Germantown denies accusations of illegally rezoning Cordova Triangle

By Published: February 28, 2019 5:06 PM CT

The City of Germantown denies accusations that rezoning the Cordova Triangle was illegal, according to court documents.

Jack Owen owned 13.68 acres of the disputed land until his death in 2016. Now, his family owns the land under the Jack R. Owen Revocable Trust. The family sued the city after nearly 20 acres bordered by Cordova, Germantown and Neshoba Roads were rezoned last fall from the city’s T-4 urban zoning to residential zoning.

The Owen family’s complaint is against the Planning Commission and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to rezone the property Oct. 8 after a third reading.

In the answer filed Feb. 15 in Shelby County Chancery Court, the city said $175 million in recent developments east of Germantown Road has changed the area by “adding higher density residential, office, retail and hotel property along with entertainment venues and public spaces.”

Recent developments include Thornwood, new homes in Somerset, the expansion of The Village and The Grove at Germantown Performing Arts Center, which should host its first events in spring 2020.

The city also said that when it considered nearby neighborhoods like Neshoba North and Germantown Heights, “the application of T-4 (urban) permitted uses within the Triangle would no longer be wise community development.”

The Owen family’s complaint also said Mayor Mike Palazzolo signed a letter to Planning Commission Chair Mike Harless. The family members claimed the letter was written by Economic Community Development Director Cameron Ross. The city said Ross helped compose the letter.

The family also accused Ross of “reviewing and evaluating” the rezoning application alone, but the city said he reviewed it with others. The Owen family also said Ross did not independently analyze the application, but the city denied that by saying it was not a “factual allegation.”

The city said Ross’ “professional opinion” was removing the urban zoning from the Triangle, and that was good practice.

ABIGAIL WARREN: Rezoning of Cordova Triangle in Germantown returns to court with updated complaint

According to court records, Ross will give sworn testimony outside of court that could be used during an oral argument. A date for oral argument has not been set at this time.

The city also denied accusations that the rezoning was a scheme as part of the contentious November 2018 election.

The family attorney, Rick Winchester, previously said he was asking the city to define the rezoning “rules.”

He said those rules included a sketch plan and a traffic study which the city did not submit. The city said that was not necessary as it was removing the T-4 urban overlay and reverting the zoning to residential like bordering neighborhoods Germantown Heights and Neshoba North.

The family said the zoning valued the property at $1.3 million as residential, $4.6 million less than it was when Jack Owen died in August 2016. But the city said there was no proof of that allegation. The Owen family also said it had been in talks with a developer who was interested in the land in 2017. The city said formal plans were not submitted, and the family said developers have since pulled out.

This is one of two lawsuits over the Cordova Triangle. The Owen family sued the Planning Commission after its approval of the rezoning last summer. A judge ruled in favor of the city in August, saying the court could not interfere with the legislative process. That case has been appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Jackson.


Germantown Cordova Triangle Development Smart Growth Residential Development Planning Commission Mike Palazzolo
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a May 2018 graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and has covered Germantown since May 2018.

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