They came, by the hundreds, and they were concerned. Worried. “Mad as hell.” And determined to do something about it. Nearly three hundred Clarksville residents turned out at the Historic L&N Train Station for a 6 p.m. meeting and petition drive to fight the designation of blight applied to their neighborhoods by the recent City Council approval of a Downtown Redevelopment Plan.
The meeting, called by the Clarksville Property Rights Association, came just three days after a similar meeting held Friday at the HOPE Center on Legion Street. That first meeting drew approximately 50 people. A mailing campaign, and a public relations push saw that first crowd grow to a shoulder-to-shoulder crush of about 300 people at the station. The Property Rights group was stunned but pleased by the turnout, and had done their homework, with petition postcards printed and filed by property owner names, each card ready to be mailed to the City Council. Additional cards were available for anyone not already on the list who wanted to support this effort at rescinding the legislation and the “blight” designation.
The plan as proposed by the Downtown District Partnership deems two square miles, 1800 homes and businesses, city and county buildings, and everything downtown except Austin Peay State University as blighted and subject to eminent domain. That has people worried about the possibility that their homes could be taken and turned over to developers, regardless of the condition of that property. Assemblage is a process by which developers needing to accrue multiple land parcels to complete a project could take any property, regardless of its condition, historic value or worth, to create a larger project/development.
“Audacious,” “bold,” “unprecedented” and “immoral” were terms used to describe this plan, which is the largest such “blanket” designation in the country.
Atty. John Summers (left), who with Dan Brown were panelists at last Friday’s HOPE Center meeting, also spoke at Monday night’s meeting. They noted that all seven of Nashville’s redevelopment projects combined do not equal the size or scope of this plan. Summers said the public outrage is only exceeded by the public call for a complete repeal of this law.
Section 7 of the ordinance reads: “the Plan for the area prescribes certain land uses and controls and authorizes the acquisition by negotiation, condemnation or otherwise of certain properties for public use or for resale by a redeveloper or developers…”
The ordinance also provides for tax increment financing that would ease the tax levy on developers while shifting any new tax burden to homeowners and other taxpayers in the city.
In researching the legislation, Summers noted that while the redevelopment plan was purportedly based on studies conducted by the Clarksville Housing Authority that declared the area blighted.
“We asked to see the studies and the Housing Authority said they never made any studies. The Housing Authority officials said they ‘attended meetings’ but could not say where any such reports might be or who declared the area blighted. Where are the studies this plan is based upon? As long as this ordinance stands, everyone is subject to eminent domain.”
–Atty. John Summers
Historic Preservationist Dan Brown (left) of the Tennessee Preservation Trust called the project gigantic and monstrous, noting that were no details, just “page after page of unanswered questions.” The powers of “assemblage” in this law give extraordinary powers, Brown said. “This just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Brown said. “There is no project with this plan.”
Both Summers and Brown urged the city to justify redevelopment on a project by project basis. “This [ordinance] is not fair and it is immoral,” Summers said. He urged the coalition to seek a repeal of the law. As it is written, it allows [city/developers] to eliminate entire blocks and entire communities.
Though this ordinance was also cited as a social justice issue, race was not issue to the irate citizens; property rights and property values were the common, unifying cause. City Councilors Deanna McLaughlin and Marc Harris attended the meeting, getting an earful from irate property owners and a taste of what kind of a battle an angry constituency would launch.
Harris (at right) noted that this plan has been quietly moving in the political pipeline since 2006, and said he has been a dissenting voice on most votes pertaining to this issue. “I have been the roadblock on this law,” he said, his own ‘nay’ votes on the issue over the course of 18 months.
Pasty Sharpe said that the coalition of homeowners would continue the fight to repeal the ordinance, and were prepared to take that fight to the ballot box of the next election if necessary. Sharpe and her fellow homeowners gathered signatures for submission to the City Council and the County Commissioners.
“Right now this is a political action, not a legal action,” Summers said, voicing the hope that the City Council would take seriously the displeasure of their constituency. “As long as this ordinance stands, everyone is subject to eminent domain.
For more information on the issue ands the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, call Patsy Sharpe at 931-647-5317, Debbie Denton at 931-572-0603, Kathy Ondras at 931-436-0536 or Debbie McMahan at 931-980-2387. The coalition can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 183, Clarksville TN 37041-0183.
The Land Use Master Plan as developed by the Downtown District Partnership (September 2002) details proposals for the re-shaping of downtown Clarksville including the Riverfront areas and residential neighborhoods adjacent to the immediate downtown area and APSU. Much of the area covered in this plan is the same area affected by the current ordinance and blighted designation. By carefully scrutinizing the maps in this plan, which was developed five years ago, homeowners can get a sense of which areas are most likely to be affected by a redevelopment effort of this kind. This is a proposed plan, but the correlations to the areas now designated as “blight” are easily discernible.
Photo Gallery for the Train Station meeting follow the text of the ordinance.
