Friday, November 7, 2014

What Happened at the November 4th Council meeting: The Short-Term-Rental and No-Raise-for-the-Mayor-or-Council meeting.

Metro Council meetings are really boring if you don't know what the council is voting on.  To get a copy of the council meeting agenda and staff analysis and my analysis follow this link. This is a long meeting at almost 3 1/2 hours long. I will point out the important parts.

The first part of the video is announcements and the Council meeting starts at time stamp 0:20:20.

The first order of business is confirmations of appointments to boards and commissions and they are all approved by voice vote without discussion as they always are. One of the appointments is to the Human Relations Commission, an agency in my view that should be abolished. The Human Relations Commission sponsors a youth pavilion each year at the Nashville Gay Pride Festival. If I were in the Council, every time someone was appointed to that board, I would ask them if they support that; if they do, I would vote against them.

Bills on Public hearing start at 0:24:08. I did not watch all of the bills on public hearing but I skimmed them and the only ones of interest to me were the ones below. Most bills on public hearing  are zoning bills that only interest nearby neighbors of the proposed rezoning.

BILL NO. BL2014-896  is the first bill on public hearing. It rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area. I think rezoning like this is a positive development. I think we need to promote affordable housing but not use the heavy hand of government to mandate it. Accessory dwelling units on a lot can provide more affordable units of housing and increase density which is necessary to have successful mass transit and which combats urban sprawl.  For a while, a few years ago, there was a move to zone neighborhoods single family only, which prohibited duplexes. Now, we are seeing more zoning that encourages greater density. This will be an issue that many neighborhoods will have to face and it will often be controversial. The arguments against rezoning like this is  that some people do not want more renters in their neighborhood, or housing of lesser value, or more traffic. Some people want to preserve their neighborhood the way it is.

 BILL NO. BL2014-908 imposes proximity limits on what are often called predatory lenders, places like check cashing businesses, title loan businesses and and payday lenders and pawn shops. These  businesses, except for pawn shops, could not be located within 1/4 a mile of each other and pawnshops could not be located within 1/4 mile of another pawn shop. I think this is a misguided effort and if I were in the council, I would have opposed it. To see my commentary on this, follow this link. I was surprised that no one showed up in opposition.  Those in support did not speak and there was no discussion. It passed unanimously by voice vote. 

BILL NO. BL2014-909 pertains to Short Term Rental Property often called vacation rentals where one may rent out a room in their home for the night. This type arrangement has become popular due to Internet sites like and which act as a third party to connect those wanting a place to stay with those offering lodging. Currently these rentals are unregulated. This bill defines those rental places as having no more than three rooms and two people per bedroom and guest not permitted to stay longer than 30 days. This would make them legal in residential zoned areas and it would require they be registered with the city and carry a certain level of liability insurance. Certain signage would be restricted and there are a few other restrictions and they would be prohibited from offering food service. People offering these rentals would have to collect taxes. These regulations appear reasonable to me and I am pleased that they are not more restrictive. They could have been much worse.  Some who have already been operating and rent out more than three bedrooms argue against the three room restriction, other argue against the two person per room restriction. I am pleased but surprised that there are not people who are adamantly opposed to people operating this type of service at all. I thought this would be much more controversial than it appears. The public hearing runs from 1:18:48 - to about 2:39:00. There is some council discussion of this bill but unfortunately there is some technical difficulty which causes a loss of audio for that portion. The bill was differed to the first meeting in December and work will continue to be done on it and it will be substituted to address some of the concerns raised at the public hearing.

Resolutions: Resolution on consent agenda pass. Below are resolutions that were not on consent.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1269 would have extending the term of the Study and Formulating Committee for a year. It is slated to expire on March 1, 2015. Every five years the mayor has to appoint such a committee to study and make recommendations on employee benefits. Councilman Garrett moved to defer the resolution and his motion was approved by a voice vote of the Council. Some of the audio is not available for this discussion on the bill but is restored at 2:44:56.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1270  would raise the salary of the Mayor, Vice Mayor and Council. The Mayor's salary would go from $136,500 to $180,000, the Vice Mayor from $17.000 to $22,500 and the Council from $15,000 to $20,600. It would not take effect until the new Council takes office, so no one would be voting to raise their own salary. Compared to what other cities pay, these amounts do not seem excessive, however our 40 member council is much larger than most cities to which we are compared so our Council cost the tax payers a lot more money than most. Also, metro employees have not had a recent salary increase. If I were in the Council, I would have opposed the bill.  The move to adopt the plan was defeated by a vote of 13 in favor of it and 24 opposed. To see the discussion see time stamp 2:47:08. Here is how they voted:
 “Ayes” Steine, Banks, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Moore, Gilmore, Langster, McGuire, Blalock, Potts, Bedne, Dowell (13);
 “Noes” Barry, Garrett, Tygard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Scott Davis, Pardue, Hagar, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Allen, Baker, Weiner, Evans, Holleman, Harmon, Dominy, Johnson, Duvall, Todd (24).

Memorializing SUBSTITUTE RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1252  was deferred twice before and is back on the agenda. It request President Obama and Congress "to select public infrastructure improvements as the priority activity of the United States to upgrade the current substandard infrastructure of the nation, strengthen the national economy, and support healthy and vibrant communities in the United States."  I do not think the Council should be weighing in on national policy issues such as this. The Council has enough to do dealing with local issues. The bills passes and this is how they voted:
 “Ayes” Steine, Garrett, Tygard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Pardue, Hagar, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Langster, Weiner, Evans, Holleman, McGuire, Harmon, Blalock, Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Todd (33);
“Noes” Duvall (1); “Abstaining” Moore and  Dominy (2). (see time stamp 3:02:43)

Bills on Introduction and First Reading pass as is customary. 

The only interesting bill on Second Reading is BILL NO. BL2014-922 which would attempt to restrict the throwing of free  promotional material into people's yards and would classify it as litter. It passes on a voice vote but this is a pretty much meaningless bill because it would exempt material protected by the first amendment so we will still have The Tennessee litter.

Bills on Third Reading pass and none of them are controversial.

Here is The Tennessean's report on the meeting: Nashville's next mayor, council won't get pay increases

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