2019 Candidate Questionnaire, Nelson Andrews, Citizens for Brentwood Green Space
1. Where would you rank the preservation of green space in Brentwood compared to other priorities facing the City?
There is a hierarchy to the needs of our City, and at the front are things like public safety (police and fire) as well as well as roads and other city services. After we insure adequate resources for the fundamental city services, we should continue to invest in our world-class library and preserving our green space. Our open spaces, park system and trails play a vital role in the identity of our community. Done well, there is an opportunity to improve our system in a way that improves walkability/bikability and reduces congestion in Brentwood.
2. As a City Commissioner, please outline your view on the role you believe the City should play in the acquisition of park land or dedicated green space in our community. Please address whether you feel the city should be active in the acquisition of such types of land or should only address requests or offers made by developers.
As a city commission, we have a number of tools to use in getting the job done, and I believe the commissioners should use the approach that best fits the situation. Commissioners should be actively investigating opportunities to improve and expand our parks and dedicated green spaces, but should also welcome conversations with land owners.
3. Do you feel like Brentwood has enough park land and green space or would you like to see more added?
Brentwood has some spectacular parks and green space, but I believe we should continue to add additional acreage. The Little Harpeth River runs through our city and opened up the opportunity to develop an interconnected park and trail system on the east side of I-65. My desire is that over the long term this corridor is the opportunity to connect our park and trail system between both sides of our city with the added benefit
of improving walkability and bike-ability. This single effort could potentially improve long-term mobility and reduce congestion throughout our city. That said, improving this aspect of our city would have to be done in a financially responsible way, and in keeping with the wishes of our residents.
4. Surrounding communities like Nashville and Franklin have adopted Open Space Master Plans. Nashville is in the process of revising their original Plan. Open Space Master plans include such things as an inventory of the City’s remaining open space; specific criteria to guide the City in evaluating parcels being considered for open space acquisition; defined measurements for the assessment of the costs and benefits of acquiring open space; and funding strategies for the Plan’s implementation. The city has indicated there are approximately 27 tracts greater than 25 acres are still left as undeveloped or significantly underdeveloped in Brentwood totally about 6,500 acres. Would you support the commissioning of such a study for the City of Brentwood?
Brentwood is neither Nashville nor Franklin – we have our own way of doing things, and we have done so with great success (and, in many cases, with envy from our neighboring cities). The city administration and planning staff keep an inventory of properties, and the city commission makes use of that information when making decisions. There are certainly strategic locations around the city that could help with either connecting our existing green corridors or that could improve our distribution of open space. That said, we need to keep this “wish list” in mind while being open to other opportunities as they present themselves while also taking care of our financial resources.
5: Objective 1.C.4 of the Brentwood 2030 plan is to preserve the visual character of the Cal Turner property and the City is to explore tools (such as purchase of land) to preserve visible open space of the property should development of the property be proposed.
a) Would you be in favor of purchasing the Turner property if it were to come on the market? And what is your vision of the property if the City was able to make the purchase?
The Turner property is a complex piece of real-estate. It represents the holiday postcard for many residents, as well as the view you show your relatives when they come to town. It is also a flood plain for the Little Harpeth River, has a railroad track running through the middle, is adjacent to I-65, and adjoins multiple parcels along Franklin Road that are not owned by the Turner family.
While I am very much a believer in private property rights and the principle of limited government, I think the right thing to do would be to work collaboratively with the property owners to see if there is an opportunity to create a greenway that connects the east side and west side of Brentwood and allows improved access to all our parks and trails while preserving the view shed we love and residential character of our city. We must be willing to preserve what we love about our city while carefully keeping an eye on short and long-term financial implications.
b) Would you be willing to support the increase of taxes to purchase all or a significant portion of the Turner Property, or to support a bond initiative for the purchase of the Turner property in order to preserve green space beyond that of publicly visible open space?
Brentwood has been able to make it almost 30 years without increasing property taxes. During this time, the city added over 750 acres to the park system in addition to funding our core services and building and expanding a world class library. I would like to think that as a member of the commission, we will be clever enough to find a solution to connect Brentwood’s East and West sides that also lets us extend our record of no tax increases.
6. What is your view of the priority of bicycling/walking infrastructure implementation so that our community becomes more “walkable and bicycle friendly” in the future? Would you be willing to vote for increasing the City of Brentwood’s property taxes, by a small amount to fund new trial development, sidewalk improvements and an East-West connector across I-65?
Once we take care of our fundamental city services, library, and support our schools, we should certainly focus on improving our bicycling/walking infrastructure and general mobility. I believe we will find avenues to improve sidewalks as well as create an eastwest connector without increasing taxes.
7. What city (besides Brentwood) do you admire for their healthy outdoor living infrastructure and what characteristic(s) would you like to see more of in Brentwood?
Having lived in Brentwood a vast majority of my life while also having been able to travel a great deal, there is not another city that I believe should be copied as Brentwood is truly unique and beautiful. Ironically, for me, Brentwood represents both the best and one of the more challenging of what I’ve experienced in terms of healthy outdoor living infrastructure.
One of the best aspects of Brentwood as it relates to outdoor living is that if you are in reasonable physical shape and live anywhere along the Little Harpeth River east of I-65, you can access Crockett Park, the Eddie Arnold Amphitheater, the Williamson County Indoor Sports Complex, the Brentwood Library, the Martin Center, the Brentwood Family YMCA, Tower Park, the Heritage, Crockett Elementary, Woodland Middle, Ravenwood High School, and Smith Park without ever getting on a public road. It is all accessible by bike or on foot through our trail system. Weather and endurance permitting, you could live the outdoor dream right here in our city, no internal combustion required.
The more challenging aspect is if you don’t live near the connected parks or trails. In this circumstance, you may have to try to get over the interstate or travel one of our roads with open drainage and no shoulders, in which case you have to choose between driving and living dangerously.
Brentwood has it right, but there are improvements we still need to make.