The final vote for Memphis 3.0 could experience another delay after council members elected to hire an outside consultant to evaluate the comprehensive plan and its economic impacts on communities.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the council voted to spend $15,000 for a financial consultant to review the plan by September 17. City leaders won’t vote on Memphis 3.0 until the plan has been assessed. It’s something Councilmember Cheyenne Johnson, who sponsored the resolution, said was needed to ensure that the plan served all communities, especially those of color.
“The Council has received numerous questions and concerns regarding the financial impact of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan on underserved communities, especially communities of color,” she noted.
Some of those concerns stemmed from members of the New Chicago community. Dr. Carnita Atwater, who heads the New Chicago Community Development Corporation, has challenged the plan since its introduction, citing racial biases.
“I’ve been telling people all the time that the plan had racial disparity in it,” Atwater said of the vote. “The question is, if nothing is wrong with the plan like they initially said, why are they now hiring the consultant? They know there is racial disparity.”
This delay is yet another in a long line of postponements. The council was scheduled to begin voting on the ordinance in March, but concerns surrounding the logistics of the plan prompted delays.
“This doesn’t appease me – them paying, saying an ‘outside consultant,’” Atwater said. “That’s old-school game trying to get an outside consultant to cover them.”
Despite the criticism of Memphis 3.0, city administrators have said that it serves as a vital guide for development for the city. The plan touts a strategy of “building up, not out” and notes that it is inclusive to all communities.
Boasting more than 450 pages of data, Memphis 3.0, is a culmination of more than two years of strategic work from city officials, community organizers, and developers. Additionally, administrators have said more than 15,000 residents were surveyed throughout the planning process.
View the Memphis 3.0 plan summary here:
While Councilmember Johnson said the plan has some good components, she added that residents don’t fully understand it and it needs to be revisited.
Not all council members agreed on delaying the process.
“This is not a Bible,” said Councilmember Sherman Greer, who voted against the hiring of a consultant. “It can be amended along the path. I understand there are a lot of questions but this would make the process a lot longer.”
The resolution comes after Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland signed an executive order back in May, stating that Memphis 3.0 would guide all city decisions excluding land use. The council approved the land use and development guidelines Tuesday, but the overall plan has yet to be adopted. And if bringing in outside counsel serves as any indication of a timeline, council members won’t be able to vote on the plan until after Sept.17.
In a separate, but possibly related matter, council members also discussed plans to expand the existing Uptown TIF (tax-increment financing) District between St. Jude and Le Bonheur and Carnes. This extension would expand further north of Smokey City and New Chicago. The proposed changes would carve out 55 acres of land by the Memphis harbor, known as the “Snuff District”, a $200 million development project.
According to a statement released by the city, the expansion would ‘allocate more funding for the Smokey City and New Chicago areas.’
Atwater disagreed, citing it as another ploy to take away resources from current New Chicago businesses and residents. Her suggestion – the city should instead give the funds to the New Chicago Community Development Corporation, allowing them to provide resources to the community.