DEC 2017 THE YEAR 2017, as with most years, has had its share of changes and challenges:
Personnel: In March our City Manager of four years left to accept a position with Metro Water Services. Replacing someone with experience and institutional knowledge is always a challenge, but the City was fortunate to fill the vacancy by May 1 with the hiring of Amanda Rhinehart.
Amanda brought with her four years of experience as planning and development director for Shelbyville and has already applied that experience to improve our zoning ordinances and enforcement.
We are all familiar with the building phenomenon whereby an older, relatively modest, ranch-style home disappears and is replaced with a large, taller and (inevitably) white one. Reacting to residents’ concerns the City’s Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission made changes to the Zoning Ordinance that would allow for new construction which would blend as harmoniously as possible with the existing neighborhood character. Amanda and City Assistant Jamie Dupré have installed a new building permit tracking system (IWORQ) which allows for comprehensive tracking and a history of all building permits associated with a particular property.
Forest Hills is over fifty years old, which puts pressure on our streets and drainage systems. We have a 10-year paving schedule—updated annually—which allows us to pave at the most cost-effective “sweet spot” in a street’s life. In addition, we have a program of asphalt rejuvenation that extends the life of a street at a financial benefit several times greater than its cost.
In addition to scheduled paving, the City has let a contract with two firms for miscellaneous road and drainage projects. These projects are awarded on a case-by-case basis, which gives the City flexibility to assign a specific project to the firm best suited in terms of cost and experience. It also allows for a high level of responsiveness in case of emergencies.
The Hall Tax—our single largest source of revenue—continues to go away. Fortunately, it will be several more years before it disappears entirely; the City has adequate funds to continue to provide services for several years after that. For over a year we have been in discussions with Metro government to try to reconcile the fact that Forest Hills residents pay property taxes at the same rate as other residents in the General Services District but, unlike them, do not receive public works services such as street maintenance, chipper service, snow removal, etc. The City is looking to continue these discussions as well as exploring other avenues to remedy this unfair situation.
As always, the Commissioners seek and appreciate your input on matters large and small important to you and to the City. We hope to see more of you at our monthly meetings and offer our best wishes for a happy holiday season.
SEPT 2017 Summer is a lovely time to live in Forest Hills. The trees are fully leafed out and landscaping is at its best. The longer daylight hours offer more time to be outside playing with the kids or relaxing on the patio. Unfortunately, the increased opportunity to be outside can bring its own sources of irritation.
As you read this, there is a good chance that some sort of building activity—a remodeling, an addition, a brand-new home—is going on somewhere nearby. Nobody enjoys the noise and increased traffic that construction generates, and Forest Hills has a number of ordinances and regulations that try to minimize the impact of a building project.
We have an ordinance limiting the hours a contractor may work. Another ordinance deals with commercial vehicles (construction and landscaping) that park on the City’s streets and right of ways. These vehicles are urged to park on private property whenever possible and when this is not an option to take appropriate precautions to alert motorists to their presence.
We also have an ordinance that addresses offenses against the peace and quiet; i.e., noise in general. It is very specific prohibiting, among other things, “singing on the public streets…between the hours of 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM.” It is also, as you can imagine, somewhat hard to enforce.
It is this—enforcement—that is the Achilles’ heel of some of these ordinances. By their nature a lot of the activities they are designed to control take place after hours or on weekends. Our plan to control construction working hours is proving to be successful but with a total staff of three we don’t always have the resources to enforce our regs as tightly as we’d like.
How you can help
And this is where residents can be a huge help:
● Read the City Manager’s article on page 2 about reporting violations of the construction activities policy.
● Ask your landscape and lawn maintenance services to follow these same guidelines.
● Think about doing your own private chores and yardwork during hours that don’t disturb the peace and quiet in the neighborhood.
Summer is, indeed, a beautiful time to live in Forest Hills and cooperation, consideration, and mutual respect can only make it better.
