VOL. 131 | NO. 144 | Wednesday, July 20, 2016
City Council Approves Overton Park Compromise
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members unanimously approved Tuesday, July 19, the plan to create 415 new parking places for the Memphis Zoo at its front entrance and end zoo overflow parking on the Overton Park Greensward by January 2019.
Council members added amendments before the vote making the parking spaces the same 10 feet by 20 feet dimensions as parking space at Tiger Lane.
Otherwise, the plan that was approved was the one that emerged Monday with agreement by the Overton Park Conservancy and the Memphis Zoo in negotiations overseen by council member Bill Morrison.
The compromise drops Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposed shuttle between a new surface parking lot on the East Parkway side of the park – now a city General Services maintenance yard -- specifically for zoo patrons and it broadens the use of the East Parkway land to include recreational and green space near the surface parking all overseen by the conservancy. It also pushes the zoo’s main lot a bit further onto the Greensward.
The Prentiss Place parking lot, east off McLean Boulevard will be expanded to include a patch of grass that is now between the existing Prentiss Place lot and the main zoo lot on the other side of Morrie Moss Lane. The main parking lot would still be reconfigured and would extend east onto a part of the Greensward on both sides of the gravel drive that is now where overflow parking pulls onto the Greensward.
All of the new parking spaces created there would be further west of where cars now park on the Greensward. And there would be a berm to screen the zoo parking from view on the Greensward.
A grove of magnolia trees would remain as they are.
The compromise gives the zoo 415 new parking spaces on its main and satellite lot with Prentiss Place becoming an exit road from the zoo and all those entering the zoo by car coming in the park’s main entrance on Poplar Avenue at Tucker.
Council members questioned Morrison closely on whether the city would fund any of the agreement. Morrison said there is no requirement city government fund any of the provisions.
"Time to bury it. Time to move on," Morrison said before the council vote. "This city has a lot of issues. This is an emotional issue. People don't realize this is really an emotional issue for both sides."
Zoo President and CEO Chuck Brady estimated the parking lot overhaul and addition is a $3 million project with the cost to be split evenly between the zoo and the OPC with money they raise from their revenue and private donors.
The passage of the resolution rescinds a March 1 resolution the council passed giving the zoo control of two-thirds of the Greensward for parking. The council also dropped a pending ordinance that does what the new resolution does.
The resolution approved Tuesday states that the zoo is permitted to use the Greensward for overflow parking until the parking plan is completed, with that construction to be done by January 2019.
The council action also takes a consent order with all of the terms to Chancery Court with the court to hear any disputes over enforcement of the terms that might come up. The consent order would also settle the zoo’s January lawsuit against the city and the OPC seeking undisputed control of the Greensward.