Saturday, August 16, 2014

What is on the Council Agenda for Tuesday August 19? End of skinny duplexes, Honky Tonk Protection, Beer, honoring Ken Jakes, electing speaker Pro tem, and more.

The August 19th Metro Council agenda and analysis are now available. If you don't know what the Council is voting on, Council meeting are very boring; if you do, they are just boring.

Election of Speaker Pro Tempore is the first order of business. The speaker pro tem conducts the council meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor. Other than that they don't have anything to do, but this is a coveted position and often there is a lot of jockeying and campaigning among council members to be elected to this position. 

There are six appointments to Boards and Commissions and this could be an opportunity for the Council to impact policy and exert influence, but the Council routinely rubber stamps whom ever the Mayor appoints without question.

There is one resolution on public hearing concerning the distance requirement for a beer permit. This is for a location that already has a liquor-by-the-drink permit. This seems like such a waste of time. If a place can already serve liquor, why does the council not go ahead and change the law and say the beer permit distance requirements are automatically waived?

There are 13 resolutions, all on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is assumed to be non-controversial and stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committee to which it was assigned unanimous and unless a council member ask that it be considered separately.  Instead of being voted on separately all resolution on the consent agenda are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Here is a  resolutions of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1109  establishes an $800 fee for an application for a Conceptual Overlay District designation. The Conceptual Overlay District zoning is a new zoning, on third reading on this agenda, that would impose restrictions on infill development so the new development is not terribly out of character with the existing community. It would impose height, setback, and lot coverage restriction on new development in existing neighborhoods. I tend to think this effort to halt transition of modest neighborhoods to upscale neighborhoods is misguided anyway, so I do not have a problem with the $800 fee.  I suspect some people will think this is excessive and I suspect this resolution will be deferred. Actually, this seems like a modest fee.  If a neighborhood of a hundred homes wanted to impose the Conceptual Overlay District on their neighborhood that would only require a contribution of $8 per household.  Or, if the area of the COD was only 50 homes, $16 a household.  If a neighborhood can't raise the $800 then they must not be that concerned. I do have a question. Who will pay the cost of advertising and posting signs about the proposed overlay?  I assume proper notification will be required.
There are 11 bills on First Reading. Bills on first reading are passed by a single vote and they are generally not discussed or evaluated until second reading after they have been to committee.

There are 8 bills on Second Reading. Here are some of interest.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-841 establishes a formula for how big an outdoor residential dog pen must be.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-847   requires contracts for the companies that lobby the state on behalf of Metro government  and it requires that reports be submitted to the Metropolitan Council detailing what the Metro lobbyist is lobbying for and what the goals of the lobbying effort is and what the impact would be of the outcome the lobbyist is seeking. This is a good bill but I wish it was even stronger. I think Metro's lobbyist should only lobby for or against a bill if specifically authorized to do so by the Council. 
There are 18 bills on Third Reading. Here are the ones of interest:
A tall skinny Nashville Duplex
BILL NO. BL2014-770  is back on the agenda on third reading.  It would change the definition of duplex so one could have two units on a piece of property and they would not have to be artificially joined the way they are now, where two protruding utility rooms are the only thing joining the homes. It would also impose heights restrictions. If the units are built to be joined, then a greater portion of the building would have to share a common wall. The tall skinny Nashville duplex would be a thing of the past.

BILL NO. BL2014-771 creates a new code provision for a “contextual overlay district” which could be applied to a neighborhood to ensure that infill development is compatible with surrounding properties. It does such things as restrict the height to no more than 125% of nearby homes. Already the same thing can be accomplished with an Urban Design Overlay, but this would make it easier. I have mixed views of this, but tend to oppose it. There are some neighborhoods that have been transformed from neighborhoods with homes in the $75,000 to $100,000 range to neighborhood where the homes are worth up to $650,000. If this had been in place those transformation would not have occurred. These transformations do destroy “affordable” housing but they also respond to market demand for more expensive home in Nashville, which results in a higher tax base. Do we want upper middle class people to all move to Williamson County or do we want to let market forces make room for them to live in Davidson County? Also, why should existing property owners who want to sell and move, not be permitted to get the highest dollar for their home? If allowed to be torn down, the lots are often more valuable than the home on the lot.

SUBSITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-776 is now improved some and is on third reading. It would create the Music City Cultural Heritage Overlay District to protect our honky tonks. It would require all first floor businesses, except offices, on lower Broadway, 2nd Ave and printers alley to have live music or sale merchandise reflective of Nashville culture- think boots, cowboy hats, tee shirts, and tacky souvenirs. It would no longer ban chain establishments but they could not look like chain establishments.  They could not follow their standard color scheme and identifiable look but would have to blend in. This bill was spurred by the threat of Wallgreens to open a store on Lower Broad. The buildings are already protected so this bill would apply to use. I love lower Broad and the honky tonks, but this is still too restrictive. People may want a nice meal without live music after visiting the honky tonks all day and night. If this was in place, we would not have the ice cream store on lower Broad. We would not have the Merchants Hotel restaurant. While I would not want to see it on Lower Broad, a sports memorabilia store, an art gallery, or a good antique store, or a candy store on Second Ave, may provide a better experience for tourist.  This is just too restrictive. This has been disapproved by the Planning Commission so will require 27 votes to pass. It should be withdrawn and the proponents should go back to the drawing board and come up with something even  less restrictive or maybe just abandon the effort.   

BILL NO. BL2014-840 prohibit beer permits from being issued for establishments located within a shopping mall containing a community center and/or public library. In my view this is ridiculous. So there is a library at the other end of mall, what is it going to hurt to allow someone to have a beer with their meal or pick up a six-pack to go at the drug store?

Memorializing Resolutions do not  carry the force of law but they express the will of the council. They will probably be lumped with resolutions on the consent agenda and be passes along with those by a single vote.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1186  by Council members Tygard and Dominy recognizes Mr. Ken

Ken Jakes
Jakes for his service to our community. This is a well deserved honor. Ken Jakes is being honored for his charitable work, but Ken Jakes does much more than that. He is a citizen activist who has exposed corruption and waste in Metro Government time and time again, including exposures of the mismanagement at Farmers Market and corruption at NES. Ken Jakes has ran for Council in the past and came close to getting in a run-off in 2010 but with all incumbents reelected on the first round, he failed to make the run-off but was close. Next Council election, Ken Jakes, if he choses to run, will stand a good chance of being elected given that all incumbent Council-Members-at-Large are term limited. I hope he runs and is elected. He would make a great council member.

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