Our City Manager of almost four years, Amanda Deaton-Moyer, is leaving to accept a management position with the Metro Water Department.
Her knowledge, training, and skills, combined with her ever-present enthusiasm and good humor, will be missed. On behalf of the elected and appointed officials of Forest Hills I’d like to extend a special “Thank You” for a job well done and “Best Wishes” as she begins a new phase in her career.
The Board of Commissioners is actively seeking her replacement. We have met with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, the same state-furnished service that recruited Amanda. MTAS has advertised the position and will begin interviewing applicants soon. There are a number of variables in the process so the timeline is somewhat fluid but we hope to have a new City Manager on board no later than July 1.
The transition will have its challenges. The City has always tried to deliver services at the highest level, and it is our goal to continue. Here are some steps we are taking towards that end:
● Staffing. In this newsletter are articles profiling our two newest staff members. They were hand-picked by Amanda because of their interpersonal skills and commitment to providing the best resident satisfaction possible. The Board of Commissioners and new City Manager will continue to work closely with them in accomplishing that goal.
● Zoning and permitting. These are the City’s core functions, and Amanda has played a major role in answering zoning questions, reviewing plans, and issuing building permits. To make sure these processes continue smoothly during this transition period we have asked the firms of our City Engineer and City Attorney to establish regular hours in City Hall several days a week to review plans and answer zoning and permitting questions. We will post these hours on our website.
● Public works. Contracts for paving, chipper service, right-of-way maintenance, etc., are in place, and we will continue to oversee them.
How you can help
If things go as planned, this transition will be virtually seamless and go unnoticed by the vast majority of residents. Streamlined communications will go a long way in helping us achieve our goal. Here are a few ways residents can help:
Try out See, Click, Fix. If you spot an area of concern that falls in the Public Works category (e.g., pot holes, drainage, blocked visibility at an intersection) consider reporting it on See ClickFix. See page 3 to learn more about this underused but highly effective tool.
E-mail your concerns. This not only provides a paper trail but allows others in city government and management to participate in finding a solution.
Phone calls. We have always operated with a very lean staff and during this period there is a good chance your call may go to voice mail. This is checked frequently and calls will be returned but please be aware responses may take longer than usual.
Visit City Hall. Please visit our lovely City Hall any time but understand there may be times when your wait is longer than you or we would like.
We ask for your patience, particularly with our new employees. They are still learning some details of their jobs but they are getting more familiar with them every day and are genuinely committed to being of help.
I would like to close by again thanking Amanda for her service to the City of Forest Hills and by asking you for your help and understanding as we search for her replacement.
The City has seen its share of changes and challenges in 2016:
● Elimination of the Hall Tax. After years of debate the Tennessee General Assembly finally pulled the trigger and voted to eliminate the Hall Tax by 2021. This means that about one half of the City’s revenues will disappear within the next five years.
This loss creates substantial challenges, but there are several mitigating factors to lessen its immediate impact. The tax’s disappearance will be incremental, and the City has enough reserves to allow for services to continue while conducting thoughtful and transparent discussions on how best to move ahead.
● Building boom. Over the past twelve months the City has issued a
total of 155 building permits including 18 for brand new homes and 13 for major renovations.
● Updates to Zoning Code. As mandated by the Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners reviewed our Zoning Code. Early in the year the City reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining strict residential land use by clarifying existing language in the Code that prohibited short-term rentals. Commissioners also undertook a lengthy study of how best to maintain our commitment to low-density development with challenges posed by larger houses being proposed for “scraped” lots. (At press time the issue is still being reviewed, making it the most thoroughly vetted zoning change I can recall in the past 20 years.)
