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Issues Confronting Nashville's Growth & General Discussion


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Thanks Ron! I would agree with @jkc2jthat Land Availability may be the least of our concerns really. Currently we have a ton of land, so much so that we are not seeing new tallest towers because

Ok, We got a going on in the bits & pieces thread so I figured this would be an interesting one to start. Issues confronting Nashville for the next ten years of growth. A few I can think

Updating the downtown code and encouraging height within planning is my #1! With what's going on in Nashville, we'll regret not opening the door for what's left to be developed to go higher.

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I'd say regarding land use, there's tons of land in Davidson County, possibly hundreds if not thousands of acres of undeveloped and underutilized land. This includes the East Bank, River North, PSC metals, Midtown, all of the pikes (Gallatin, Dickerson, Nolensville, Charlotte, Brick Church etc. ) and that doesn't even include land outside the 440 and Briley Pky loop in areas like Bellevue, Joelton, Whites Creek, Madison, Hermitage etc. Since there is so much land these areas could potentially accommodate thousands and could be more affordable alternatives to more expensive areas. 

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On 8/16/2021 at 12:25 PM, Bos2Nash said:
  • The inclusionary zoning ban at the state level is the primary reason why affordable housing isn't being built. Period.
  • The inclusionary Zoning [ban] may be one of the worst versions of government over-regulation this state has.

Wow, this is some of the most twisted "logic" I have seen on this board.  It's going to take a couple levels of logic to unravel this...

1) Zoning is over-regulation that is causing real estate prices to be artificially high in some places, and artificially low in other places due to restrictions on land use.

2) Inclusionary Zoning (requiring private land owners to build certain types of structures) is over-regulation taken to the extreme:  Restricting land use even further.

3) The state banned this type of over-regulation, yet you label that ban as "over-regulation".  No, that is the state smacking down Nashville's attempt to use regulation to "solve" a problem that was caused by Nashville's zoning regulation.  ---- Which in and of itself is ridiculous.  Why not just remove the zoning that's causing the artificially high housing prices to begin with?

4) The primary reason affordable housing is not being built is due to restrictive zoning in Nashville.  Examples: (A) Restrictions on multi-family construction, (B) Restrictions on how small houses can be, (C) Restrictions on construction methods, (D) Restrictions on mixed-use buildings, (E) About a million other regulations and rules affecting housing that all add up to a gargantuan bureaucratic nightmare for anyone who wants to buy land and build housing in Nashville.  "Oh, all those rules are there for a reason",  you say.  Well, good - have your reasons.  But to think you can place those restrictions on the market and still have low cost housing for the least-wealthy segment of the population is unrealistic.  Every regulation comes with a cost and the poor will bear that cost.  You think Inclusionary Zoning will make rich developers bear that cost?  HA!  They didn't get rich by going along with stupid progressive plans for covering up government mismanagement.  They got rich by avoiding government regulation and they will stay that way.

 

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The only logic is this; the state passed this in order to keep Nashville from doing something they wanted to do as a city to help with affordable housing, thus there is no logic to the state when they complain about the federal government interfering in their ability to govern their own affairs.

So in reality the LOGIC = Hypocrisy!

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59 minutes ago, DDIG said:

Updating the downtown code and encouraging height within planning is my #1! With what's going on in Nashville, we'll regret not opening the door for what's left to be developed to go higher.

What is it that we'll be regretting actually? 

54 minutes ago, downtownresident said:

Along with an increase in density and reduction in parking minimums throughout the interior core neighborhoods and along the pikes outside of the core. 

This I totally agree with. I would support extending the downtown code throughout the urban core. The downtown code is essentially a form based code rather than a use based code and doesn't have any parking requirements. I would also support a massive overhaul to zoning throughout the county, including outlawing single family zoning and updating development guidelines along the pikes to encourage transit oriented developments (with no parking)

 

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On 8/14/2021 at 2:49 PM, jkc2j said:

I'd say regarding land use, there's tons of land in Davidson County, possibly hundreds if not thousands of acres of undeveloped and underutilized land. This includes the East Bank, River North, PSC metals, Midtown, all of the pikes (Gallatin, Dickerson, Nolensville, Charlotte, Brick Church etc. ) and that doesn't even include land outside the 440 and Briley Pky loop in areas like Bellevue, Joelton, Whites Creek, Madison, Hermitage etc. Since there is so much land these areas could potentially accommodate thousands and could be more affordable alternatives to more expensive areas. 

