Monday, May 6, 2013

What's happening at the Metro Council on May 7th

You can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. You can find the analysis at this link: Metro Council Agenda Analysis. Council meetings can be really, really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on. With an agenda and analysis, they are just boring.

Bills on Public Hearing: There are thirteen bills on public hearing. Most of them should interest no one but immediate neighbors of the proposed rezoning except for the following bills which are of general interest and may generate some interest.

  •  BILL NO. BL2013-402 amends the Metro Code concerning various waste management land uses. It modifies the zoning districts within which construction and demolition (C&D) landfills are permitted and modifies setback requirements, landscape buffer requirements, and operating hour restrictions applicable to these landfills. This bill is to be deferred prior to the public hearing.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-403 limits the amount of lighting that can cover a buildings roof or walls. 
  • BILL NO. BL2013-418 modifies which zoning districts specific automobile related uses are permitted.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-419 concerns the set back requirement and "bulk" of the building permitted on lots which happen to be smaller than the standard lot for that particular zoning classification.

Resolutions: There are sixteen resolutions all of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. I do not expect any to be pulled off of the consent agenda. I don't see any controversial resolution and would not expect any opposition. However, there are couple bills that are worth noting.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-670 establishes the certified tax rate in both the General Services District and the Urban Services District. State law requires that following a general reappraisal that a new tax rate be established that brings in no more revenue than the tax rate prior to the reappraisal. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-681 appropriates over $6 million from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments. That is a lot of money, but this is routine and that is how equipment and repairs are paid for.

Bills on First reading almost always pass. There are twenty-one bills on first reading. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. I have not carefully reviewed the bills on first reading, but will before second reading.

Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are thirteen bills on second reading. Below are a couple worth noting:
  • BILL NO. BL2012-291 amends the definition of “recycling facility” to clarify that it does not include the conversion of material into a fuel product or asphalt. Public works says this bill is not necessary since state regulations to not permit a C & D landfill to have an incinerator anyway.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-420 creates a small business economic development incentive grant program. As you are probably aware, Metro Council has been picking winner and looser by bribing big companies not to leave metro and "enticing" big companies to expand or relocate to Davidson County. Some have argued that this is wrong and the same enticements should be offered to small businesses. I do see this policy as a problem. By paying companies to locate or not to leave we create an incentive whereby a company would be foolish to move here unless they get their pay-off and we have created an incentive for companies to threaten to leave unless we pay them to stay. Unfortunately, it is hard to stop playing this game since other cities are also playing it. Cities have created an environment where they have to pay the incentive or another city that does pay the incentive will get the big corporate headquarter relocations and manufacturing plants. I don't think the way to fix this problem is to expand it to small businesses. This bill is to be deferred one meeting to track with the budget ordinance.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-423 would swap some Metro land for some State land. The land that the School for the Arts sits on and the land that will be the site of the future STEM charter school located on the old Tennessee Preparatory School site on Foster Ave, would be swapped for the old Ben West Library site downtown at Eighth and Union Ave . Metro now owns the library and the State owns the TPS site. It is unusual that a bill is discussed on first reading, but last council meeting this one was. Councilman Bo Mitchell argued against it, arguing that it was an uneven swap and Metro was getting a poor deal, however he may have been motivated by his dislike of charter schools. (See his remarks at this link.) There is also some opposition to tearing down the old Ben West library because some preservationist consider the building architecturally significant. The most persuasive argument against the deal is that there is a deed restriction that requires the site to be used as a library or revert to the heirs of those who gave the land to Metro to be used as a library. I think deed restrictions should be honored as a matter of principle but as a matter of practicality we should not move forward with this deal until the title issues have been resolved. I expect this bill to be deferred.

Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-292 would liberalize the policy on home recording studios. It adds a new land use specific to home recording studios and would permit studios to have up to ten clients, customers, musicians, or other visitors come to the property per day. Sufficient off street parking would have to be provided and home recording studios would be subject to the residential noise restrictions in the Metro code. The ordinance would retain the existing prohibition on signage. This issue was before the council on public hearing on December 4th, 2012 when it generated a lot of comment. I support this bill. I think we should support the music industry and our song writer and musician neighbors. This bill passed on a voice vote on second reading but some council members have concerns about it and it could be close on third reading.

There are eight memorializing resolutions, but none of them seem controversial. Most of the time memorializing resolutions simply honor someone or congratulate someone but some time they are controversial and put the city on record endorsing a particularly controversial policy issue. They are often not taken very seriously but should be. Memorializing resolutions become part of the consent agenda and considered with other resolutions if no one objects and they pass the committee to which they are assigned.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-665 would create within the council a "residential caucus" to "address municipal issues of the resident citizens of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County." I do not see the necessity of this bill at all.

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