Nashville is a nice place to live. More people are figuring that out and moving here every year. But just because Nashville is the “It City” doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, so here are the top ten new year’s resolutions for beloved Music City.
10. More mixed-use development. Nashville needs more neighborhood commercial uses and live/work units. Traffic is becoming more of an issue throughout the city and strategic zoning will help solve traffic problems as much as anything. There are four different Mixed Use zoning designations that have varying levels of “intensity,” but they all allow for a combination of residential, retail, and office uses. When CL (commercial limited) zoning is applied to a property, it allows retail, office, restaurant, and other consumer service uses. Imagine walking to the corner store for a gallon of milk instead of dealing with the drive that includes two left turns and a prolonged search for a parking space (Green Hills Kroger) before even getting in the door of the shopping center grocery store.
9. Lower property tax rates. Nashville has benefited from a tremendous amount of infill development over the past few years. Because the existing infrastructure is already in place, the city accounts gain from a larger tax base, without the same expenses of new development on the fringes of the county. Also the assessed values for properties in nearly all neighborhoods will be higher from the rapid appreciation of the past two years. Rates can be lowered and the total taxes collected can still be the same or greater. This is a similar concept to the Laffer Curve. If rates aren’t lowered and the property taxes rise, some families will move to neighboring counties, or out of the area altogether. Higher taxes also typically cause rents to increase, as the tax burden often gets passed on to the tenants, who may be forced to move as well. Low property taxes will keep the city open to more economically diverse residents, and widen the tax base with more growth.
8. Fix the caving in walkway at Radnor Lake. I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t like Radnor Lake State Natural Area. Most Nashvillians see it as a treasure, but the walkway that used to be Otter Creek Road has been deteriorating and getting worse every year. Now the ankle-spraining cracked pavement seems to be sinking in toward the lake. I know it is a State Park and therefore should receive funding from the state. But if the Metro Council and Mayor Karl Dean can easily approve the $18 million dollar Gulch-Sobro pedestrian bridge, then surely they can toss a couple million from the Capital Improvement Budget toward one of the best green spaces in the city.
7. More sidewalks in neighborhoods. This is a common request in nearly every municipality, and it is because people like sidewalks. Neighborhoods like Inglewood, Woodbine, and Cherokee Park would benefit immensely. Sidewalks dress up the sides of the street and add to the curb appeal of the whole neighborhood. Their functionality is unparalleled by providing safer passage for pedestrians. When there are more active pedestrians there is a greater sense of community within the neighborhood. For example, you are way more likely to have a conversation with someone walking their dog than someone driving by in their SUV.
6. More underground utilities for new developments. This is another beautifying feature that improves the overall aesthetics of both residential and commercial developments. Often, underground utilities go unnoticed. That is the point. Hill Center in Green Hills is a perfect example of how clean an area looks when there is minimal interference from electric, phone, and cable lines. Most busy intersections in Nashville have poles and wires cris-crossing in a dizzy display of confusion. More underground utilities would also lessen the need for the much-feared NES (Nashville Electric Service) tree trimming.
5. Sell city-owned properties much quicker. Nashville’s Metro Government owns a lot of property throughout the city. A lot of parcels are acquired from owners who didn’t pay their property taxes. When the payments are delinquent, the property goes to a back tax auction. If no one bids the minimum amount that is due, then ownership is transferred to Metro Government. These properties are then liquidated through the city’s ebid online auction website. However, sometimes it takes a long time until that happens. One example of this is 223 Treutland Avenue, a vacant parcel that I tried to buy this past summer. It was transferred to Metro’s ownership in 1998 for $1,115. That means Metro has been paying for lawn care and losing the annual property taxes for 16 years. I’ll also point out that those taxes collected would have been a lot higher if there was an 1,800 square foot, three bedroom home constructed on the flat lot. In fact, the empty property could easily fetch $50,000-$70,000 in today’s open market, but instead I couldn’t contact anyone in the department who has the authority to decide or knows when it will sell.
