Brentwood candidates are rigid on one-acre lots
By Skip Anderson
Judging by responses of the six candidates vying for three seats on the city commission at the March 19 forum, Brentwood’s one-acre residential lot standard is the third rail of Brentwood politics. The candidates – three incumbents and three challengers – each repeated their unwavering support for the ordinance that mandates residential properties be a minimum of one acre in size, which generally prohibits apartment buildings, duplexes and condominiums from being built within city limits.
Lifelong Brentwood resident Jay Galbreath; Mark Gorman, who has served on the Brentwood Planning Commission for the past eight years; and healthcare executive Jason Richardson seek to unseat city commissioners Rhea Little, Regina Smithson and Paul Webb, who currently serves as Brentwood mayor. Brentwood citizens do not directly elect their mayor. Rather, commissioners do so at the first meeting at the beginning of a new term.
“High-density residential is not an option,” said Richardson.
“We are a one-acre community,” said Webb. “We are a green island between Franklin and Nashville. We are strict on zoning.”
Much of the night’s debate stemmed from a question asked by Kerri Bartlett, managing editor of the “Williamson Herald,” regarding a mixed-use development that would have brought condominiums and/or apartments, office space, an upscale retail component and a movie theater to downtown Brentwood. H.G. Hill Realty, the developer, pulled out after nearly two years of planning after a citizen’s group lobbied lobbied the city to reject the plans largely because of the residential component of the development that was zoned C4, which, in Brentwood’s case, allowed a residential component to be included with commercial and retail components.
“That caused a great deal of concern for the residents. “Do apartments fit on that corner? Not in my opinion.” said Gorman.
“We need to remove residential from C4,” said Galbreath. “There’s too much confusion between apartments and condos.”
“We need to take the residential component out of C4,” echoed Smithson.
The candidates revisited the topic in their answers to questions not related to development throughout the 90-minute moderated question-and-answer session, such as charter schools and vouchers.
Susan Leathers, publisher and co-founder of BrentWord Communications, asked whether the candidates might find flexibility in the one-acre ordinance if it would help empty-nesters stay in Brentwood after they downsize.
“I will not give up our one-acre zoning,” said Smithson. “I think that’s why people move here.”
The only hint of flexibility on this point came from Richardson, who responded Leathers’ hypothetical question by saying the matter would be “big enough” to be a referendum on an election ballot “to let the citizens decide.”
The candidates also discussed charters and vouchers; the viability of Maryland Farms as Class A office space in the face of newer, competing office parks in the region; and whether the candidates believe Brentwood should support the Williamson County Visitors Bureau, which the city has long abstained from contributing to financially.
Bartlett and Leathers were joined on the panelists’ dais Bonnie Burch of “The Tennessean.” The forum was sponsored by the Brentwood Women’s Group and moderated by WAKM’s Tom Lawrence. The Brentwood cable public access channel and WAKM radio plan to air recorded versions of the forum prior to election day.
The candidates are scheduled to participate in another forum at 8 a.m. April 11 at the Brentwood United Methodist Church, sponsored by the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce.
Early voting for election will take place at the Brentwood Municipal Building, the Brentwood Library and the County Administrative Complex in Franklin from April 17 through May 2. The election is Tuesday, May 7.
Posted on: 3/20/2013