Planning and Common Sense

"Good night and good luck!"


Chicken Little

I served four years as a Russian linguist in the Army Security Agency. After my discharge, I went to the University of Missouri journalism school on the G.I. Bill and was selected for the school's Washington Reporting Program. I worked briefly for the Federal Times in Washington and then spent 18 months as a business reporter in Lancaster, Pa. Next, I moved to Fremont, Calif., where I was city hall reporter for six years at the Fremont Argus. My last 22 years were spent at Dow Jones, first on a wire service and finally for the online Wall Street Journal. After my retirement I taught two writing classes per semester at Rutgers University for about five years. I had no plan to write again and drifted into two blogs by accident. One is on swing music, and the other focuses on city planning. I am not opposed to growth, but I believe my new home, Murfreesboro, TN, will be a much better city if we plan for it with care rather than just let it happen. Many of the people on the city council now have a 19th Century idea that it's fine to put heavy industry next to where people live. I want to change that. That is not the same thing as being anti-growth or against progress and jobs.

City Considers New Industrial Zone That would Ban Most Obnoxious Uses In Heavy Industrial

(I apologize for an error in this story. The Murfreesboro planning commission meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. and on the third Wednesday at 1 p.m. I am used to working as a reporter in towns where both city council and the planning commission meet at night. The 1 p.m. time for today’s meeting was clearly listed on the agenda, and I somehow read past it. I’m getting too old for this game.)

We just got the best news on the planning front since Davy Crockett walked the streets of Murfreesboro.

The planning commission Wednesday will consider a new zoning district that gives developers plenty of leeway without attaching so many toxic uses that are associated with heavy industrial zoning.

John Harney, a major developer here, has used a formula to get the heavy industrial zoning he wants while tossing a sop to residents. If the council will rezone a parcel to heavy industry, he signs a commitment not to put any of the really nasty heavy industrial uses ( like fertilizer plants, petroleum and coal products refining or  nuclear materials facilities) on the land.

That’s called “contract zoning”, and it is a dumb way to run a city. It’s unclear whether Harney’s commitments would bind future owners of property in the zone. It’s a question to ask at the meeting. If not, they represent a kind of “ticking bomb” that could go off in the future if the existing owners ever sell their properties. This was the maneuver Harney used to get a heavy industrial rezoning he wanted on the Amazon side of Joe B. Jackson Parkway next to Magnolia Trace.. That contract zoning formula is also being used on a pending rezoning request to heavy industry for 233 acres of land south of Rutherford Blvd and between the Sommsrby residential development and Butler Drive.

The new zoning category, called “general industrial” seems like a win-win for developers and homeowners. It would ban:

— Manufacture, Storage, Distribution of:
• Asbestos Products
• Automobile Dismantlers and Recyclers
• Chemicals
• Composting Facility
• Fertilizer
• Leather and Leather Products, Tanning and Finishing
• Lumber and Wood Products
• Mobile Home Construction
• Paper Mills
• Petroleum, Liquified Petroleum Gas and Coal Products except refining
• Petroleum and Coal Products Refining
• Primary Metal Manufacturing
• Saw Mills
• Scrap Processing Yard
• Scrap Metal Processors
• Scrap Metal Distribution and Storage
• Secondary Material Dealers
• Refuse Processing, Treatment and Storage
• Landfill
• Junkyard

Each of the above uses would still be allowed by right or by Special Use Permit in the
H-I zoning district. Adult oriented businesses would be barred from the G-I
district, but would continue to be allowed by right in the H-I zoning district subject to certain
distance and separation requirements.

Hopefully, the new zone would eliminate heavy industrial zoning near homes.

Continue reading “City Considers New Industrial Zone That would Ban Most Obnoxious Uses In Heavy Industrial”


Art Of The Deal: They Got A Higher Wall, And The Developer Will Pay For It

“An eight-foot wall isn’t high enough. All we want is a fair shake. Treat us with some respect.” Barney Drake, a Magnolia Trace resident.

A light industrial, office and commercial development, which has gone through ownership and other changes, moved closer to reality Wednesday night.The planning commission recommended that city council members approve the amended planned industrial district off Joe B Jackson with one major change.

It’s a season of walls

Thanks to Councilman Eddie Smotherman, who is also on the planning  commission, Drake got an extra foot on a wall between the development and his home. Maybe it wasn’t all that he wanted, but even that result was a surprise to this jaded observer.