What about protecting and de-incentivizing development on undeveloped land and instead simplifying and modernizing zoning ordinances and reducing barriers to development on land with existing infrastructure? 

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2 hours ago, Armacing said:

Wow, this is some of the most twisted "logic" I have seen on this board.  It's going to take a couple levels of logic to unravel this...

1) Zoning is over-regulation that is causing real estate prices to be artificially high in some places, and artificially low in other places due to restrictions on land use.

2) Inclusionary Zoning (requiring private land owners to build certain types of structures) is over-regulation taken to the extreme:  Restricting land use even further.

3) The state banned this type of over-regulation, yet you label that ban as "over-regulation".  No, that is the state smacking down Nashville's attempt to use regulation to "solve" a problem that was caused by Nashville's zoning regulation.  ---- Which in and of itself is ridiculous.  Why not just remove the zoning that's causing the artificially high housing prices to begin with?

4) The primary reason affordable housing is not being built is due to restrictive zoning in Nashville.  Examples: (A) Restrictions on multi-family construction, (B) Restrictions on how small houses can be, (C) Restrictions on construction methods, (D) Restrictions on mixed-use buildings, (E) About a million other regulations and rules affecting housing that all add up to a gargantuan bureaucratic nightmare for anyone who wants to buy land and build housing in Nashville.  "Oh, all those rules are there for a reason",  you say.  Well, good - have your reasons.  But to think you can place those restrictions on the market and still have low cost housing for the least-wealthy segment of the population is unrealistic.  Every regulation comes with a cost and the poor will bear that cost.  You think Inclusionary Zoning will make rich developers bear that cost?  HA!  They didn't get rich by going along with stupid progressive plans for covering up government mismanagement.  They got rich by avoiding government regulation and they will stay that way.

 

Criticize all you want, but what you are laying out is let developers have carte blanche and build whatever they want where ever they want. This will lead to disjointed development and create even more gentrification. Also your argument here is the essentially the "supply will drive down costs" argument, which will never work. The amount of supply any city in the country needs would take at a minimum of a full generation. Even cities that have affordable housing mandates cannot get enough affordable housing. 

We are going to have to agree to disagree on the subject because I know your thought process isn't going to change and myself being in the profession and understanding why these "over-regulations to the extreme" are actually very necessary isn't either.

46 minutes ago, Nashvillain said:

Hard to admit, but I agree with Armacing here. The zoning codes we have on the books are de facto over regulation with the intended effect of driving up the price of single family homes and therefore individual wealth and the opposite effect of depriving the market the ability to decide what kinds of buildings to build to meet demand. Which results in lack of inventory and high prices (and sprawl and lack of mobility and unsustainable infrastructure maintenance costs, etc., etc.). 

Single Family homes as close to the downtown core (like East Nashville) will eventually be similar to the Brownstones of Boston's South End. They will become so sought after that the value of those homes will go through the roof (even more than folks already feel than they already have). Zoning focuses on a true planning approach and how the development can more outwards from the core. smaller buildings will thus become very valuable even before the development reaches them. As stated above, allowing the market to decide when to build affordable housing would take at least a generation. Most private developers aren't in the business to build affordable housing, they are are in it to make money and residential construction is quite honestly some of the cheaper construction to do.

Similar to the height restrictions some of the zoning laws that have been implemented and discussed at nauseum on the board, the zoning laws are a necessary evil for urban growth. Don't want zoning laws? Move out the rural counties and don't enjoy the luxuries and conveniences that urban life has. By no means are the zoning laws are perfect and they will always "get in the way" of developers, because developers will always build to the limits they are allowed to because of the money game that must be played.

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1 hour ago, Nashvillain said:

What is it that we'll be regretting actually? 

 

I’d like to see less developments like Sixth South / Hyatt Place along Lea Ave and more along the lines of 2nd and Peabody / Cumulus proposals. It would be a missed opportunity to limit ourselves to 10-16 stories along Lafayette / The Gulch. 