● New faces. In January Matt Foster, our city attorney for nine years, made a career change, and we were fortunate to replace him with Chad White of Tune, Entrekin & White, whose experience and professionalism have made for a smooth transition. After 16 years our City Assistant Cynthia Despot also made a career move; her replacement Jamie Dupré is now on the team. Finally, the Board of Commissioners authorized the creation of a part-time position to help enforce our ordinances and to follow through with special projects such as implementing a cohesive Neighborhood Watch program throughout the City. Jennifer Hackett joined us in late summer, and her efforts are already apparent.
● Citizen involvement. On several occasions large numbers of citizens came to Commissioners’ meetings to share their views on an issue of particular importance to them. In addition to our newsletter, website, and e-blasts, we continue to look for new ways to inform and involve residents on City issues.
The coming year promises to be busy as we deal with new financial, personnel, and policy issues. As always, the Commissioners seek and appreciate your input on matters large and small that are important to you and to the City. We hope to see more of you at our meetings and offer our best wishes for a happy holiday season!
If preserving Forest Hills’ natural resources and open spaces is your passion, if ensuring that Forest Hills remains a single-family, residential community gets your heart racing, then the City’s Comprehensive Plan is a must-read.
The first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1991 in response to several developments of much greater density than existed anywhere else in the city.
In 2007 City leaders recognized several major gaps in the original plan and initiated an effort to develop strategies for further protecting the community’s character. Professional planners were hired, committees were formed, and over the next two and a half years more than 100 residents met regularly to discuss recommendations. In January, 2010 the revised Plan was adopted.
The Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for zoning regulations and other decisions that shape the community. The 2010 revision identified a number of threats to and opportunities for preserving and enhancing the City’s character. This article deals with some of the major threats and the actions that have been taken in response; a subsequent article will talk about opportunities.
● Small Parcel Development and Redevelopment (aka “teardowns”). As land values increase and existing homes age we have seen a number of relatively modest homes leveled and replaced by McMansions that are out of scale with their lot and neighboring houses. We are continuing to explore ways to balance the interest of individual property owners with the suburban estate character of the City.
● Commercialization and Expansion of Non-Residential Uses. Non-residential uses are substantially restricted by our Zoning Ordinance and have been for decades. As some of the uses evolve and as non-residential owners seek to expand them, we are aware of the challenge of protecting our suburban estate character against the expansion of uses which are detrimental to neighborhood tranquility. We recently adopted an ordinance which, among other things, gives specific examples of activities that have been prohibited. Soon there will be a change in management of the City’s sole retail establishment—the Granny White Market—and we plan to meet with new management to explain the City’s rules and expectations.
● Development on the City’s Borders. While we cannot control development outside our jurisdiction we hope to influence it through contact with Metropolitan Nashville’s various boards and elected officials including Mayor Megan Berry and our Council representative Angie Henderson.
● Traffic. In the past there was talk of widening Old Hickory Boulevard and Hillsboro Pike to try to accommodate Nashville’s ever-growing traffic. The City is on record as opposing these changes, and as of now we are not aware of any plans by either Metro Nashville or the state of Tennessee to pursue these options.
A copy of our Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinances can be found at www.cityofforesthills.com under the “Resources” tab.
Last season City Hall received over a dozen reports of packages taken from mailboxes or front porches, and car break-ins seem to increase as cars are left unlocked at parties, shopping trips, and short errands.
Adopted in 2010, the Forest Hills Comprehensive Plan is the foundation for our zoning, subdivision and other regulations. The vision it sets out is a guide for decisions made by the City’s administrative staff and various boards and commissions.
On August 6 the Nashville mayoral election will take place. With seven viable candidates it’s a crowded field and, as of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner.
It’s almost spring again, and with it comes the annual blooming of daffodils at the Harding Place intersection, the budding of cherry trees along Hillsboro Pike . . . and the recurring talk of repealing the Hall Tax from Capitol Hill.
At the end of a year we all take time to reflect a bit on the past and look ahead to the future.
At its June 2013 meeting the Board of Commissioners voted to extend the City’s bike path along Granny White Pike from Robert E. Lee to Otter Creek Road.
