In America, everything tends to end up in the hands of the lawyers. Luckily, the “Save Jack” forces have some pro bono legal eagles on their side. Last Friday, local attorneys Tom Grooms, Brian Jackson, Mike Lawson, Anna Pace, and Byron Trauger gathered to plot a course of action for The Jacksonian’s supporters. The group mapped out several lines of attack, the most obvious of which is to ask the Board of Zoning Appeals to reconsider its decision to grant a variance to the developer planning to build a Walgreen drugstore at the corner of West End and 31st Avenues.
Grooms, a member of the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association, says the zoning board “went after a red herring” in accepting the developer’s argument that the Jacksonian lot is “exceptionally narrow and shallow.” In order for the variance to be justified, according to Grooms “the developer must show that the lot shape deprives him of a beneficial use of the property.”
Grooms also notes that Tom White, the attorney representing the Walgreen developer, “has publicly stated that his client could build a smaller structure. If that’s the case, he didn’t need a variance.”
If the zoning board refuses to reconsider the Walgreen variance, Groom says, opponents of The Jacksonian’s demolition intend to file suit in Chancery Court asking that the board’s decision be reviewed. Grooms says he will probably be named as plaintiff in any legal proceeding,
The lawyers also suggest that the zoning board review zoning administrator Sonny West’s decision that the Walgreen landscape plan does not require a zoning variance. Metro’s new zoning code requires landscape buffers between pieces of property that are zoned for different uses. Thus, the zoning code would require the Walgreen developer to build landscape buffers along both West End and 31st Avenues.
However, the developer has submitted a plan that shows three islands of trees interrupted by three 24-foot-wide driveways. Opponents of the Walgreen plan say that much asphalt negates the very idea of a landscape buffer. Ed Owens, planning manager for the Metro Planning Commission staff, helped write Metro’s new zoning code. He agrees that tree islands surrounded by driveways do not satisfy the code’s intention to create landscape buffers.
West said he decided the Walgreen plan did not require a variance because the zoning code does not specify the number of driveway cuts permitted through a landscape buffer. West has proposed to the Metro Council an amendment to the zoning code that would permit a maximum of 35 feet of driveway for every 100 feet of landscape buffer. If that new standard were adopted, the Walgreen landscape plan still would require a zoning variance. Council was to consider West’s proposed amendment at its meeting this past Tuesday.
Even if the proposed Walgreen survives all these potential legal challenges, the corporation’s problems in Nashville will not be over. Last week The Tennessean reported that Walgreen plans to build a new store on the former site of the Pargo’s restaurant at 4243 Harding Road. But Council member David Kleinfelter has filed an ordinance with the Metro Council to change the zoning of the site from commercial to office/residential. Passage of that zoning change would prohibit construction of a chain drugstore on the Pargo’s site.
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