Saturday, September 22, 2007

Greenlines and Planning: A Brief Conversation with Mary Wilder

This is an email conversation I had with Mary Wilder, citizen, activist, former interim State Representative and present candidate for City Council. It is not an endorsement. Picking candidates is an exercise I leave for the reader and myself.

What part did you play in the establishment of the Vollintine-Evergreen Greenline?

I started gardening up on the space before VECA owned it. Several other neighbors started mowing the grass. Then VECA got the NPI grant. I was the coordinator working with a committee of volunteers. Bob Schneider and I were the ones to negotiate the purchase of the V&E Greenline from CSX in 1996.

How far towards Downtown and towards Raleigh does the old railroad right of way extend past the VE Greenline? Does the western end extend past the Sears Crosstown and I-240? Does the eastern end extend to the proposed Wolf River Greenway?

The Greenline is the old M&O then L&N then CSX. It was the second oldest rail line in Memphis stated by Robertson Top in 1856. It ran from downtown where the MATA station is now out to Raleigh Springs.

It is abandoned from St. Jude’s downtown out towards Raleigh/Barlett. St Jude’s has purchased sections and built across it. Boral Brick on Hollywood still uses a section of the rail line.

Have there been any efforts to extend it in either direction?

When it was abandoned in 1983 VECA asked the city to buy the rail line for a bike trail. They were not interested. At present I don’t know of any effort to secure/purchase the rest of the abandoned line.

I see from the VE Greenline web site that that greenline was purchased from CSX Railroad. CSX is also the railroad that owns the right-of-way for proposed Memphis Greenline. There's been a lot of talk that CSX's asking price is much too high for that right-of-way. Are you seeing a difference in CSX's price or attitude with the Memphis Greenline than with the VE Greenline?

I don’t know if there is a difference. The price is high for undevelopable land. My question is: has the City or County started the rail banking process with the Federal Transportation Department?

You want to be the new City Councilperson from Super District 9-3. What would you specifically do as Councilwoman to make the Memphis Greenline and Wolf River Greenway a reality?

I would look into the rail banking process at the federal level. I would see what has been done to date and I see what is holding the process up. Is it just money -- the purchase price?

What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to complete either project for at least walking trails?

I don’t know. We just started mowing our area and the cinder bed served as the walk way.

So how would you work with Councilpeople from other parts of the City, parts that may not even have the Greenline or Greenway in them, to make this happen?

The V&E Greenline draws people from around midtown. Greenways are not neighborhood specific. I would try educate council on the economic benefit and the community enhancement of usable green space.

Speaking of green, do you think the laws and enforcement we have in Memphis now are adequate to protect our urban forest? It seems like we still have a lot of clear-cutting going on.

Did we ever get an urban forester? I would want to promote the best urban forest laws and policies we could.

I noticed on your campaign website that you want to re-establish the Planning Commission. Why would this improve on the present Land Use Control Board and other planning organizations and systems?

Land Use Control is not a Planning Board. It is a zoning board to review land use in context of existing zoning or approve zoning changes. A Planning Commission is a citizen, government, business based policy board or commission that in conjunction with a planning staff (OPD)
develop the long range growth plans for the City. These plans then become ordinances that guide the development of the city. We are developing now in a spot zone method with no guidance from a legislative Growth Plan.

I see. Would there be a "judicial" compliment to the Planning Commission -- a place for interpretation and exceptions and appeals? I'm probably blinded by the one-off disasters of the LUCB, but it feels like the exceptions granted are where we get killed.

Normally-judicial is judicial, and goes to court. The Landmarks ordinance is written that way but City Council has given themselves the judicial role. Until that is challenged in court, City Council has placed itself in that judicial review role, which is why they spend 75% of their time on land use issues.

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Blogger Aaron said...

Love the VE Greenline. We live a block away from it.

4:29 PM  

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