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21 minutes ago, Bos2Nash said:

Criticize all you want, but what you are laying out is let developers have carte blanche and build whatever they want where ever they want. This will lead to disjointed development and create even more gentrification. Also your argument here is the essentially the "supply will drive down costs" argument, which will never work. The amount of supply any city in the country needs would take at a minimum of a full generation. Even cities that have affordable housing mandates cannot get enough affordable housing. 

We are going to have to agree to disagree on the subject because I know your thought process isn't going to change and myself being in the profession and understanding why these "over-regulations to the extreme" are actually very necessary isn't either.

Single Family homes as close to the downtown core (like East Nashville) will eventually be similar to the Brownstones of Boston's South End. They will become so sought after that the value of those homes will go through the roof (even more than folks already feel than they already have). Zoning focuses on a true planning approach and how the development can more outwards from the core. smaller buildings will thus become very valuable even before the development reaches them. As stated above, allowing the market to decide when to build affordable housing would take at least a generation. Most private developers aren't in the business to build affordable housing, they are are in it to make money and residential construction is quite honestly some of the cheaper construction to do.

Similar to the height restrictions some of the zoning laws that have been implemented and discussed at nauseum on the board, the zoning laws are a necessary evil for urban growth. Don't want zoning laws? Move out the rural counties and don't enjoy the luxuries and conveniences that urban life has. By no means are the zoning laws are perfect and they will always "get in the way" of developers, because developers will always build to the limits they are allowed to because of the money game that must be played.

Dallas, Houston, Atlanta come to mind of cities with developer friendly zoning laws and the housing is more affordable than Nashville. 

Is there a city that has the zoning regulations you want that is also affordable? 

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2 hours ago, downtownresident said:

Along with an increase in density and reduction in parking minimums throughout the interior core neighborhoods and along the pikes outside of the core. 

This is the real answer - wish I could like it more than once. Midrise apartments on the pikes are good, but we need to be allowed to build neighborhoods of density, not just spiderwebs of it. Middle Tennessee (and Nashville specifically) is adding too many jobs to not allow more homes.

Think the optimal mix is somewhere in the range of what we see in The Nations (2-for-1s with HPRs and commercial turning into mixed use) and in Wedgewood-Houston (industrial and commercial turning into walkable midrise neighborhoods).

In my opinion, the whole UZO should have no parking minimums and re-legalize fourplexes (by-right zoning). (Obviously, we'd have to reduce the setback requirements from 20 feet and increase lot coverage ratio from its current 50% to actually build that way.)

Just because the city allows for certain zoning doesn't mean it will pop up everywhere - but I'll support just about anything that gives people the right to build more homes on the land that they own.

26 minutes ago, Bos2Nash said:

The amount of supply any city in the country needs would take at a minimum of a full generation.

I think Houston disproves this. Sure, it sprawls in a way that only an oil baron could love, but because they allow people to build (basically) whatever they want, houses in Houston are not expensive, even as population booms.

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Just now, nashvylle said:

Dallas, Houston, Atlanta come to mind of cities with developer friendly zoning laws and the housing is more affordable than Nashville. 

All three of these cities also have massive sprawl, massive highways and massive traffic problems. Also, I wouldn't really say these are cities businesses and people are flocking to. 

2 minutes ago, nashvylle said:

Is there a city that has the zoning regulations you want that is also affordable? 

No big-player city is "affordable" for everyone. That is why the big boys have inclusionary zoning to help mitigate pushing people outside the city. I look at Boston and knowing that around 50% of the resident that live within the city limits are on food stamps or some form of social assistance means that the affordable zoning allows for them to stay within the city and closer to a robust transit system. While Boston has tough zoning laws (ie Shadow Laws), they are still able to get private developers to build affordable housing. This is because building affordable housing isn't going to stop developers from building in desirable markets, like so many seem to think. If the market is solid enough, the developers will come no matter what. Nashville is one of those markets. 

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21 minutes ago, Bos2Nash said:

Single Family homes as close to the downtown core (like East Nashville) will eventually be similar to the Brownstones of Boston's South End. They will become so sought after that the value of those homes will go through the roof (even more than folks already feel than they already have). Zoning focuses on a true planning approach and how the development can more outwards from the core. smaller buildings will thus become very valuable even before the development reaches them. As stated above, allowing the market to decide when to build affordable housing would take at least a generation. Most private developers aren't in the business to build affordable housing, they are are in it to make money and residential construction is quite honestly some of the cheaper construction to do.

