Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bullying the Soul of Music Row

Rounding the corner of Music Circle East a week ago or so it was impossible to miss the large, clean, orange and white construction barricades on the right side of the road. Obviously, MDHA and Lionstone Group have upped the ante in their fight with Country International Records owner Joy Ford. I pulled the car over and started snapping pictures. Every entrance and exit to the property owned by Lionstone Group was blocked by one of these barricades--well except for one which allowed the customers of the Demonbreun business access to parking on Lionstone property. And then there were some who decided that driving over the sidewalk and curb wasn't a problem. Wonder how long that nice brick public sidewalk will last as a result of Lionstone closing the driveway to Music Circle East.

I stopped by Country International Records a couple of days later and asked Miss Joy when all this had happened. She told me it happened sometime in the dark of night after the press conference on July 21st. She told me that she had been in the office until about 11:00 p.m. and was back the next morning about 6:00 a.m. and the barricades were already in place. There had been one on Demonbruen but it was removed after not too long.

It was obvious that Miss Joy no longer had access to the alley along the right side of and behind her property which I knew meant that clients using tour buses, limos or larger trailers wouldn't have access to the back of her property. The only entrance to the back of her property is along the south side. As you can see this is too narrow for any bus to be sure.

In the map here Miss Joy's property is the red and the blue is the alley that she'd been using for years and was now being denied access to. I wondered aloud how Lionstone could get away with that. Miss Joy informed me that they had closed the alley, against her wishes back in 2006 and showed me this video:

What we have there is about 24 minutes of discussion by the Metro Council on May 16, 2006, the third and final reading regarding the closing of the alley (Bill Number 2006-1011 sponsored by Ludye Wallace & Councilman Rip Ryman (Goodlettsville). It's clear from the start that the bill should never have been on the agenda and the Council broke it's own Rule 18 which states:


No resolution or ordinance approving or authorizing the execution of any contract, lease, agreement or other instrument, or authorizing the closure and/or abandonment of any street, alley or easement, upon being filed, shall be placed upon the agenda by the Metropolitan Clerk unless said documents shall have been executed by all necessary parties including affected property owners for legislation closing and/or abandoning streets or alleys, excepting the signature of the Metropolitan Mayor and the Metropolitan Clerk. Further, said documents need not be executed by state, federal and railroad officials to be placed upon the agenda.

and it was clear that Metro legal didn't care. Metro Legal was represented at that meeting by Karl Dean, now mayor of Nashville. He stated Ford was "clearly affected by... if the alley is closed and she had access before. She's affected by that." (Minute 5:57) But backed his legal office's interpretation that because she had access via Music Circle East this closing could be done.

Councilmen who clearly understood that Miss Joy would be affected included:

Parker Toler (District 31) asks that this bill be re-referred to Public Works to determine if Ford is impacted by this bill. (Minute :35). Toler rises again at Minute 15:30 and moves that the bill be deferred one meeting and re-referred to Public works.

Ronnie Greer brings up Rule 18 and makes clear Ford hasn't consented and asks several times, in different ways, how it's on the agenda and how the Council can proceed knowing it shouldn't have been. (Minute 2:55)

Carolyn Baldwin Tucker clearly understands that Ford's music industry business means her clients have buses that won't have access to the back of her property anymore and that this is a battle between the rights of one private citizen against the rights of another private citizen. (Minute 10:10)

Sam Coleman (District 32) asks the sponsor (Ryman & Wallace) to defer this bill one meting out of an 'abundance of caution to the party that is affected'.

Former Council legal advisor Don Jones took the blame for the bill getting on the agenda at First Reading without Miss Joy's consent to the closing but now that it was on the agenda it couldn't be removed he asserts. (Minute 13:15)

Here's the vote that night.

So the alley Miss Joy was using for years, still needs for her clients and Lionstone didn't mind her using for some two years is now closed for her use. Nothing has changed except Miss Joy is fighting the condemnation of her property by responding to MDHA's legal maneuvers. Lionstone doesn't need it currently. Doesn't mind the Demonbreun customers using it. One can only assume they're further trying to intimidate Miss Joy by boxing her in and inhibiting her normal business.

In the meantime people continue to rally around Miss Joy in recognition of the fact that property rights are in danger. For some great shots of the inside of Country International Records and details of this battle you might want to pick up a copy of Nashville Music Guide dated August/September 2008. They've got a lot of the details starting on page 40 along with a supportive editorial which encourages Mayor Karl Dean to step up get MDHA to drop this issue by writing in part: "It's our taxpayer dollars that are being committed to this legal battle, and Karl Dean as mayor has the responsibility to see that our dollars are not squandered on a frivolous legal action."

The Tennessean has a gallery of photos also.

Their columnist Gail Kerr has written "The developer... cannot build around her. More likely, the developer can't make as much money building around her."

The Tennessean editorial says: "In the meantime, MDHA and the developer should drop this maneuver. We encourage them to find other alternatives. Although the project could add to the resurgent Nashville landscape, Ford's right to stay should be respected, and the individuality she represents is good for the soul of Music Row."

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