An apartment developer, who has bent over backwards to please neighboring residents in single family homes called a town meeting Thursday night to try to win them over.

His aim was to convince them that they have nothing to fear but fear itself. They weren’t buying. While no one came away from the meeting happy, it is likely the developer will get city approval for his luxury apartments off Manson Pike.

About 20 residents showed up at Cason Lane Academy to express their distaste for apartments as neighbors.
About 20 residents showed up at Cason Lane Academy to express their distaste for apartments as neighbors.

There are no villains in the piece, unless it’s city planners. In fact, one resident implied that the developer was the kind of man he wouldn’t mind sharing a beer with under different circumstances.

Bent over backwards

The developer, Charles Haskett, a principal partner at Bonavic Development of Birmingham, Ala., probably left the meeting wondering what he had to do to satisfy these people.

— They complained that the project would wipe out a historic house on the property. He pledged to spend his own money fixing up the house and to make it the theme of his development.

— They said they were worried about their privacy. He pledged to plant new trees wherever an existing buffer between the two properties is thin.

— When they complained about security, he said he was open to the idea of running a metal fence between his development and their homes.

Let’s not head down the Antioch route

“You guys are great,” said Joe Lozano, one of the residents.”You have all your ducks in order. Everything we are asking for you’ve gone above and beyond. If I met you anywhere else, I’d say you are great guys, but we’re on a professional issue here. The bottom line is we don’t want it (apartments as neighbors). And I’ll tell you why we don’t want it. I don’t blame you guys. You guys are developers, and your aim is to make money. I blame our city planners because this thing was zoned for something else. … We’re becoming an apartment city rather than (a city of) homes.

Maybe we have a villain after all

Lozano said that when he was in the military serving at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he drove down one to what was then called Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch. He said the place was one of the most beautiful spots he had ever seen.

“Now look at it,” he complained. “They’ve developed more 3,500 to 5,000 apartment units around there. .. Your planners want to make this a satellite of Nashville instead of a free-standing community like Franklin. Why can’t we be more like that?”

“It’s (Antioch) trash,” one lady in the crowd said.

Two opposing views and never the twain shall meet

Bret Keast of Kendig Keast: What he's selling many residents don't want near them.
Bret Keast of Kendig Keast: What he’s selling many residents don’t want near them.

There is a clash of views between city leaders and residents. What these people are saying echoes complaints of residents in The Reserve off Compton Road, who didn’t want homes on 6,000-square-foot lots near them. Or homeowners in Sommerville, who objected to the city rezoning property on Joe B Jackson, in their back yard, to heavy industry.

On the other side is the view of city councilmen, city planners and their consultant, who is helping plan for an expected doubling of the city’s population by 2035.

We don’t have to become apartment city

“Whether you like it or not, they’re coming, and we have to plan for it,” is the official line coming from City Hall.

Ryan Collins, the architect on the project, lays out his site plan for the residents.
Ryan Collins, the architect on the project, lays out his site plan for the residents.

The planning study by the Kendig Keast Collaborative, in Sugar Land, Texas, is basically an attack on single-family home living. It says young people today want to live in high density housing in an urban, walkable setting. Besides, the consultant adds, single family homes chew up too much land. There isn’t enough buildable land in Murfreesboro and the county to house in single family homes everyone who is coming.

Fix the roads before issuing invitations

So what, the residents reply. These people aren’t coming here if there is no room at the inn. Our roads are overcrowded now, and the governor has been touring the state telling everyone there isn’t enough money in the till to improve most

"That's pretty funny coming from someone who arrived her three years ago."
“That’s pretty funny coming from someone who arrived here three years ago.”

of them. There is no requirement that we provide housing when these newcomers show up looking for homes here. If they can’t find what they are looking for here they will go somewhere else.

The evening boiled down to the residents listing their complaints and Haskett and his team responding. But the underlying issue for the residents was that Haskett and his apartment project aren’t welcome in the neighborhood.

A plan that respects the historic Springield home

Ryan Collins, a Birmingham-based architect, and Clyde Rountree, of the local engineering firm of  Huddleston-Steele, outlined some of the key features of the project:

— First, the developer has abandoned his original aim to seek a simple rezoning that would allow him to build 16 dwelling units per acre. Instead, he is using the planned residential development process, which gives city planners and residents more control over what emerges on the property.

he cave entrance is at the bottom of the open space triangle on the right. Springfield house is at the end of the entrance road in the middle. The pool is on the far left.
The cave entrance is at the bottom of the open space triangle on the right. Springfield house is at the end of the entrance road running horizontally off Manson Pike. The pool is on the far left. Hallmark Drive, which runs vertically down the middle of this plan will connect to the neighboring subdivision for emergency vehicles only.

— The historic Springfield house will be preserved as a functional home, lived in perhaps by a groundskeeper on the property. The home will be a theme for the development and a focal point for everyone who enters the main road down the middle of the development. About two acres around the house will be kept open, and the developer will preserve most of the trees there to keep the house setting as natural as possible.

— There were concerns about a swimming pool in the plan. The pool will be fenced and screened so it is not visible from the outside. In addition, the clubhouse is designed as part of an “L-shaped structure that will also screen the pool and block noise.

Buildings near a cave that has a lot of water running through it

— An area to the back of the 17.92-acre parcel, which contains a cave full of water in the wet season, will be part of an open space area. That portion of the site will probably include a retention pond or dry treatment area to control flooding.

— Through grading and other design features, all water that falls on the property will stay on the property.

A Typical building
Typical buildings

— The buildings will be kept away from the cave. Haskett said he doesn’t want kids getting hurt in the cave any more than anyone else does. He hasn’t decided the means yet, but he vowed to keep people from entering the cave, which is underwater in wet periods.

— There won’t be a traffic connection from the apartments to the neighborhood. Hallmark Drive will connect the two developments, but only for emergency vehicles.

— A cemetery near the pool is not part of the apartment property, but it will be respected.

The residents reply

— Will there be blasting? Hasket said it will be minimal because the site is already well suited to his needs. If anyone has an issue, he urged them to report it to him, and his insurance company will likely pay if the blasting causes any foundation damage to nearby homes.

Heather McQuiddy said the cave was uncomfortably close to the buildings on the back of the 17.92-acre site. Haskett said his team has done test borings, and none of his planned buildings are over the cave. Tammie Cleek estimated that during the rainy season more than 500 million gallons of water daily pass out of the cave and under the Interstate to Overall Creek.

“What if it happens?”

“We’re just worried about flooding, sinkholes and all that stuff,” added Cleek. “What if there is a lot of water? Where does it go? You can say no water will leave your property, but what if it happens. We live right next to this place.”

One resident claimed that there are two sinkholes about 1,000 feet away from the property on MTSU land that are each 100 feet deep.

Haskett said every geotechnical report he has looked at in Middle Tennesee contains an element of risk.

— John Kellar was worried about having people who are transient and don’t own their properties as neighbors. He asked Haskett if he would consider converting his project to townhomes. Haskett replied that he has seen many townhome developments go to seed quickly. He added that such a change would cost him about 100 units. The current plan calls for about 270 luxury apartments.

Hoping for a miracle

The odd thing is Haskett can likely get city approval without trying so hard to please his neighbors. Residents don’t have as much influence as those who give to campaigns and appear regularly before the council on business. That’s just the national political game brought down to the local level.

“Miracles do happen,” said Cleek. We’ll see you at the planning commission meeting.”

One man, who was angrier than anyone and described himself as country through and through, stomped out of the meeting near the end.

“Don’t pee down my back and tell me it”s rain,” he shouted.