On Labor Day weekend, Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt will be riding his motorcycle to beautiful upstate New York to attend a retreat on rural conservation. Joining him will be several residents of Bells Bend, where the largely loathed May Town Center is slated to be built.
I think it’s a very safe bet that the Planning Commission won’t sign off on plans to allow the massive office, residential and retail complex to proceed. Otherwise, why would Bernhardt and the neighbors schedule the trip at all?
The point of the retreat, which is hosted by a planning organization, is to see how Bells Bend can serve as a “conservation district model” for the city and state. The locals have realized for years now that they can’t block every bulldozer that wants to rumble through their pristine corner of the county. That’s why they worked with the Planning Department to devise a blueprint for their neighborhood that would allow for some commercial construction -- while still maintaining the area’s down-home feel.
May Town , which would amount to a satellite city plopped in the middle of rolling fields and working farms, muddied the neighbors’ vision of a compromise plan. That's why they hate the damn thing.
So it looks like we’re back to the beginning: Neighbors and Planning talking again about how to develop Bells Bend in a smart, sensible way. That’s awfully bad news for Too Tall Tony and the May family. Their business plan hinges on one thing and one thing only: An epic lapse in judgment by Metro officials.
Having spent many a summer in the shadows of the tall, gentle mountains of upstate New York, I can tell you one thing: That place has a knack for making you reflect. My guess is that when Bernhardt rides his motorcycle back to Tennessee, he'll be rethinking his support for May Town.