In the coming months, debate about development in Nashville will be stirred up by two Nashville neighborhoods that want to protect their historic character. If approved, parts of Inglewood and the Waverly-Belmont area would get neighborhood overlays that govern homebuilding.
Complicated and emotional for residents, these overlays also test the city officials who must vote on them, like Richard Fletcher on the Metro Historical Zoning Commission.
“It’s not fun to be a recipient of the pros and the cons,” Fletcher said in a recent meeting about Waverly-Belmont. “We certainly sympathize with the neighbors that were not for this … But clearly … a vast majority of the residents are for this.”
Faced with rising passions among residents — and the infrequency with which they consider such overlays — commissioners asked for a refresher on exactly how they work.
There are several types. Historic is the most stringent. Contextual is the least. In the middle — being debated now — is the neighborhood conservation overlay.
Its goal is to keep a consistency among homes in distinctive or architecturally significant neighborhoods.
Under such an overlay, officials get to review demolition requests, home relocations, and any home additions visible from the street.
But some homeowners don’t want these restrictions on their properties, a point that Commissioner Sam Champion pointed out.
“While we had a very strong side on approving this, we also had a strong side on not approving this,” he said. “They own property now that they thought they could do A, B, and C with, and if we approve this — which I hope we do — we take some of that right away.”
Commissioner Hunter Gee also spoke in favor.
“We are losing what makes Nashville special rapidly these days,” he said. “Maintaining our authenticity — this is one really good way to do it.”
Nashville has 19 of these districts — the last created in 2013. They’ve tended to surface every couple years. What’s unusual now is that the two proposals would create the largest overlays in the city, affecting hundreds of homes in Inglewood and Waverly-Belmont.
In Inglewood Place, which sprouted in 1909 as a “streetcar suburb,” more than 400 homes, mostly bungalows, would be conserved. The Waverly-Belmont proposal spans between 8th and 12th avenues.
Each zone must pass three votes. So the intensity could continue at meetings this winter.
Waverly-Belmont is one step ahead and has its next meeting with the Planning Commission on Dec. 10, followed by Metro Council.
The first public hearing for the Inglewood proposal is scheduled for Dec. 16 in front of the Metro Historic Zoning Commission.