Similar to the height restrictions some of the zoning laws that have been implemented and discussed at nauseum on the board, the zoning laws are a necessary evil for urban growth. Don't want zoning laws? Move out the rural counties and don't enjoy the luxuries and conveniences that urban life has. By no means are the zoning laws are perfect and they will always "get in the way" of developers, because developers will always build to the limits they are allowed to because of the money game that must be played.

I'm not opposed to zoning as I advocated for an expansion of the form-based downtown code. I am opposed to most exclusionary zoning which is what we have in most places throughout the country--the result of which is a lack of choice and lack of affordability. For instance, as a resident in Nashville (which I am), I prefer to live in a walkable community with easy access to transit. I'd say that's a pretty common desire these days with a certain segment of the population. However, where is it currently possible for developers to build such developments? And where is it impossible/illegal? The fact that it is illegal for developers to cater to a substantial market is actually wrong. Zoning does focus on a "true planning approach" but the vast majority of zoning ordinances result in lack of choice, lack of affordability, and sprawl.

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1 hour ago, Nashvillain said:

What about protecting and de-incentivizing development on undeveloped land and instead simplifying and modernizing zoning ordinances and reducing barriers to development on land with existing infrastructure? 

I actually agree with this. My view is more of an alternative based on current zoning laws.

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7 minutes ago, andywildman said:

This is the real answer - wish I could like it more than once. Midrise apartments on the pikes are good, but we need to be allowed to build neighborhoods of density, not just spiderwebs of it. Middle Tennessee (and Nashville specifically) is adding too many jobs to not allow more homes.

Think the optimal mix is somewhere in the range of what we see in The Nations (2-for-1s with HPRs and commercial turning into mixed use) and in Wedgewood-Houston (industrial and commercial turning into walkable midrise neighborhoods).

In my opinion, the whole UZO should have no parking minimums and re-legalize fourplexes (by-right zoning). (Obviously, we'd have to reduce the setback requirements from 20 feet and increase lot coverage ratio from its current 50% to actually build that way.)

Just because the city allows for certain zoning doesn't mean it will pop up everywhere - but I'll support just about anything that gives people the right to build more homes on the land that they own.

I think Houston disproves this. Sure, it sprawls in a way that only an oil baron could love, but because they allow people to build (basically) whatever they want, houses in Houston are not expensive, even as population booms.

All of this except the myth about Houston. Houston has restrictive covenants, minimum lot sizes, and minimum parking requirements which are things that other cities call zoning

35 minutes ago, downtownresident said:

I’d like to see less developments like Sixth South / Hyatt Place along Lea Ave and more along the lines of 2nd and Peabody / Cumulus proposals. It would be a missed opportunity to limit ourselves to 10-16 stories along Lafayette / The Gulch. 

But I'm trying to understand is this a personal preference for tall buildings or something else? 

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10 minutes ago, andywildman said:

I think Houston disproves this. Sure, it sprawls in a way that only an oil baron could love, but because they allow people to build (basically) whatever they want, houses in Houston are not expensive, even as population booms.

Yes, home prices overall in the Houston area are more affordable than the Nashville area. (I own a second home in Fort Bend County.) A big difference in the two, however, is the enormous difference in property taxes. Texas property taxes are VERY high when compared to Tennessee. We are paying $5000 annual tax on a home valued at about $250,000!

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3 minutes ago, Nashvillain said:

All of this except the myth about Houston. Houston has restrictive covenants, minimum lot sizes, and minimum parking requirements which are things that other cities call zoning

Yes Houston has zoning; I should have been more clear. The point I wanted to make is that Houston's relatively lax zoning restrictions have resulted in Houston's affordability, mainly because they have very little regulation on residential density.

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9 minutes ago, Nashvillain said:

I'm not opposed to zoning as I advocated for an expansion of the form-based downtown code. I am opposed to most exclusionary zoning which is what we have in most places throughout the country--the result of which is a lack of choice and lack of affordability. For instance, as a resident in Nashville (which I am), I prefer to live in a walkable community with easy access to transit. I'd say that's a pretty common desire these days with a certain segment of the population. However, where is it currently possible for developers to build such developments? And where is it impossible/illegal? The fact that it is illegal for developers to cater to a substantial market is actually wrong. Zoning does focus on a "true planning approach" but the vast majority of zoning ordinances result in lack of choice, lack of affordability, and sprawl.

