Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So, What Kind of Gift Did TSU Get Anyway?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 8:38 PM

The term "pig in a poke" comes from a medieval scam. A person holding a wiggling bag (aka
click to enlarge The Land TSU Will Receive
  • The Land TSU Will Receive
a 'poke') would attempt to sell this wiggling bag claiming it was a suckling pig. In reality, it was usually a cat. If a person let the cat out of the bag too soon, the scam artist would, of course, be caught.

Today, Jack May said, "All we have asked for is an open and honest discussion on the merits of this project."

One wonders how you can have an open and honest discussion on the merits of a project when the people proposing the project lie on their zoning application about whether they've done an archaeological survey or when they lie about the true nature of the support they have for the project.

But the May Town Center folks have managed to get the support of the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership and the Interdenominational Ministers' Fellowship, because these groups are excited by the land donation to Tennessee State University.

So, Nashville, let's talk frankly about that donation. Is it as wonderful as it seems? Pig or cat, my friends. Pig or cat?

Yeah, I wish I had better photo manipulation skills, too, but here at Pith, you get what you pay
click to enlarge The Land TSU Will Receive
  • The Land TSU Will Receive
for. Just squint and you can make out the area of the proposed TSU gift. Note how the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Research runs along the river from about where the proposed new bridge would go in down to Old Hickory Boulevard.

Coming in from the river, also along Old Hickory Boulevard, is the squashed hexagon of the Research Park.  Pay attention to the shape of those two blocks of land.  Not to spoil what's going to happen later in the post, but you're going to see them again.

Meanwhile, let's talk archaeology.  As you know, because I've been harping on it, we don't actually know how many archaeological sites there might be in the Bend or what their significance might be, because there never has been a complete survey of the Bend.

That means there never has been a complete archaeological survey of the May Town Center site, either, regardless of what the zoning application says.

We do, however, know where two major already identified sites are on the land that TSU is to receive.  The presence of archaeological sites on the TSU land doesn't
click to enlarge The Locations and Approximate Sizes of the Known Archaeological Sites in the TSU Land
  • The Locations and Approximate Sizes of the Known Archaeological Sites in the TSU Land
preclude TSU from developing the land in the manner for which it's being given to them.  But, if TSU decides to disturb the sites (which are known to contain human remains), it will be a lengthy and costly process to move them.  Not only will the State be involved (since TSU is a state entity) but TSU takes federal money, which means that the Federal regulations will kick in and the Native American tribes whose ancestors those are will become involved.

And that's assuming that those two sites are the only two sites on the TSU land.

Any timeline or budget for the TSU projects that doesn't figure in the cost and time it will take to deal with those sites is wishful thinking.

But it doesn't take much imagination to guess that one of the reasons the Mays are happy to give that land to TSU is that now those archaeological sites are the university's problem, not the developers'.

What might be another reason?

I think there's a hint in the shape of the TSU land.  Again, my apologies for the crappy
click to enlarge The Army Corps of Engineers' Floodplain Map Showing the South Part of the TSU Land
  • The Army Corps of Engineers' Floodplain Map Showing the South Part of the TSU Land
rendering, but I got on the Army Corps of Engineers' website to take a look at the flood inundation maps and... I don't even have to tell you, do I?  Click on each picture to make it bigger, and see if you don't see it.

The Mays are giving TSU all the land in the flood plain.

They've kept the higher ground for themselves.  And of course they would.  Who wants to buy
click to enlarge flood2.JPG
flood insurance if they don't have to?

Of course, if TSU is going to build there, they'll need flood insurance.

It doesn't matter how many community leaders and ministers they trot out to say how great it is, the truth of the matter is that this isn't just a gift from the generosity of the Mays' hearts. This is a gift that solves a lot of problems for the May Town Center folks, gives them enthusiastic advocates in North Nashville, and hands off some big headaches to TSU to deal with.

Maybe it's just me, but that rankles just a little bit.

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