On High Density Housing

Several years ago, a luxury apartment community to be built at a location in LaVergne just off of Sam Ridley Parkway was proposed. The developer requested a zoning change from industrial to high density residential. Nearby residents gnashed their teeth, complained about the increased traffic and made the case that the infrastructure in place could not accommodate all those extra residents. Roads would crumble! Dangerous! Not enough schools! The Board of Mayor and Aldermen listened to the residents and declined to rezone to the high density residential that had been requested. In more recent memory, I remind you that Lake Forest residents were quite vocal about the city buying the land by the roundabout because even a city complex that would include a super unattractive public works area (piles of gravel, road salt storage, a mechanic’s repair area, big machinery, etc.) “would be better than more housing.” (One wonders if they considered all the additional traffic including employees and 11,000 households paying water bills at this snazzy new city hall location.) (Also yes the property was QUIETLY purchased by the city… #transparency.)

Pretty on paper, but …

Now we have a rezoning request for a proposed community inside Lake Forest subdivision – one of the most overpopulated areas in not just LaVergne, but in the entire state of Tennessee AND rumored to be the largest in the entire Southeast United States. Let’s just pause here and consider that we have all witnessed first-hand what high density zoning does to a community … look at the condos located on Nir Shreibman Blvd. They sit practically RIGHT ON that main thoroughfare and even more are being built. Look at the newer parts of Lake Forest subdivision – where people don’t have room to park in driveways (and they can’t park in the street) so yards are mud-pits. And now a developer – the same developer who oversaw the condos and LFE subdivision – is requesting a zoning change for more high density housing.

Here’s the thing. High density housing is high density housing – lots of people in a very small area. High density housing labeled “senior” housing is still high density housing.

I live fairly close to this proposed site. I have to turn left to get on Fergus Road and sometimes I wait a LONG TIME to turn because of the traffic streaming out of Lake Forest. It looks like this proposed community will have more than 100 housing units. However if the zoning is left alone maybe 20-30 houses would go in (guesstimating). Now if you’re the mayor who lives on the other side of town where “high density” housing has been rejected, you can say “there are multiple exits from Lake Forest” as a rationale to back this proposal. I say to him and the folks who fought high density zoning outside of Lake Forest to invite the developer to put that senior housing complex over on the side of town where they live.

Here, Truth Matters

Part two of this diatribe goes to the heart of true transparency. The developer and his representatives talked about all of this with members of the LaVergne Senior Center. The senior community was *elated* to learn this proposed development would be “affordable” housing for ages 55 and up because there is a real and growing need for affordable housing throughout our area. And to give the developer the benefit of the doubt and based on the current standard rental prices in the neighborhood where you start out around $1,250 to $1,300, then paying just $1,000 per month does seem more affordable. But when you have senior citizens who struggle to make it on their monthly social security checks that range from about $800 to $1,900 per month, then $1000 is absolutely NOT affordable. The seniors who at one point were very excited are now wary and distrustful of what will actually go in there. As a nearby resident, I’m wary and distrustful as well, largely due the history of events from these same folks who brought us: 1) The alleged re-routing of a stream to suit a development plan that would stuff more houses in a small area; and 2) Burying a dumptruck in the same neighborhood (and subsequently getting caught). Yes, I have some concerns!

Can Lake Forest really afford over 100 new high density homes? Are you willing to drive in even more traffic? How will these senior residents deal with firetruck sirens screaming at 3:00 a.m.? At 3:00 p.m.? (The high density development would be located next to fire station 3 and the developer touted this as a huge benefit to the seniors.) Screaming sirens right next door could be terrifying for residents with early onset dementia. How about the streets? Are these proposed streets finally designed to be wide enough to actually allow street parking? What is the crime rate in that area? Seniors are most definitely a very vulnerable population so this should also be considered. Also this is set to be rental property… what happens down the road if there is a new owner and they open it to all ages? Maybe an HOA or a well-defined set of Covenants and Restrictions will address this.

Honestly, this is a GREAT idea, but it’s absolutely in the wrong location. If you want to build a senior housing complex find a place that’s not already overcrowded.

Proposed senior housing area.

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