VOL. 118 | NO. 23 | Monday, February 9, 2004
Residents Fight for Areas Rural Character
Grays Creek watchdog group forms to fight unchecked sprawl
The Daily News
Fields of gently blowing grass, country lanes lined with
wooden fences and sprawling homes that occupy acres of land
A six-lane highway lined with big-box retailers,
neighborhoods with hundreds of homes on tiny lots and lights that accompany
suburban development washing out the starry night sky
Residents of the Grays Creek area hope their East Shelby
County domain remains closer to the former scenario, rather than the latter.
Suburban growth. The Grays Creek area 58 square
miles bordered by U.S. Highway 64 to the north, Grays Creek and Berryhill Road
to the west, Wolf River to the south and the county line to the east is an
obvious site for growth as development continues to move eastward. Due to the
inevitability of suburban encroachment, the city-county Office of Planning and
Development in 1999 approved the Grays Creek Area Plan, which maps out how
growth in the area should occur.
In December, Grays Creek Development Corp. formed to keep
an eye on that growth.
Adherence to the Grays Creek Area Plan is our objective,
said David Sanders, founder and president of the corporation.
Open to all area residents, the group is working to
establish a board of directors that will select a permanent president.
Preserving rural charm. Currently, the Grays Creek
area is best known for its rolling hills, pastures, wooded areas and scattered
estate-size homes. Also scattered throughout the area are neighborhood
commercial centers and new residential developments.
Some recent developments that contradict the plan have
caused residents to take action.
Subsequent to that (plan), there had not been much activity
in terms of rezoning that we knew about, Sanders said. In December, I learned
of a proposed development to put 152 houses on 50 acres, which is in violation
of the Grays Creek Area Plan.
The development is near Macon and Pisgah roads bordering
moderate- and low-density areas called for by the plan, Sanders said.
The project was on the Jan. 8 Land Use Control Board agenda,
but was postponed until March, said OPD deputy director Mary Baker. The staff
has recommended it be rejected, she added.
Another planned development, Carlyle Place II a 101-lot
neighborhood on 20 acres on the west side of Pisgah south of Latting Road was
rejected by the board due to nonconformance with the plan, Baker said. It is
scheduled to go before the Memphis City Council Feb. 17 and the Shelby County
Commission Feb. 23.
Strong participation. The corporation has gotten off
to a positive start, Sanders said, as a January meeting drew 100 area
residents. The group ultimately hopes to recruit 100 percent participation
among the areas residents.
David Wade of Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston PC has been
retained as the groups attorney.
Sanders said he thought about developing a corporation to
serve as the areas watchdog a couple of years ago.
But there didnt seem to be much movement out here related
to development, he said. Now, theres an attempt to rezone in contradiction
to the Grays Creek plan, so I felt it was time to get the organization
Residents fears. The area hasnt dramatically changed
since the plan was originated in 1999. At that time, Grays Creek was largely
undeveloped, with 65 percent of the land in agricultural use and 30 percent
The fear was that two-lane Houston Levee Road eventually
would become a six-lane thoroughfare of commercial bedlam.
If new development policies to guide growth are not put
into place, Houston Levee Road is likely to follow the same path as Germantown
Parkway, the plan states. These same development patterns also threaten
Highway 64 and Walnut Grove Road.
The trend at the time showed development occurring in a
manner which is threatening the natural environment of the Grays Creek Area,
according to the plan.
Of particular concern is the preservation of the floodplain
and protection of the quality of ground and surface water, the report stated.
Policies need to be implemented which will better protect these natural features.
A large portion of the area is in the aquifer recharge area,
meaning development of the land can affect Memphis drinking water, Sanders
Controlled development. The Grays Creek Area Plan
calls for three density levels high-density with four to eight units per
acre, moderate-density with four or fewer units per acre and low-density with
two-acre lots or larger.
The high-density lots are located primarily in the northwest
corner of the area. Moderate-density homes are called for in the central part,
bordered by Grays Creek to the west and north, the county line to the east and
Macon Road to the south. Everything south of Macon to the Wolf River floodplain
is classified as low-density.
The plan also lays down specific guidelines for commercial
development. For example, the future intersection of state Highway 385 and U.S.
Highway 64 in the northeast quadrant of the area is designated for a large
regional commercial center. Smaller intersections, such as Houston Levee and
Walnut Grove, call for neighborhood centers.
Houston Levee and Macon, designated for community commercial
centers, already contains a new center anchored by a Kroger store.
The long haul. With large portions of the area still
undeveloped, Sanders knows the corporations work is long-term.
The example I give most frequently when talking to
residents about this is that when I moved to Memphis in 1975, the citizens of
Memphis rose up and stopped an interstate highway from going through Overton
Park, he said. It was a remarkable effort of the citizens.