At its March meeting the Board of Commissioners agreed to a request from the Percy Priest Elementary School PTO to fund $50,000 of the school’s $150,000 playground renovation.
The past year has been a busy one for the City of Forest Hills. Some activities—the construction of a new City Hall for example—are highly visible.
You may have noticed the construction on the Bethel World Outreach Church campus at the intersection of Granny White Pike and Old Hickory Boulevard. The Church applied for and received the permits for an expansion of its main facility.
What you may not have known is that on March 25, the City of Forest Hills became aware that Bethel had requested an additional special permit to build a three-story, 36,000 square foot office building on the Granny White side of their campus right across from Forest Hills residents’ homes and 45 feet off the property line of Dorset Park.
We are pleased to report continued progress on the Kellytown effort. On March 3, the Metro Parks board formally approved the establishment of Friends of Kellytown as a volunteer support group for Metro Parks.
On March 25, the Friends board met at Primm Park in Brentwood. Both Brentwood Mayor Betsy Crossley and former state archaeologist Nick Fielder were kind enough to let our group meet with them on the site and give us a tour. Primm Park is similar in many ways to the Kellytown site in that it was inhabited by Mississippian period Native Americans. The site also houses the beautifully restored Boiling Spring Academy dating back to 1832.
The hills of our City hold the distinction of being part of the headwaters of five different streams that flow though the greater Nashville area: Richland Creek, Chickering Branch, Belle Meade Branch, Sugartree Creek, and West Fork of Browns Creek. Additionally, our hills feed two other streams flowing through our borders: Otter Creek, and another unnamed tributary to the Little Harpeth River. All of these waterways, like all streams around Nashville, are part of the Cumberland River watershed.
Forest Hills commissioner Henry Trost was a familiar face around Percy Priest Elementary for many years.
“With three daughters—now a senior, a sophomore, and a sixth grader—all of whom attended PPE, my wife Lynne and I were parents there for 11 years,” Henry said. In fact, Trost credits volunteer work at the school with his getting involved with the City of Forest Hills.
“I first became aware of the workings of City Hall while helping the Percy Priest Elementary PTO raise money for a new library,” he said. Before that interaction, he said, “I hadn’t given much thought about it.”
DEC 2017 The year 2017 has been especially busy in Metro Government as Nashville grows by upwards of 80 new residents a day and builds to accommodate that growth.
This summer the Metro Council’s operating budget process was improved in some ways and diminished in others—I was the lone “no” vote on the operating budget because I know we can and should do better. I am pleased that with effort and intention, our capital improvements budgeting process is evolving from the “wish list” of yore to a better strategic planning document.
While it seems that spring started in January this year, I am still looking forward to spring blooms and more time outside in beautiful District 34.
Over the past two years, I have enjoyed attending the City of Forest Hills Cultural and Natural Resource Committee events and am eagerly awaiting the Native Plants Class and Sale on April 1. Hope to see you there!
This fall marks my first year in office on the Metro Council representing and serving District 34, which includes the entire City of Forest Hills. It has been a busy year legislatively. Most recently, bills addressing short-term rental properties, a new one-touch make-ready policy for broadband installation on utility poles, and the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana have fostered interesting discussions and new policies.
DEC 2017 As 2017 comes to a close, we would like to take the opportunity to offer a few guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety during festivities.
Parking. With holidays coming up, remember that our parking policy applies to residents as well as contractors/service personnel. Emergency vehicles must be able to navigate through our streets.
Parking or stopping on City roads, streets, or rights-of-way is prohibited in these cases:
SEPT 2017 In addition to being just generally annoying, excessive noise can be harmful to the health and welfare of citizens. Title 11, Chapter 3 of the City of Forest Hills Municipal Code prohibits unreasonably loud, disturbing, and unnecessary noise within City limits. Unless the complaint is stemming from the following enumerated sources, the City of Forest Hills is limited in the actions that can be taken to mitigate the situation.