For about one year, a South Nashville church hoping to build a village of tiny homes for the city's homeless has faced fierce opposition from nearby homeowners. Monday, the battle to block construction of the project spilled into a courtroom for the first time.
"This case is about Methodism and Methodists' deeply held beliefs that we are obligated to help our less fortunate neighbors, and particularly our neighbors experiencing homelessness," said attorney Lisa Carson, who represents Glencliff United Methodist Church.
The church has partnered with nonprofit Open Table Nashville to build the Village at Glencliff. The project consists of 22 micro homes that will house the homeless and provide medical care to residents.
Federal and state religious land use laws allow religious organizations to use their property in any way that furthers their mission, meaning the project has skirted Davidson County zoning laws.
Nearby neighbors have filed suit to block the project.
Monday, attorney Marshall Albritton argued if the Village at Glencliff moves forward, it will set a precedent in Davidson County and beyond that threatens neighborhoods everywhere.
"Planning and zoning don't allow me to build a tiny house in my backyard, but I would like to do that and because I'm religious, I want an exemption," Albritton said. "We argue that would effectively destroy planning and zoning in Davidson County. Anyone with property could ask for that exemption."
Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman said she plans to issue an opinion as soon as possible.
After that, both sides will have 30 days to appeal her decision. If that happens, the project could be delayed for another year or more.