4. Forest Hills trash pick up. I know this only applies to a few people who are the “government” of Forest Hills. But as a homeowner who paid property taxes for eight years while living in Forest Hills, “Can you please pick up my trash?” I don’t want my tax dollars going toward the anemic looking bison (made of bushes) on the corner of Hillsboro Pike and Tyne Blvd., or their Christmas bows. According to the Forest Hills budget, the bison meadow cost $8,142 to maintain in 2013. Of course there was plenty of support from within to build an estimated $1,700,000 new city hall three years ago, but no desire to provide a basic service to the residents that they are supposed to serve. That city hall is for 2.5 employee positions. Nearby Oak Hill and Belle Meade furnish trash and recycling pickups within their boundaries, proving that some of Nashville’s “satellite cities” are very competent on this matter. Forest Hills is not.
3. Redevelop the PSC Metals property on the east bank of the Cumberland River. The location adjacent to downtown and LP Field is too valuable to be used for scrap metal recycling. The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, and Korean Veterans Blvd. are great connectors from Sobro. But those bridges need to lead to something other than LP Field, which is only used about two dozen times a year. PSC’s land is prominent and very visible from I-24 and I-40, making it a rather unsightly view for passing motorists. Two of the photos on PSC’s website prove the point perfectly. Tangled masses of pipes, grates, and other indeterminable scrap metal are piled high, with the sleek Pinnacle and AT&T skyscrapers in the background. Metro Government recently opened Cumberland Park in between the two bridges, and a well-designed mixed use development would be perfect for Titans’ crowds and year-round use. There are plenty of established developers that could take on a project this large. Hopefully they will see it as a viable opportunity soon.
2. Alleviate Green Hills Traffic. Studies have been done and various ideas have been contemplated, but nothing has been solved when it comes to the frustrating mass of vehicles in Green Hills. A road repaving project a few years ago added a center turn lane to Hillsboro Pike, making it five total lanes. That didn’t hurt, but there isn’t any more room to widen the road. Plus adding more lanes is like loosening a belt if your belly is too big. It is dealing with the symptom, not the cause. Hillsboro Pike is a thoroughfare for drivers who live south of Green Hills, while it is also the most direct route for destination drivers coming and going to Green Hills shops, services, and the mall. In short, one driver is just trying to get home to Grassland, beside another driver from Bowling Green who is shopping for a new outfit. Nearly 30,000 vehicles a day drive between Glen Echo Road and Hobbs Road. One traffic study showed that 30% of those drivers were just driving from store to store. The “T” intersections of Richard Jones Road, Abbot Martin Road, Glen Echo Road, and Crestmoor Road were built before traffic was a problem, but now they are large contributors to the chaos that ensues during lunchtime and rush hours. The area was originally designed more for cars than walkers. If Green Hills was more pedestrian friendly, would more people park in a single location and walk between stores? Downtown Franklin operates that way, but its historic design was always conducive to walkers perusing the shop fronts. I’m not sure if Green Hills is past the point of no return. It may be destined for a future of vehicular gridlock unless something dramatic happens, like $20/ gallon gasoline or a four lane one-way circle around the business district.
1. Change any multiple-named roads to have one name. There are plenty of examples to choose from around town. Let’s start with Woodmont Blvd. which becomes White Bridge Pike, then turns into Briley Parkway, and completes the circle as Thompson Lane. Yes, that is one road, and no, the driver didn’t make any turns. How is it helpful to have four different names? What purpose is that serving? West End Avenue becomes Harding Road. But don’t confuse that with Harding Place, which runs straight east and west, but has a section in the middle named Battery Lane, then turns back into Harding Place. Why? At times the changes are almost too fast for Siri to keep up with. In the span of a half mile, Cherokee Road changes names to Sloan Road, then Westlawn Drive, and finally 46th Avenue North. Can we please simplify these road names for the sake of drivers and direction-givers throughout the city?
New Year’s resolutions don’t always have the staying power that we hope for and are sometimes quickly forgotten. As we turn the virtual page on our digital calendars or hang up new ones for 2015, let’s continue to make Nashville a great place to live, whether anything on this list is accomplished or not. Happy 2015!