I agree with you. The form-based code should be extended out and sub districts created. My entire grad school thesis was developing a form-based overlay for East Nashville (test area was E. Trinity Lane) that utilized this approach while working with the notion that established residents have more capability to add density and profit for themselves. 

Currently under the Land Use zoning approach, the amount of density for such developments varies from parcel to parcel. Also having a larger, dense development along a main thoroughfare (such as Gallatin or Dickerson) should be welcomed with open arms (sometimes this is the case sometimes it is not, which to me is wrong), but also step down to the existing homes that are not directly on the thoroughfare. Sure, eliminating SFH zoning could be a solution, but to me a risk that could very quickly be realized is the land speculation of buying up so many of the homes set off the thoroughfares and displacing those residents on top of pricing them out of the area because there are no affordable homes that are being built in their place.

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2 minutes ago, Bos2Nash said:

I agree with you. The form-based code should be extended out and sub districts created. My entire grad school thesis was developing a form-based overlay for East Nashville (test area was E. Trinity Lane) that utilized this approach while working with the notion that established residents have more capability to add density and profit for themselves. 

Currently under the Land Use zoning approach, the amount of density for such developments varies from parcel to parcel. Also having a larger, dense development along a main thoroughfare (such as Gallatin or Dickerson) should be welcomed with open arms (sometimes this is the case sometimes it is not, which to me is wrong), but also step down to the existing homes that are not directly on the thoroughfare. Sure, eliminating SFH zoning could be a solution, but to me a risk that could very quickly be realized is the land speculation of buying up so many of the homes set off the thoroughfares and displacing those residents on top of pricing them out of the area because there are no affordable homes that are being built in their place.

I just don't see how mandating SFH where there is actual demand and competition for housing ever results in lower prices. I'm aware of the concept of the missing middle and would at least support opening up SFH areas to multifamily on corner lots and larger streets while retaining single family character in between. 

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1 minute ago, Bos2Nash said:

Sure, eliminating SFH zoning could be a solution, but to me a risk that could very quickly be realized is the land speculation of buying up so many of the homes set off the thoroughfares and displacing those residents on top of pricing them out of the area because there are no affordable homes that are being built in their place.

If you only eliminate SFH in pockets, you would absolutely see that speculation in that area. But if every residential lot in the city became eligible for 4 or 6 homes, the displacement would not be drastic, because we'd have more supply of eligible lots than we'd have current demand. The resulting new construction units that do get built would be less expensive (per home) than the existing new construction in Nashville (which usually results in building 1 or 2 homes per residential lot.

The person behind the account at twitter.com/pushtheneedle illustrates this concept nicely:

1*WmpKjORYitjiOOIh0jRTUg.jpeg

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A city is a living entity made up of many members.  The freedom of humans to do as they wish with their lives and their money means that they will find a way to deal with the obstacles put in front of them, including zoning regs.  If the people of an area are controlled too much by government, they will go somewhere else (legal and illegal immigration, asylum seekers, people currently leaving high tax states, and on and on throughout history).

Fortunately, it is human nature to want to maintain good relationships with those around us.  Also, there is a morality to the free market that is created by the fact that business owners must be trustworthy in order to maintain an ongoing stream of revenue.

By my lights, our desire for relationship, our need to be trustworthy, and our ability to flee bad government suggests to me that less regulation is preferred over more.  Yes, we need some regulations but less is more and they should always be structured as to keep builders from harming the public in the long term, not toward someone's vision of how things ought to be.

The law of supply and demand always works.  We can't wish it away with zoning regulations.  Pricing signals the activity of market participants.  Period.  If we force via regulation the price of a good to be lower than the market price, demand will rise and suppliers will not be motivated to produce more.  This is what has happened with 'rent control' units in NYC.  Also witness what has been happening in Venezuela under the price controls of a socialist government.

So, step out the way and let the market participants demand housing and supply housing.  Get rid of the 'small Southern city' regulations and let the builders build.

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