Arlington Tennessee was once believed to be the next big city in the Memphis area. It was expected to boom and grow rapidly. It so far has yet to do so but it might be on its way soon. Currently Arlington is little more than suburban neighborhoods with a grocery store and a dew other shops scattered around. On February 19th, 2019, I attended a mayor and board of alderman meeting it was put on the floor the to push forward in the building of hotels in the Arlington area. In this post, I will make an argument that special treatment for businesses from government is not always a negative thing. The motion to build two hotels, a storage facility and area for more potential businesses was approved already prior to this meeting on October 1st, 2018. This plan is favored by Mayor Mike Wissman as it has great promise to bring a considerable amount of income to the town by having an option to have people stay in the area. The plan is also to encourage more businesses to set up shop in the area. The mayor also noted that this one of the few and very rare times that both Planning Commission and the Design Review Committee have come forward with the same motion. The issue with this is to ensure that in an effort to grow the city financially and to increase tourism as well, that the laws regarding building permits and other aspects of planting new businesses be kept to code as much as possible.
There was considerable debate regarding the project as the discussion was moved from the broader subject to the fine details such as signage and lighting of said signs. Alderman Oscar Brooks started the discussion by reminding everyone where the project would take place, the center of town at airline road and I-40. Alderman Larry Harmon made a point to remind everyone in the meeting that this matter would be held to the standards any other would. This was to make clear that there would not be any special treatment and that there could not be so that meant they do not make it appear as if they are favoring one project giving special privilege to the few. Alderman Jeremy Biggs made the point that considerable accommodations were already made for this project such as allowing a storage unit that is not that was supposed to not be allowed due to zoning laws to be permitted. Alderman Biggs then continued to propose that signage be kept to ground signs and halo lights. This meant that no signs including the hotel and any future businesses would not be permitted to use internal illumination. This brought the board to a point where they were split between having this motion pass and needing further information so the motion was rescinded for further discussion. The applicant for these hotels, Milton Grant, was asked to share his opinion on the matter as he had done this before. While most of the board were leaning toward favoring ground signage, Mr. Grant stated that he thought the signs on the building would be more important. He also stated that he believed internally lit signage was a better choice than halo lights. Alderman Cheryl Pardue stated that from research she had conducted it brought concern that halo lights would not be bright enough and will be difficult to read and favored the idea of allowing the building signs to be internally lit while keeping ground signs restricted to halo lights. Vice Mayor Henry McKee chimed in with his own opinion and research which took a different route. He consulted with the local police on the matter of sign lighting and gave a very convincing argument. It was stated that according to law enforcement an area not as well-lit is safer and harbors less crime. The board came to the conclusion that this instant was so unique that they felt justified in altering the rules to favor this project. While halo lights seemed the right choice for the ground signs, it was agreed upon that the building use reverse channel lighting to favor better lighting for each situation. The committee decided in the end to keep halo lighting for the signs on the ground and to use special lighting for the building signs on the hotel as well as a motion was put foreword to discuss building laws regarding hotels and other taller buildings at a later date.
This meeting was a very interesting one as it has not only pushed foreword the progress to grow Arlington to become what it needs to be but also brought an important topic to light. It also showed an example of our democracy at work according to how Dahl presented it. People were allowed to put input and vote on different matters discussed through the course of the event showing our democratic freedom in practice. The big issue that this particular meeting brought up is the issue of government favoritism and ensuring that favoritism does not exist when it comes to business. A democracy falls apart when inequality arises and government giving special treatment is a huge factor in inequality. Democracy favors the poor and in turn makes the rich seek things like tax breaks and other forms of government assistance. The mayor and board of alderman both showed respectable behavior on this matter in ensuring that this matter was only given special commendation if it was deemed needed. This situation was necessary to have the rules changed as the city has never had any hotels or buildings similar so things had to change. This is a great example of how even though poor favor a fair and equal democracy, inequality can bring good things too. This move of making changes in order to get the hotel built favors everyone as it brings business to the surrounding areas through tourism. It also showed through the discussion of what type of lighting to use that these changes were not being made for the success of the Marriot hotels but to ensure that it was made responsibly through the research done with the aid of law enforcement. After all of this Arlington is one step closer to becoming the city it was said to become all along while also demonstrating what kind of government this city has, one that is fair in making sure the laws are the same for anyone and not showing special treatment.