Councilman Jonathan Hall says he was not consulted on Bells Bend acquisition in his district

Aerial view of the Bells Bend area. (Imagery ©2019 Google. Map data ©2019)

Mayor Briley announced Monday a planned acquisition of over 700 acres of green space in Bells Bend to add large tracts of land to the city’s parks and greenways system.

The acquisition is composed of the purchase of two separate properties: approximately 107 acres currently owned by Thomas Bros. Grass and used as a sod farm; and 682 acres owned by the Graves family. Both parcels are located off Old Hickory Road in the Bells Bend area.

The purchase prices for the properties are about $1.5 million and $7.8 million, respectively. The parcels will; be paid for via Metro Parks Department greenways acquisition funds.

“Preserving and adding green space is vital as our city continues to grow and develop,” said Mayor Briley. “These nearly 800 acres of farmable land have great potential for food production, sustainability efforts and agri-tourism. I’ve been fighting to preserve public green space in this particular area for quite some time, and I am so pleased it will now become a part of our parks system.”

However, not everyone is happy about the acquisition, or rather the manner in which it happened.

District 1 Councilman Jonathan Hall, whose district the land is in, says that he was not made aware of the purchase until days before the announcement.

“(Mayor Briley) didn’t consult me on the plan,” said Councilman Hall. “I wasn’t aware of it until this weekend. We had a brief conversation of less than 10 minutes on Saturday.”

Councilman Hall said that he assumed that Saturday would be the beginning of the conversation about the land, but when he saw the article in the in The Tennessean and the announcement Monday night he felt, “that’s a different thing especially when I get to the office and his legislation is on my desk to approve a sale—especially when you have two other council members names attached to it.”

“District 1 belongs to the people of District 1 and they have their representative,” he said. “You don’t do business in any District that way. We still have a lot to discuss about it.”

The sale of the sod farm acquisition will go in front of the Parks Board for approval on July 2 before moving to the Metro Council for final approval. The Graves property acquisition will be considered by the Parks Board and Council this fall.

Hall is not sure if he will approve the plan.

“We still have to have a lot of conversations about it,” he said.

The councilman wants to be sure that there are protections put in place, specifically about how much of the land is going to be farmed and by whom, as well as protection of the land in a trust to prevent future sale in case the city decides to use the land to help fund other projects.

Councilman Hall says that the way the city has gone about “telling” District 1 about what it is going to do as opposed to working with them has been a pattern with the Metro Government.

“The reality is that the part of the city that is doing well is the part that’s been promoting NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) for decades.

“Everything that they don’t want they want to deposit in North Nashville and Bordeaux. Every landfill, dump, mental health facility, salvage yard- you name it, they sent it.

Hall says he just wants to make sure that District 1 residents get a say so in what happens in their community.

“Not to say it is not a good thing. Our goal is to protect the land in that area. But without specifics, I’m not going to assume, hope, or whish that we get to farm it. Or assume, hope, or wish that that the city is not going to sell it next year as soon as something else needs to be paid for. Once those protections are in place, let’s go.”