This is the full text of the Ordinance in question
AN ORDINANCE APPROVING
THE CLARKSVILLE CENTER REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
WHEREAS; the Clarksville, Tennessee Housing Authority (“the Authority”) has completed studies and prepared an Plan for redevelopment, entitled “Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan,” (herein refereed to as. the “Plan”) consisting of a text, Redevelopment Plan and Exhibit “A” attached thereto, all dated ___________, 2006, which have been filed with and referred to the City Council of Clarksville, Tennessee and the Montgomery County Commission, Montgomery County, Tennessee (herein referred to as the “Governing Bodies,”) for review-and approval; andWHEREAS, the Authority has examined the area proposed for inclusion in the redevelopment project and determined that, with the exception of those properties presently owned and maintained by Austin Peay State University, it is a blighted area with buildings or improvements which, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use, or obsolete layout, or any combination of these or other factors, are detrimental to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the community and that such conditions should be eliminated to promote the public interest and, the members of these Governing Bodies have been duly apprised and are aware of these conditions; and
WHEREAS: the need for a coordinated effort for the redevelopment of the area proposed for inclusion in the project is further evidenced by the exemplary efforts of residents in the Red River and Brandon Hills neighborhoods, who have seen a similar need for redevelopment efforts in those areas, and have begun work on a revitalization plan which, upon completion, will be incorporated as a valuable resource for implementation of the overall redevelopment Plan; and
WHEREAS, the Plan for redevelopment is to be undertaken by the Authority in accordance with and in furtherance of the objectives of Article 1, Sections 8 and 21 and Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution of Tennessee: The Housing Authorities Law, Chapters 20 and 45; Public Acts of Tennessee of 1935 (1st Extraordinary Session); as amended; Chapter 114 of Public Acts of Tennessee of 1945, as amended; Chapter 181 of Public Acts of Tennessee of 1955 (said statutes now codified in Tennessee Code Annotated Sections 13-20-201 through 13-20-216); and
WHEREAS, the Plan for the area provides for the utilization of the tax increment financing pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 13-20-205 in furtherance of redevelopment within the District; and
WHEREAS, the Plan for the area prescribes certain land uses and controls and authorizes the acquisition by negotiation, condemnation or otherwise of certain properties for public use or for resale by a redeveloper or redevelopers; and
WHEREAS, the members of the Governing Bodies have carefully considered and reviewed the proposal for redevelopment, including the relocation of businesses, if any, that may be displaced; and
WHEREAS, in order to implement the Plan, the Governing Bodies must approve and authorize certain actions;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CLARKSVILLE, TENNESSEE:
Section 1. That it is hereby found and determined that the redevelopment area defined by the Plan entitled “Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan,” dated _________, 2006, with the exception of those properties presently owned and maintained by Austin Peay State University, is a blighted area as defined in and in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Sections 13-20-201 through 13-20-216; further the area is blighted as a result of a relevant findings of blight documented within the Plan; and that conditions existing in the Plan area are detrimental to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the people of Clarksville and Montgomery County, Tennessee, that said area or such portions thereof as deemed necessary for acquisition by the Authority by negotiation, condemnation or otherwise, as provided by Tennessee Code Annotated 13-20-104 and 13-20-202, and so designated pursuant to the Plan, or any amendment or amendments thereto, should be so acquired by the Authority; and that such blighted conditions should be eliminated provided that no such area or portions thereof shall be condemned and/or acquired by eminent domain unless and until the intent to pursue such acquisition is first presented for discussion in a public hearing, after which the acquisition must be approved by ordinance/resolution of the governing bodies.
Section 2. That the Plan entitled “Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan,” consisting of text, a Redevelopment Plan Map, and Exhibit “A” attached thereto, all dated _____,2006 as filed with the City Clerk, is hereby in all respects approved.
Section 3. That it is hereby found and determined that the Plan for the project area conforms to the Consolidated Plan for Clarksville as published by the Office of Housing and Community Development of the City of Clarksville.
Section 4. That the use of tax increment funding pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, § 13-20-205, is hereby approved for undertaking activities specified in the Plan.
Section 5. That the Clarksville/Montgomery County Industrial Development Board is hereby authorized to negotiate payment in lieu of tax agreements on property owned by the Industrial Development Board pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, § 7-53-305 for undertaking redevelopment approved by the Plan;
Section 6. That it is hereby found and determined that, in addition to the elimination of blight from the project area, the undertaking of the project in such area will further promote the public welfare and proper development of the community.
Section 7. That it is hereby found and determined that the Plan for the project area will afford maximum opportunity consistent with sound needs of the locality as a whole, for the redevelopment of the area by private enterprise.
Section 8. That the City Clerk is directed to file this Ordinance together with the Plan referred to herein as a part of the minutes of this meeting.
Section 9. That this Ordinance shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of the City requiring it.
PUBLIC HEARING: March 20, 2006
FIRST READING: March 2, 2006
Photo Gallery: Faces of the Concerned…
Editor’s Note: More pictures from this event will appear in various articles over the next few days.