In all, residents living in the adjacent Magnolia Trace subdivision got some concessions but came away dissatisfied from Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.

Word from the bird: It's smart not to buy a home of the edge of a subdivision.
Word from the bird: “Don’t buy a home here on the edge of a tract.”

“We know we can’t please everybody,” Vice Mayor Doug Young, who sits on the planning commission, told departing residents.

The sad truth is that the neighborhood meeting and negotiations would be unnecessary if city leaders would only recognize a simple planning principle — residences and industrial uses don’t go together. Other communities know this.

Continue reading “Art Of The Deal: They Got A Higher Wall, And The Developer Will Pay For It”

Playing Kick The Can Down The Road With Influential Developer Bob Parks

There are some people in town who oppose growth entirely and would like to go back to quieter days — 1970 perhaps.

That has never been the view here at this site. Growth has brought us world class medical care, marvelous shopping options and events like the recent JazzFest on the square.

Planned vs. haphazard growth is issue

The real issue is whether we can grow in a planned way that doesn’t degrade our quality of life. Specifically, the question is whether we will provide the roads this growth requires or merely superimpose new housing on the existing infrastructure. That is the unfortunate path New Jersey followed in the area around New York City. Rapid growth there simply overwhelmed the roads and public services.

City council members confronted this issue last Thursday when two families petitioned the city to annex 285 acres of farmland so Parks Development can build  771 homes on 242 of those acres.

Continue reading “Playing Kick The Can Down The Road With Influential Developer Bob Parks”

Your City Contact List For Making Comments About The Former Church

Mayor Shane McFarland: Phone: 615 642-9244; email:

Jennifer Moody, assistant city manager: Phone 615 849 2629; email:

Vice Mayor Doug Young: Phone: 615 893-7721; email:

Councilman Ron Washington: Phone: 615 890-0097; email:

Councilman Eddie Smotherman: Phone: 615 653-6103;

Councilman Rick LaLance: Phone: 615 631-6368; email:

Councilman Bill Shacklett Phone: 615 893-2369; email:

Councilwoman Madelyn Scales Harris: Phone: 615 808-8955; email:

City Seeks Your Ideas On Redeveloping Franklin Synergy Block It Now Owns

Now that the city has acquired the block between where Franklin Synergy Bank is located, it is asking for your advice on how best to redevelop the property.

Assistant City Manager Jennifer Moody outlined a program for city council last week to reach out to citizens for their views on the future of the block rather than passively waiting for people to email comments to city hall.

Continue reading “City Seeks Your Ideas On Redeveloping Franklin Synergy Block It Now Owns”

Pay No Attention To Claim Site Is Going Dark; I’m Using Nixon Option

At the risk of sounding like Richard Nixon after he lost the Calfornia governor’s race in 1962, this will be my final post on this blog. Well, maybe not.

(As that wise philosopher Emily Litella once observed: “Never mind.”)

Continue reading “Pay No Attention To Claim Site Is Going Dark; I’m Using Nixon Option”

Historic Former Church In Town May Be Saved From Wrecking Ball After All

The fate of a historic former church at E College and N. College Streets appears brighter coming out of a city council workshop last night than it did going in.

The former Methodist church dates from 1888.
The former Methodist church dates from 1888.

The future of the vacant church now rests solely with the council. A city deal to buy the property it sits on for $1.55 million from Franklin Synergy Bank closed last month. The bank will lease the property from the city until its Rutherford County headquarters building along Medical Center Parkway is completed.

Continue reading “Historic Former Church In Town May Be Saved From Wrecking Ball After All”

Citizen Activism Works If A Developer Decides To Be A Good Neighbor

If all developers wanted to be good citizens while making money, we could probably do away with the planning department and become libertarians. Unfortunately, pigs don’t fly, and hell hasn’t frozen over yet.

Continue reading “Citizen Activism Works If A Developer Decides To Be A Good Neighbor”

While Apartment Project Approved, Residents Get One More Concession

It was virtually the final round of a months long duel between a developer who wants to build as many as 270 apartment units off Manson Pike, and residents of the neighboring Brookwood subdivision. The latter are dead set against having that many apartments as neighbors.

The developer got the rezoning he needed to proceed, but one resident, Tammie Cleek, was still throwing high heat as city council neared the rezoning vote last night.

If you are ever in a dispute, and Cleek is on the other side, you might consider switching sides.

Continue reading “While Apartment Project Approved, Residents Get One More Concession”

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