the project, it’s the project.”
As to the C-4 zoning as it stands today, “maybe we abandon it, maybe
we fix it.” The important thing is to deal with it, she said.
acknowledged and thanked all who had shared their opinions with her over
the course of the process and invited all to be a part of the
continuing conversations about Town Center’s future. The two issues she
heard over and over, she said, were an “unequivocal” lack of support for
any rental residential units and a desire on the part of residential
neighbors that they have some protection “so they’re not inundated with
High risk, high reward
Mayor Rod Freeman spoke primarily on two points, first the Brentwood
2020 Plan and second, the message sent to the developers who brought the
Streets project to the city and the message future developers will
Of the 2020 Plan -- the city’s guidebook to growth, Freeman said it
had been brought up several times in public and private conversations.
The plan contains multiple surveys that reflect opinions regarding
mixed-use development, residential density and other topics.
“The thing is, you have to read it in its entirety,” he said of the
2020 Plan, noting that throughout the document and its 2006 update, a
lot of information contradicts itself if taken out of context.
As for the city’s message about what it wants in a Town Center
district and its desire for a small downtown, Freeman said Brentwood
needs to come to grips with the intent of C-4 zoning standards so it can
send a clear message to developers about “what the city desires and
where it desires it.”
Freeman echoed Crossley’s disappointment that citizens did not have the opportunity to see what the revised plan looked like.
In the end, Freeman said he felt the developers pulled the project
because they “felt like going forward they didn’t have the support of
this board with the residential.”
The city needs developers willing “to take risks on our behalf. With
high risks comes high rewards; low risk, low rewards,” Freeman said. But
“going forward we need to communicate clearly … We can’t tell them one
thing then do another.”
Strict rules, strict processes
have done the process,” said Mayor Paul Webb, speaking last. “We have
strict rules and we follow the process. We treat everybody the same.
“The process has worked,” he stated.
Citizens continue the conversation
Prior to individual commissioners’ reports, several citizens accepted
the invitation to address the board. Among them were Gerald Richter (note from Preserve Brentwood: is actually Gerald Witcher),
who read an open letter to the commission.
During the rezoning process, Richter had voiced specific concerns
about an increase in violent crime if the Streets concept plan and its
high-density residential units had been approved. On Monday he
reiterated many of the issues opponents’ have voiced over the past few
months in anticipation of future plans coming before the board.
“The majority of residents in Brentwood are opposed to any and all
forms of mixed-use, high-density housing,” he read. “It is a direct
assault on the principles and benefits of one acre per home zoning
restrictions. High density housing results in additional traffic
congestion, overcrowding of our schools and increased violent crime.
“Residents of this community pay a premium price to live here and you
have no higher obligation as commissioners than to protect our quality
of life. It is time to either eliminate C4 zoning completely or modify
ordinances in a way which stops developers from building more high
density housing in Brentwood.
“This matter is urgent to voters and it requires your immediate and undivided attention.”
Richter’s letter can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
Also addressing the commission was Brentwood native Devin McClendon.
He shared he had lived through several rezoning requests over the past
decades, almost all of which came with threats of increased traffic,
crime and impact on schools.
Specifically, he talked about Foxboro Square, one of the few
condominium projects approved in the city, and Landmark, a unique
development near Maryland Farms that features single family homes on
lots much smaller than the one-acre average.
“Neither one of those developments have caused the downfall of our
community,” McClendon said. “We’re still here and we’re still a strong,