August 1, 2017
As discussed at the July 20 meeting of the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition, we attended a meeting at Belmont University on Tuesday, July 25, to discuss a revised proposal for the construction an indoor batting facility in E. S. Rose Park. The meeting was convened by Council Member Sledge following the larger meeting he had called at the Midtown Hills Police Precinct Building on Thursday, June 22, at which strong and consistent community opposition to this project was expressed.
The Belmont meeting began with a presentation of the revised proposal followed by about two hours of discussion. The revised proposal responds to a concern expressed by property owners on the northern side of Rose Park by moving the proposed building back from the property line to the park’s northeast parking lot. This would also avoid the removal of trees and the loss of existing green space.
As at the June meeting, the discussion of the proposal ranged from practical concerns to issues of process and principle. In terms of its obstruction of the view from the park to the east (including the view of Fort Negley) and the loss of parking access protected by the original lease agreement, the proposed new location is even less desirable than the site previously suggested. This led to some consideration, at least among the Edgehill group, of whether the proposed building could be relocated to the northwest parking lot and/or reduced to a one-story building (minus the Belmont offices).
Discussion of process and principles at the meeting mostly revisited points made previously. The most important of these was the lack of consultation with, or even accurate notification to, the Edgehill community prior to the submission of the lease amendment to the Metro Council. We continue to regard this as especially problematic in light of the history of our relationship with Belmont and the communication/good-faith clauses of the original Rose Park lease agreement.
One new development at the meeting was the suggestion by some community members that space for indoor baseball practice be incorporated into Metro Parks’ planned redevelopment/expansion of the Easley Center from a “Neighborhood” classification to the kind of “Regional” facility serving Hadley, Sevier, Coleman, and other parks. It was not clear if Belmont would support this idea, and we would also need to present it to the Coalition, but joint advocacy for this facility might help to build a genuinely mutual partnership with Belmont toward a truly common goal.
We value the relationship with Belmont that has developed within the framework of the original lease agreement. The amendment, however, far exceeds the purview of this agreement and violates its spirit. The amendment leases public land to a private institution on terms far below market rate and, by allowing the construction of a building on this land, irrevocably surrenders an important scenic resource of the neighborhood and the city.
We strongly recommend that the Edgehill Neighborhood Coalition call for the repeal of the lease amendment and work with Metro Parks toward a strategic vision for E.S. Rose Park informed by neighborhood and community interests. We acknowledge the potential appeal of shorter-term “fixes,” including alternatives that we considered at the meeting, but these are responses to an unanticipated and unfortunate situation rather than a positive plan for the park. Careful stewardship of E.S. Rose Park clearly falls within the responsibilities and capabilities of our Coalition, which has also proved to be a reliable partner for the city and for institutions adjacent to our neighborhood. We believe that discussions going forward should be conducted within this framework, and we recognize the present moment as critical – both to protect what remains of the park as a natural community resource and to realize its future potential.
Members of the Edgehill Coalition Rose Park Team