To follow along with a copy of the agenda, the council staff analysis and my commentary, follow this link.
The first item of business is the vote on the motion to reconsider BILL NO. BL2015-1008 which is the bill that set new restrictions on tethering dogs. The motion to reconsider failed by a vote of 3 in favor of reconsideration, 26 opposed, 1 abstention and 6 not voting; so, the vote of the previous week which approved the bill stands. So, if you have a 40 pound dog that can chew through a cable rated for a 200 lb dog; tough luck. Now, you cannot use a chain to tether your dog no matter how small the chain. Also, if you have an Alaskan Husky that loves snow and cold weather, you can not leave him in his cozy well-strawed dog house if the temperature dips below 32 degrees. If you have one of those breeds of dogs that originated in central Africa trained to track lions and has a great tolerance for heat, well, in Nashville they now cannot be left outside with water and shade if the heat index is above 90 degrees. An African Basenji and an Alaskan Husky must be treated as if they were the same.
The confirmation of Mayoral appointments to Boards and Commissions pass unanimously.
Bills on Public hearing
I do not even attempt to form an opinion on all of the rezoning bills. There are various rezoning bills that are of importance to specific neighbors of the rezoning or neighborhoods. I only report on those that I deem are of general importance or of interest from a policy viewpoint. There may be bills on pubic hearing that are very important to a small number of people. These are the bills on public hearing that I think are of interest.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1004 is a bill that rezones a hundred and some acres of the county to single family where as now they are zoned for duplexes. Almost everyone gives lip service to affordable housing and support for mass transit. Bills like this are contrary to those objectives. To have viable mass transit and a stock of affordable housing we need greater density, not less. No one appears to speak in opposition and it passes.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1032 imposes a "contextual overlay" to a neighborhood in East Nashville, that would require any modification or new construction in the neighborhood to be in character to the existing neighborhood. It would prohibit new construction that is out of scale to the neighborhood. Many people speak in favor and a couple speak in opposition. Councilman Tenpenny ask for more details of the overlay. It passes.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1035 is another contextual overlay bill. This one is in Councilman Baker's district. One of the persons speaking in favor is Bret Withers who is running against Councilman Westerholm in District 6. This bills passes.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1036 is the zoning text change designed to stop the swingers club from relocating to Madison. See time stamp 1:41:20- 2:10:52. A whole bunch of speakers speak in favor of this bill including former Councilman Buck Dozier. Here is the Tennesseean's report on the swinger club issue:
Dozens of opponents to a swingers club trying to move to Madison flooded the Metro Council meeting Tuesday to rally against the club and to support a zoning change to block it from opening.
"The people of Madison see creeping into its area a business that does not promote a positive image," said Buck Dozier, a Madison resident and former councilman. "These families want to be surrounded by wholesome activities."
After about 30 minutes of comments, the Metro Council voted unanimously in favor of the zoning change. A third and final vote is still required. (link)Resolutions
Most are on the consent agenda. Those not on consent include the following:
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1398 by Council member Megan Barry puts the council on record supporting HB317/SB496 prohibiting short-term lenders from charging an interest rate for any short-term lending transaction that exceeds 28 percent per year. Short-term lenders are normally referred to has "payday" lenders. Here is how these lenders operated: Assume a person gets paid every two weeks and he needs to borrow money, say to keep the electricity from being cut off. He borrows $300 and on pay day he pays back $340. Do the math: 40/300= 13.3% x 26 two-week periods in a year = 347% interest. Some people end up with four or five of these. It is terrible. However, when you compare the cost of this loan with the cost of being without electricity and then paying a reconnect fee, it is not so bad. Or if you compare this cost with the cost of being overdrawn by $1 in in your checking account which then causes a lot more checks to bounce and you have to pay a insufficient funds fee for each check and a daily over draft fee, then the pay day loan is not so bad. People should not let their electric bill go unpaid or bounce checks. People need to learn good money management skills, but pay day lenders are no more predatory than the Nashville Electric Service or First American Bank. Robert Duvall raises a question similar to mine above about a reconnect fee at NES. The resolution passes and no one ask to be recorded in opposition.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1400 by Council member Josh Stites declares May 14, 2015 as Stand With Israel Day in Nashville. Israel is our long time ally in the Middle East and shares our democratic values. I stand with Israel and would vote for this resolution. There was one abstention in committee. Councilman Stites ask for a one meeting deferral of the bill.
There are only two bills on Second Reading of not much interest and they pass.
There are eleven bills on Third Reading of not much interest except BILL NO. BL2014-948 which amends the Five Points redevelopment plan, changing some permitted uses and it provides an additional $670,000 in Tax Increment Financing. Previously the sponsor had amended the bill to take out seven parcels which had been put in the bill without the consent of the owners of those properties. One parcel however was still in the bill which would rezone the property without the consent of the owner. Councilman Charlie Tygard takes to the floor and argues that this additional parcel should also be removed. The chair rules the bill is not amendable on third reading but the council votes to override the ruling of the chair and consider the amendment. The amendment removing that parcel passes.
I share the concern about changing a property zoning without the concern of the owner. I am pleased to see the amendment pass. Rezoning a property without the consent of the owner is a partial taking of property. It should not happen.
I have another concern about the bill which is less about this particular bill than it is the general overuse of Tax Increment Financing. I fear we are overusing this development tool, denying revenue to the General Fund when it is not necessary. If TIF causes a project to be built that most likely would not be built then it makes sense. If however, it is just a giveaway in a popular area where development would occur anyway then it is a misguided policy in my view. I would like to know how much money has been diverted from the general fund over the past few years due to TIF and if this development tool is being overused.
For discussion of this bill see timestamp 2:22:36 - 2:32:12.