July 05, 2016

Road to Progress: Developer and City of Germantown Aim to Save McVay Road’s 2-Lane Charm

The Commercial Appeal

July 2, 2106

The City of Germantown and a developer are making an unusual request of Memphis.

Germantown seeks an agreement allowing its own Public Works Department to perform the maintenance on about 114 yards of residential streets that would be built on Memphis turf.

The request supports something else that has become more and more unusual for land-strapped Germantown:  A plan by Boyle Investment Co. to build a 30-acre, 50-lot subdivision called Allelon in a forest that straddles the Memphis-Germantown border.

All the $500,000-$700,000 houses there would be in Germantown. In Boyle’s design, the western, Memphis portion of Allelon, comprising 4.4 acres, would be two strips of forest about 55 yards wide.

The purpose of the “common open spaces” is more to preserve Memphis’ scenic McVay Road than buffer the subdivision from the road traffic, said Gary Thompson, Boyle vice president.

The topography  — there’s a creek and floodplain bordering the north edge of Allelon in Germantown —  and existing road network dictate that the only way into and out of Allelon is west through Memphis.

Boyle Investment proposes to build two Allelon subdivision streets that tie into McVay Road in Memphis. The one on the north end would connect to Messick Road where Messick now dead-ends into McVay. The one to the south would ‘T’ into McVay just north of Maywoods Lane.

The western 55 yards of both streets would cut through Allelon’s forest buffer that is inside Memphis.

“The City of Germantown suggests that an inter-governmental agreement between the Public Works Departments of Memphis and Germantown be established permitting Germantown to maintain the two proposed roadway stubs into the development from the eastern edge pavement of McVay Road,” states a letter to OPD signed by Cameron Ross and Tim Gwaltney. They are Germantown’s economic and community development director and city engineer, respectively.

“The rationale being that all property owners within the development will (be) City of Germantown residents and will be calling GPW for maintenance of those access points,” their letter states.

The 484-yard section of McVay Road that borders the proposed Allelon is rural and picturesque. A canopy of mature trees softly filters in shade the two-lane road.

Usually when a developer builds a subdivision along such a narrow, unimproved road, the city would require the developer either to widen the road and install curbs and gutters as well as other improvements, or pay a fee in lieu of doing the work.

Boyle is asking the Memphis & Shelby County Land Use Control Board to waive the road-widening/improvement fee as a practical matter. If it’s so unlikely that the trees will ever be cut, “we don’t want to pay money that gets tied up for years and years and years and benefits nobody,” Thompson said.

Blair Parker of Blair Parker Design, a landscape architecture and master planning firm representing Boyle Investment, wrote to the Office of Planning & Development, “… We should  consider the ambience provided along this area of McVay Road and why it is important.

“The preservation of the trees and 2-lane McVay Road reinforces the rural character of the area,” he stated. “McVay Road has long been a notable ride as it is entirely tree covered and provides a glimpse of years past. We hope to preserve that look and feel. If approved, we have put forth provisions that this land will remain as greenspace in perpetuity.”

Allelon’s  50 houses would put additional traffic on Memphis’s McVay Road, but not so much more that McVay could not handle it, Thompson said, adding, “Those roads were designed for that.”

In this unusual arrangement, Germantown would benefit from the property taxes generated by the new housing.

Boyle Investment would profit from the lot sales.

And Memphis?

Increased sales taxes, perhaps, said Josh Whitehead, planning director for Memphis and Shelby County.

There’s a “strong likelihood” that most the Allelon residents will work in Memphis “where they will have lunch and where they will have dinner,” Whitehead said. “You could argue these households will, through sales taxes and other taxes, would pay indirectly into the city of Memphis for minimal wear and tear being done to McVay.”

The Land Use Control Board will consider the case at its next meeting, 10 a.m., July 14, at Memphis City Hall.

The outcome may — or may not — fit with the name of a development spanning the Memphis/Germantown border.

The definition of “allelon,” which Thompson pronounces as AL-lay-lon, includes: “one another, reciprocally, mutually.”