Author Archives: joeldark

Belmont University Building Proposal Q&A

On Wednesday, September 19, Council Member Colby Sledge hosted an informational meeting regarding the proposed Belmont University building in E.S. Rose Park.

The questions below regarding “Background,” “Present Decisions,” and “Future Plans” were sent to Council Member Sledge immediately following the meeting with a commitment to publish any answers received on the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition website.

Council Member Sledge responded to these questions and the three additional questions below in the context of a substantive telephone conversation on Monday, October 8, and also published the presentation slides from the informational meeting online.

He has expressed support for the community in seeking fuller answers where needed and has specifically committed to providing a detailed response to the question (Additional Question #2) regarding community priorities and concerns.

Background

1. How did this Belmont University athletics building proposal come about in the first place?

What process was used to seek this building proposal and the required lease amendment prior to being filed with Metro Council?
How long had this been planned prior to filing?
Who, other than Belmont University and Council Member Sledge, was consulted or involved in the drafting of the lease amendment?

These are questions for Parks.

2. Given Belmont had been using batting facilities at Greer Stadium, what is the relationship to the Cloud Hill/Fort Negley development and what, if any, public information is available about this?

Also questions for Parks. Cloud Hill was one reason that the Belmont batting facility needed to be replaced, but there are other issues, including the structure itself and damage to it through vandalism.

A short way of saying this is that Cloud Hill isn’t happening but that Belmont still needs a new facility and location.

3. Why were community meetings not organized prior to filing the amendment with Council?

This is now moot.

4. The terms of the lease amendment:

How, and by whom, was the lease amount of $5,000/year ($416-17/month) determined?
How, and by whom, was the original location determined?

Also questions for Parks.

Present Decisions

1. Is it true, as Council Member Sledge has written that “the road to repealing this amendment may be nearly impossible without repealing the entire lease”?

Yes, this is my understanding.

Would rescinding a flawed lease amendment void the lease, or would it merely give Belmont the theoretical option to withdraw from the original lease?

(Not answered.)

Has Belmont threatened to do withdraw from the original lease if/because they wouldn’t be allowed to expand their footprint in Rose Park?

No. Not to my knowledge.

2. Is it true, as the Parks department has written, that lease amendments without an RFP process do not legally require community meetings? Where is this stated for public information?

These are questions for Parks.

3. The Parks master plan seems clearly to define “neighborhood,” “community,” and “regional” parks in terms of specific size measurements. Other Nashville “community parks” have a wide range of uses.

Is it true, as Vice President Rogers has repeatedly stated, that Metro’s definition of a “community park” favors the kind of organized athletic activities that dominate Rose Park as a result of the sportsplex? If yes, where is this currently stated for public information?
Even if Rose Park is intended for athletic use, why does Belmont University, a private institution, feel entitled to this public parkland?

These are questions for Parks and Belmont.

4. The proposed building:

How tall is the proposed building?

34 feet tall (20 feet first floor, 14 feet second floor).

What is the floor plan?

I should have a floor plan in the presentation Saturday.

Why haven’t architectural renderings been made publicly available?

The presentation in September had a slide showing an outside rendering of the building.

5. Is the proposed location of the building a result of a legal technicality (the reference to “abutting the baseball field” in the original legislation), or is this really where Parks thinks such a building might make sense?

How does this athletics building fit with plans to expand the Easley Center?

These are questions for Parks.

6. We have been told that there would be 5-7 Belmont University offices, but Vice President Rogers did not mention these at the September 2018 Parks Board meeting.

How much space in the building, if any, is reserved for exclusive private use by Belmont University?

The floor plan will help to clarify this.

7. Belmont employees are required to submit “a one-page essay of about 300-400 words that describes how your Christian faith informs and influences your personal and professional life.”

Does the use of a Metro Parks building for offices that will therefore only be used by staff who adhere to this discriminatory religious requirement exclude non-Christians from Metro Nashville’s public property? Does this violate Metro’s (a) ethical or legal provisions or (b) values?

Jason Rogers said that Belmont has a three-tier approach for faculty, staff, and students. I have asked Parks about any potential legal issues.

8. Council Member Sledge indicated at the meeting of the Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association on Monday, September 17, that he might file legislation supporting the building prior to the public meeting scheduled for October. Does he intend to do this, despite the unambiguous expectation of the Parks Board that the amendment not be filed without meaningful community consultation?

No longer a concern.

9. Council Member Cooper stated at the Parks Board meeting that a slow, careful process was needed to respond to the mistakes made last year and that “the reward is to bring a big, inclusive vision to Rose Park.”

Is this going to happen?
If yes, by what mechanism?

The community meeting on Saturday is meant to be a step in this direction.

Future Plans

1. Belmont’s enrollment since the signing of the original lease has grown from 4,765 (Fall 2007) to 8,318 (Fall 2018) and is projected to continue growing. How can the concept of a shared park accommodate this growth, and at what point does the protection of community use become critical?

2. Is there a plan for Rose Park beyond Belmont?

3. Can Metro Parks work with the public on a plan for Rose Park that recovers previously lost assets – tennis courts, non-programmed green space (actual grass rather than astroturf), connectivity, etc. – and opens possibilities for community-focused development (public art, cycle paths, historical preservation, etc.)?

These are questions about Parks planning. The upgrading of the Easley Center to a regional center is in the Capital Improvements Budget (CIB), but this is a wish list. The Capital Spending Plan (CSP) is what matters; it’s the real-world funding for real-world projects.

(The upgrading of the Easley Community Center is included in the Metro Parks “Plan to Play” Strategic Plan and was included in the CIP at Council Member Sledge’s request.)

Additional Questions

1. Following on the September meeting, has there been any exploration of a Community Benefits Agreement in connections with the proposed Belmont building?

That is not the right tool in this case because the lease and lease amendment are basically already agreements between Parks and Belmont.

2. What is the mechanism in the proposed lease amendment for legally assuring community interests such as use of space (on the conservative end), full public use of the building (on the other end), or a guarantee against further Belmont expansion in the park?

These are not part of the lease amendment. How community benefits could be added is a good question.

3. Can the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition have a place on the program for the community meeting?

No. We only have the space for 90 minutes, and the format is designed as a way of getting into a community conversation as quickly as possible. I’ve obtained large maps of Edgehill for community asset mapping and hope that really good conversations come out of people gathering around together and talking about this proposal in a larger, more comprehensive context for Edgehill.