Friday, March 6, 2009

Bus station not allowed to relocate because of crime

Metro board cites crime at downtown Greyhound terminal By Bob Smietana • THE TENNESSEAN • March 6, 2009 Plans to move the Greyhound Bus terminal from downtown Nashville to a former car dealership on Murfreesboro Road were rejected Thursday over concerns from nearby residents and businesses that the terminal would be a haven for crime. Greyhound had hoped to renovate the former Music City Dodge dealership at 710 Murfreesboro Road into a new station. To do that, it needed a special exception from the zoning board of appeals. But the board unanimously rejected Greyhound's request. In making their decision, board members cited crime statistics from the terminal, which is on Eighth Avenue South. Opponents of the move obtained the crime statistics from Metro police. From 2003 to 2008, there were 931 incidents involving police at the station. That number disturbed board members such as Chris Whitson. Whitson pressed Andre Mitchell, Greyhound's Southeast vice president, about the statistics. "There are just page after page of fights and disorderly conduct and people with weapons," Whitson said. Tom White, a land-use attorney who argued against the Greyhound move, hammered on safety issues as well. If Greyhound had done a better job of policing its site, he said, neighborhood residents and businesses would have fewer concerns about the new site. "They are the architect of their own agony," he said. According to Metro zoning codes, special exceptions applicants must ensure that the "public health, safety and welfare will be protected." Mitchell said the safety of passengers is Greyhound's No. 1 concern. In 2008, he said, the terminal handled a little over 150,000 passengers. That same year, he said, there were only 175 police complaints. "That's a small number compared to 150,000," he said. Mitchell pointed out that the terminal is near three centers for the homeless. That contributes to the crime problem at the bus station, he said. Greyhound faced a similar situation with its terminal in Orlando, Fla., he said. After moving the terminal, crime went down, he said. Mitchell failed to win over either the board or the more than 150 people who packed the Green Hills Auditorium at the Metro Southeast Offices for the appeal board meeting. More people watched from an overflow room. Most observers wore "No Greyhound" stickers or carried signs with the same message. At one point, Metro Councilman Phil Claiborn, whose District 15 includes the proposed terminal site, asked observers for a show of hands in support of the proposal. Not a single hand went up. When he asked for a show of those opposed, almost every hand in the room was raised. The board's decision pleased Councilwoman Anna Page, whose District 16 borders the proposed site. "I don't think the board of appeals could have had a better ruling," she said. Handling criticized Opponents say that Greyhound handled the proposed move poorly. No one from Greyhound showed up at community meetings last week or contacted Metro Council members before choosing the site. Opponents admit that Greyhound needs a new terminal. The current one is in the footprint of the proposed new convention center. Mitchell said Greyhound was trying to move sooner rather than later. "It takes about 18 months to get a new terminal up and running," he said. Greyhound's case seemed doomed when Mitchell admitted he'd not visited the terminal before the hearing.

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