North Nashville neighbors considering development protections

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 25, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some North Nashville neighbors are trying to put in place a contextual overlay to protect the area from over-development.

However, some of the people living there are worried a new rule might mean the current residents can't do what they want with their property.

Across the city of Nashville, the growth has reached a point where there's no end in sight.

The latest area that's seeing development is historically Black North Nashville.

It's a place where movement and change are noticed by long-time residents like An'Gel Sims.

"You can't stop change," said Sims. "But change should affect everyone so it's good for everybody."

In the Cumberland Gardens neighborhood, there are many old homes. Some are at least 50 years old.

Some of the houses are newly renovated, and others are well kept but their age is apparent.

Natalie Castaneda is another Nashville native. She's lived in her home with her husband and two kids for two years.

Both women are aware of something called a contextual overlay.

It's a plan that's currently proposed for the 50-plus acres the neighbors call home.

The overlay sets guidelines for the development of homes. The spirit is to keep the neighborhood's character as it's always been.

Under the overlay, a home can't be built or added to the point where the home is 150% larger than the square footage under the roof of homes on either side.

Some support the rule but others are worried it will make it harder for current residents to renovate or upgrade their homes.

"My major fears for this is that I'm going to be restricted within my own property to where I'm going to have active living space for my family that's growing unexpectedly," said Castaneda. "I'm also very afraid of this discouraging further growth in this area."

Castaneda says her house is already near that limit. However, she has another baby on the way. If she can't add to her 958-square-foot home, she wonders what will she do.

In North Nashville, development has already been happening.

The 2020 tornado shined a spotlight on growth.

The overlay is meant to stop some types of it.

"We don't want a developer coming in and saying 'This lot is large enough, it's a quarter of an acre. We're going to put four units where one house sat.' That's not what we're looking for," said Sims.

Council Member Brandon Taylor, who proposed the overlay, said this is just the beginning stages of the idea.

"I think it's what's happening in response to the city of Nashville," said Taylor. "You can go anywhere in the entire city of Nashville and Davidson county. There are building projects going on."

He's holding a meeting for the people who live in Cumberland Gardens to hear all their ideas.

There's a general feeling in the neighborhood that tall and skinny homes shouldn't be allowed.

Sims said the new rule won't stop people from adding to their homes.

"It's not going to stop people from building and improving because that's happening all throughout Cumberland Gardens," said Sims.

A meeting was planned for Monday at St. Luke's Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

There are two votes that have to happen at Metro Council before the overlay becomes part of the code.

Taylor said he wants people to give him their input.