August 14, 2020
Subject: Request for withdrawal or indefinite deferral of bill BL2019-11: MNPS-Belmont land deal
Dear Council Members Burkley Allen, Kyonzté Toombs, Zach Young:
We write to ask for the withdrawal or indefinite deferral of bill BL2019-11 (up for consideration in Metro Council meeting on August 18, 2020) for reasons of due process with regard to the Lease Agreement and memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) by and between The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County through the Metropolitan Board of Public Schools (“Metro” or “MNPS”) and Belmont University (“Belmont”).
- The filing of this bill came before the MNPS school board deliberated upon and voted on the MOU about an MNPS facility, as it was brought up for discussion at the August 11, 2020 MNPS board meeting. And upon discussion the MNPS school board voted unanimously to defer the MOU until further deliberation on August 25, 2020. At the August 11, 2020 meeting, school board members raised questions about the financial terms, lease vs. grant conditions, public vs. private use of building, potential for discrimination, Belmont’s ability to rent and earn money from facility, and review of agreement by MNPS Executive Officer of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. These are fundamental issues at the heart of this deal.
The filing of this bill is backwards: advancing legislation and agreements before fundamental finances and terms are worked out. It also undermines MNPS School Board’s processes of deliberation and ability to govern.
- The filing also goes against CM Allen’s word to Edgehill neighborhood organizations that she would not bring the bill up for reconsideration until MNPS had deliberated and voted on the MOU. During a meeting with CM Allen, MNPS board member Christiane Buggs, and members of the Rose Park Committee on July 25, 2020, CM Allen committed (while answering an explicit question by Mr. King Hollands on the matter) that she would not file the bill until a school board vote on the MOU.
- The filing of this bill violates CM Allen’s overall commitment to the Edgehill community members who have asked, since 2017, for transparency, due process, fair value and use of public land, and accountability of Belmont’s occupation of Rose Park and expansion into adjacent MNPS land. These issues have not been adequately addressed, and we repeatedly express concerns about these issues crucial to the deal. Instead of safeguarding public lands and public interest through mechanisms of Metro governance and community engagement, the premature filing of the bill advances Belmont’s agenda and timetable, disregarding concerns raised by MNPS board members and Nashville citizens and taxpayers.
- This premature filing also undercuts the spirit of the principles outlined by bill BL2020-386 that CM Allen introduced to Metro Council on August 4, 2020, for greater transparency and community engagement in the “sale, purchase, lease, sublease, or other disposition of real property owned by the Metropolitan Government.”
For these reasons, we ask that bill BL2019-11 be withdrawn or indefinitely deferred.
The Edgehill Coalition Rose Park Committee
Joel Dark, Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition
King Hollands, Organized Neighbors of Edgehill
Avy Long, Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition
Cynthia Matthews, Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition and Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership
Janet Shands, Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership
Joe Staler, Organized Neighbors of Edgehill
Ben Tran, Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association