Nashville Metro Council: Approve More Housing in Bellevue
The battle for 417 units in Bellevue continues, but Metro Council has a chance to move the community in the right direction.
Bellevue, where I live, may not be in Nashville’s downtown core, but it has become an attractive area for those seeking to be closer to some of the great outdoor activities that Nashville has to offer, such as the Harpeth River and the Percy/Edwin Warner Parks.
Although Bellevue is about 12 miles from downtown, there’s still ample room for growth that doesn’t take away from the nature and beauty of the area. Increasing density or multifamily housing is one way to add housing without intruding on protected spaces. But like many of Nashville’s sprawling suburbs, Bellevue has also become artificially strangled by our city’s preference for exclusionary zoning policies that favor single-family homes.
Not everyone can afford to buy half-million dollar homes, and many people just starting out would prefer to rent. But there are few affordable options in our area. According to Zillow, median rent in Bellevue is over $1,900 a month. That’s cheaper than other parts of the city but still hardly “affordable.” Rent for a 2-bedroom apartment or condo has increased by over $315 in the past year.
NIMBY groups in Bellevue argue that recent proposals to build higher-density housing would violate Bellevue’s Community Plan and harm our community’s character. But even that plan recognizes the need for mixed housing types:
The Bellevue community’s desire to maintain and enhance its rural and suburban residential neighborhoods is shown by the placement of Neighborhood Maintenance policy to several neighborhoods and areas in the community. To maintain long-term sustainability of the community and to enhance housing choices for residents at every point in their lives, an appropriate mixture of housing types must still be provided. Appropriate locations for additional residential development are indicated by applying Neighborhood Evolving, Center, and Corridor policy areas. In rural areas, some opportunities for additional rural housing exist in certain areas. In suburban areas, providing diverse housing types allows individuals to relocate within the same community as their needs and circumstances change. The provision of diverse housing types also creates more opportunities for uses within the mixed use centers that serve the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods, such as cafes, coffee shops, boutiques, and small shops. Currently, some businesses would argue it is not viable for them to locate in the community because there are not enough people living in the area to support their businesses.
On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Metro Council will vote on a rezoning request for a development called Ariza Bellevue. Here are the relevant items on the council’s agenda:
A group called Bellevue Strong has loudly opposed this rezoning proposal and has even promoted some strange conspiracies about what’s motivating this development. Last year, I co-authored an op-ed with Daniel J. Smith, professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University, about this project, explaining how NIMBYism like this holds our community back. Here is an excerpt from that piece:
Bellevue Strong argues that the development is “inconsistent” with Bellevue’s community plan and is not “harmonious or compatible with surrounding property uses.” What this amounts to is a fear that renters, who don’t have a “stake” in the community, will reduce the sense of community.
But research shows this fear is unfounded. Renters are more likely to socialize with neighbors and participate in community organizations. Renters in expensive areas like Bellevue are likely to be empty nesters or retirees looking to downsize while still remaining in the community or young professionals and couples just starting out and looking to establish roots in the area. Nothing will destroy a community faster (not to mention its moral character) than not allowing housing options for those unable to afford a $2 million home.
Certainly, the developer’s plans appear to make a concerted effort to attract these types of new residents with a bridge to Bellevue Park (currently landlocked by the Harpeth River), donated public park space, bike and pedestrian paths (down Coley David Road), and a bike tunnel (underneath CSX railroad), and greenway access. Rather than tear the community apart, the developer is investing millions to piece “the greenway puzzle together.” Importantly, these new high-end apartments will free up more affordable housing options elsewhere in the city.
Opponents have also brought up concerns over possible flooding, but a recent email from Council Member Dave Rosenberg addresses those concerns. Still, no matter how many assurances Bellevue Strong receives, they continue to oppose the plan vociferously.
Building higher-density housing, even in further-out areas like Bellevue, will still take pressure off the entire city’s housing market by increasing the overall supply. It gives young, working-class people more affordable options to enjoy living in Music City, even if living closer to downtown is out of reach. Even the construction of so-called “luxury apartments” has positive downstream effects on affordability across the city.
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Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the meeting in person (I have spoken in favor at Planning Commission meetings), but here are the meeting details for those who would like to voice their support for more housing in our city:
Thursday, July 6th at 6:30PM (The relevant items will likely be considered later in the evening)
Historic Metro Courthouse
1 Public Square, 2nd floor
Nashville, TN 37201
On a related note, I’m slightly concerned by a recent Nashville Banner interview with Jason Spain, a candidate to replace Rosenberg as the council member for District 35 (Bellevue):
What is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you approach it?
“Bellevue is a special community, and my neighbors want a representative who will work to keep it that way. At times it seems that there is new development happening at every corner. We have to choose if we are going to allow unchecked development to choke off the character of our city and quality of life that make people want to come here to begin with or if we will make strategic decisions about our built environment that will lead to smart growth that enhances our community, strengthens our neighborhoods and benefits everyone that calls Nashville home. Together, I know that we can ensure that future development works for us rather than happens to us. With responsible leadership, we can grow the right way and preserve the character of our community at the same time.” [Emphasis mine]
I am hoping that Mr. Spain will clarify what he means by “unchecked development,” since I have not really seen this in our community. But between this answer, and his indication in the same interview that he would have voted for the Titans stadium, I have to say I’m not impressed.