Saturday, May 9, 2015

What happened at the Council meeting of May 5th: New regs for sex clubs, OKs deal to sell old Convention Center, a vote for Insure Tennessee.

This is almost a four hour meeting. Most of the meeting is taken up by public hearings, which I superficially watched skipping over portions of the meeting. I do not even attempt to explain or keep up with all zoning matters on public hearing. 

It will help you follow what is happening if you have a council agenda. To see my commentary on the agenda and a link to get your own copy of the agenda and staff analysis follow this link.

If you are interested in the meeting but do not want to spend 4 hours watching it, you can watch it in double time.  In the bar at the bottom of the video screen, under "settings" see if you are given that option.  If not, go to this link and click HTLM5 player and then go back to the video and you should be given the option of watching the video at faster speeds. I can usually watch video of meeting or conversation at double speed and not miss much content.

The meeting is conducted by Lonnell Matthews Jr, who is President Pro Tem of the Council, whose job it is to conduct the council meeting in absence of the Vice Mayor.

All of the mayor's appointees to board and commission are approved without discussion.

Bills on Pubic Hearing:

BILL NO. BL2015-1083 at timestamp 0:30-1:38 is interesting. This is a controversial downzoning which would take a neighborhood of about 117 acres that is now zoned R15 and downzones it RS15, meaning now duplexes are permitted but this rezoning would restrict the neighborhood to single family homes only. To hear the proponents of the rezoning one would think that if not rezoned to single family, they are losing the right to keep their neighborhood single family. They distort the reality. The advocates of the rezoning are the ones changing the legal status quo- they are the ones taking away from someone the right to do something with their property that they are now permitted to do,  yet they argue as if they are the defenders of the status quo. Some of them also argue that no one should be permitted to opt-out of the rezoning. This is the type of argument that is taking place all across Nashville. More and more neighborhoods are rezoning to single family only. I understand people wanting to maintain the character of their neighborhood, but if we do not accept more density, then we restrict the tax base from growing, which we need if we are to pay the bills that are going to become due and we encourage urban sprawl by restricting greater density.  Also, downzoning is a "taking" of property, because it takes what you are permitted to now and takes that property right away from you. Several of the opponents of the downzoning make that point. Council member Evans moves to pass the bill and then defer it to the first meeting in July to give time to let those who want out of the downzoning an opportunity to "opt-out" of the downzoning. Several Council members comment on this bill. Council member Todd and Duvall speak in favor to the property rights of those who want to opt-out.

BILL NO. BL2015-1098 is deferred to the July public hearing. Currently the Metro code establishes a minimum acreage for different type schools and number of students. For example, a high school must have at least 15 acres and an additional acre for each 100 students. This bill applies some common sense adjustments to that formula and would allow schools to be located on less acreage. Some people, especially in the Green Hills area, oppose this change because they think that by making it difficult for Hillsboro high school to relocate, that the Hillsboro property will remain a school and that that prime property in Green Hills will remain unchanged. They do not want to see more commercial development in Green Hills so they want to make it difficult for Hillsboro High to relocate.

 BILL NO. BL2015-1099  passes. It defines what is a sex club, and says they can only locate in areas zoned industrial and not within 1000 feet of a church, home, school, park or daycare center and it imposes other requirements.  This looks like this is intended to make it impossible for a sex club to exist. I am surprised that there was no one speaking in favor of this change giving how much opposition there was to the Tennessee Social Club's attempt to locate in Madison, but no one spoke for it or against it.

BILL NO. BL2015-1100 changes the code to make it the applicant's responsibility rather than the city's for posting signs that say a property has a hearing before The Board of Zoning Appeal. Also it removes the requirement that such notices be published in a newspaper. Notices will be published online on an official website. This makes sense to me. Several council members have questions about this. It passes.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1476, passes on the Consent agenda. It puts the Council on record as supporting the Insure Tennessee plan. There are two sides to this issue but apparently not in the Metro Council. The Council has not been lobbied by both sides, they have not set through the hearings. Personally, I ended up, after initially having reservations, supporting Insure Tennessee giving the assurances that we could get out of it if it did end up costing the state money. I like the way it was structured. However, I do not think the Council should weight in on State or Federal matters. There could be no end to memorialize resolutions.  We could memorialize Congress on the issue of the day every Council meeting. We could memorize the U.S. Congress on the Iran Arms deal, we could memorized the State on the gas tax. We could have competing memorializing resolutions and spend the Council's time debating State and National issues every meeting.  Despite actually favoring Insure Tennessee, if I were in the Council I would vote against this memorializing resolution. I am surprised that every single member of the Council supports Insure Tennessee but every one of them voted saying they do.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1433  is not on the consent agenda and is considered seperately. It proposes to amendment the Metro Charter to extend term limits for the Vice Mayor and members of the Council from two to three terms. This is deferred one meeting.

Bills on Second Reading:

BILL NO. BL2015-1102  allows the Parks Department to permit the sale of beer in any Metro Parks.  Now the Parks Department can only allow beer sales at parks in the downtown area. This passes without discussion.

Bills on Third Reading:

BILL NO. BL2015-1067 is the agreement to sale the site of the old convention center. It passes unanimously without discussion.

Here is the Tennessean's report of the meeting. Please note that the Tennessee's now has their on-line content behind a pay wall so if you are not a Tennessean subscriber you can't read it. 

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