Candidates stand firm on 1-acre lots, believe downsizing options limited for seniors
Eight of the nine candidates running for Brentwood City Commission in the May 7 election discussed during a debate Thursday topics such as housing, growth, infrastructure and crime, showing strong conviction in their stance on the issues.
Dale Pacetti was out of town and unable to attend the debate.
Candidates vying for the four open Brentwood City Commission seats include Wyatt Rex Allen, Nelson Andrews, Anne Dunn, Susannah Macmillan, John Magyar, Dale Pacetti, Stevan Pippin, Ken Travis and Terrence Smith.
The Williamson Herald partnered with the Williamson County Association of Realtors; Williamson, Inc.; and WAKM 950-AM radio for the debate hosted at Tractor Supply Company.
Questions from panelists highlighted a variety of topics, ranging from how Brentwood fits into the regional transportation conversation to senior citizens wanting to downsize.
All candidates in attendance agreed the city’s current zoning ordinance of 1-acre lot density needs to stay in place, and higher density is not something they support.
However, when candidates were asked about how they will serve the senior population that may choose to downsize in Brentwood, some said it is hard to build to accommodate seniors and keep with the low-density standards.
“I personally believe that there are developers out there who are smart enough, creative enough to come to the city and lend some options to us,” candidate John Magyar said.
Magyar and others referred to a a type of zoning called Open Space Residential Development Innovative Project (OSPD-IP) as an option developers could use to potentially create senior housing options, while still following the traditional low-density standards.
“A developer could come up with something and we’ll listen to them, but we don’t have a solution right now other than work within OSRD-IP,” incumbent Ken Travis said.
Candidates also voiced their opposition to a term known as “upzoning” in which developers can request that commissioners consider adding additional lots on a tract of land, as long as it keeps with the one-home-per-1-acre density.
“One or two lots here or there may not seem like a big deal, but over the past 10 years, we’ve had approximately 11 percent upzoning,” candidate Susannah Macmillan said.
“We’ve got to stop the upzoning … It adds up.”
Regarding Brentwood’s role in the regional transportation conversation, some candidates agreed Brentwood needs to be a part of the Greater Nashville Regional Council on which Mayor Jill Burgin currently serves.
Current City Commissioner Anne Dunn said addressing traffic through dedicated bus lanes and rapid transit is getting tougher to do.
“For some of these plans, land is necessary along the interstate, but it’s being sold anyway and used for other things,” she said. “We have to be a part of the discussion.”
For candidate Stevan Pippin, he said mobility options such as bike and walking paths that are currently being constructed around the city are what he would like to focus on.
“You cannot pave your way out of traffic issues,” he said.
Candidates also expressed concern about the rise in crime in Brentwood, agreed that Brentwood is not the place for affordable housing initiatives and approved of the direction Brentwood is going with developments like Hill Center and City Park, as long as mixed-use developments do not get too heavy.
Debate moderator Tom Lawrence asked candidates if they had voted in any local Brentwood city elections in the past. The question led candidates Wyatt Rex Allen and Susannah Macmillan to state they had not voted in previous local elections.
“I was a busy mom in Brentwood, and I got complacent,” Macmillan said. “I’ll admit I wasn’t a strong voter in the past until I jumped in.”
Macmillan said her involvement in advocating against a neighborhood school rezoning led her to get more civically involved.
“I got very involved in the local politics at that time, and I realized this is so important to what these local leaders are deciding,” she said. “My history is not there, but my future is strong in politics.”
Allen also admitted he does not always vote in every local election, either.
“I do vote in the general elections, but when it comes to local elections, I would say that I haven’t voted,” he said. “I’m trying to inspire my generations to take an active role in local government.”
When candidates were asked what their No. 1 agenda item would be, if elected, their responses were as follows:
- Susannah Macmillan – 1-acre density
- Anne Dunn – Being fiscally responsible of citizen’s tax dollars
- Nelson Andrews – To attract and retain the best city staff for excellent city services
- Wyatt Rex Allen – 1-acre density, protecting Brentwood schools
- Ken Travis – responsible and properly planned growth
- Terrence Smith – limited growth
- Stevan Pippin – manage growth
- John Magyar – fiscal responsibility
The Brentwood election is May 7. Early voting starts April 17 and runs through May 2, though offices are closed for Good Friday on Friday, April 19.