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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Maytown Nixed

I’ll spare you the suspense: Nashville won! The Planning Commission voted against Maytown zoning last night at 10:45. (Now last Thursday night at 10:45).

It was an unbelievable scene: dozens of citizens sitting silently for six and a half hours, listening carefully to last night’s Planning Commission hearing, the last of the Maytown debates. And our volunteer Planning Commission, heroically and politely paying attention. I’d like to send them all roses, but a sixpack of Red Bull would probably be more welcome.

We actually learned something new: the Maytown site lies directly under the approaches to John Tune airport, and, as we heard from an experienced pilot, there will be noise complaints. (Tony G. has also been admonished in a letter from airport authorities dated weeks ago that he should mention this in all presentations to the public. Well, he’s been busy. Maybe he doesn’t read his mail.)

But the most riveting thing was the Commission debate. As best I could tell, Maytown’s main attraction was that it is Bold! and Audacious! I would have felt better about the votes for the project if those commissioners had been convinced it was Sustainable! or Will Attract Rich Executives Who Want to Drive by Prisons and Don’t Mind the Drone of Airplanes!
The potential for destruction of adjoining neighborhoods, the opposition of the corresponding council members, the low odds for success, the effect on downtown and other business areas, the likelihood of domino development through the rest of the Bend—none of this seemed to matter much. Maytown was the Bold! and Audacious! plan that would protect Nashville from sprawling suburban development in the Bend, though generally businessmen only put suburbs on cheap land, and the Mays have priced themselves pretty much out of that option.

Nitpicking aside, we saw some very thoughtful struggles with the contradictions of putting intense development in a cowpasture, reality wrestling with wishful thinking, and we heard some quiet but well-informed oratory on Nashville’s future, fairness to existing commercial property owners, and the need to slow down and consider the Third Vision—neither suburban lots or highrise condos, but incremental change in an agricultural and rural area.

And we thought we had lost! The Commission refused to vote the plan down in the first vote, but then did not vote it through in the second. Yep, we had a hard time figuring it out too. My neighbor Kathleen couldn’t stand the suspense, thought we had lost, and was driving home in tears when she got the phone call to join the mad throng at our house for an endless series of toasts and analysis. I finally went upstairs at 2, to restless but contented dreams fueled by the sound of song and laughter.

Now I want to do something Bold! and Audacious! Like take a nap.

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