Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What is on the July 7th Council agenda? Home price fixing know as "inclusionary zoning," zoning text changes, and hiding General Forrest.

If you don't know what the Metro Council is voting on and you watch a council meeting, you will find it really, really boring. If you have your own copy of the Council agenda and staff analysis the meeting will still be boring but not really, really boring. To get your own copies, follow the highlighted link. The staff agenda is not yet available so check back for an update. I rely heavily on the staff analysis for my own commentary, so I am doing this post without the benefit of that source of information. Check back for an update.

There are four appointees to Boards and Commissions on the agenda for Council confirmation. None of them or to the objectionable or controversial boards and commissions and it would not matter anyway as the council seldom takes it's confirmation duties seriously and rubber stamps whomever the Mayor appoints.

There are 33 bills on public hearing.  Most bills on pubic hearing are zoning bill and would usually concern no one but nearby neighbors.  I make no attempt to learn the pros and cons of every rezoning proposal.  However, occasionally there is a bill on public hearing that is so controversial as to merit attention, has wider impact than just the effected property, or changes the text to the code so that I do pay attention. These are the bills on public hearing that I find interesting:

  • BILL NO. BL2015-1064 would allow detached accessory dwellings as a use permitted with conditions in the CL zoning district. I favor allowing greater density and think secondary dwelling units on some property is appropriate and think that we should get away from regulations that strictly segregate zoning uses, however some may not.  CL zoning is Commercial Limited, intended for retail, consumer service, financial, restaurant, and office uses. Neighborhood activist may want to be aware of this. I don't know if this is a good bill or not.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1098  concerns '“Community Education' siting" and would allow schools to locate in zoned districts where they are not now permitted and would relax the lot size requirements for a school. Included in this is a provision that schools could now be established in IWD districts (Industrial Warehousing/Distribution, intended for a wide range of warehousing, wholesaling, and bulk distribution uses). The bill also provides for "adaptive reuse," meaning a school could be located in an existing building, regardless of lot size, that was not originally intended for a school. On the face of it this seems like a good thing to do. Why not allow a school to locate in a relocated church building or an empty mall? Some people in the Greenhills area are opposed to any relaxation of the current school siting requirements because they are concerned that Hillsboro High will relocate and the valuable land which is now Hillsboro High will be redeveloped. They want to make it very difficult for Hillsboro high to relocate simply because they oppose new commercial and multifamily development in Greenhills.
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2015-1120  is another bill that would expand where one may build secondary dwelling units. This would amend the zoning code to create a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU) Overlay District. I think this is a positive development and it is one way to increase density and increase the stock of affordable housing. While I oppose price fixing to increase affordable housing, I do think increasing the stock of affordable housing is a worthwhile goal. Also, if Nashville is to grow and avoid massive urban sprawl and if Nashville is going to ever have adequate mass transit, and if we are to afford the services we want and need, without massive tax increases, we need greater population density. Some, however, raise the issue of parking, road capacity, sewer capacity and maintaining the character of existing neighborhoods as reasons to oppose greater density.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1121 would permit "Artisan manufacturing" in a whole bunch of zoning districts that now permit manufacturing. It would allow people to live and work in this districts and sets standards such as parking requirements and screening requirement for loading docks when such would adjoin residential areas. Without knowing more about it than I know now, this seems like a positive development. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1139 is another bill that advances housing price control known as "inclusionary zoning." This directs the Planning Department to create rules and regulation that implement "inclusionary zoning" and directs that such rules establish that 14% of the units in any new development or renovation of existing developments pr conversion of existing rental developments to for-purchase units, be set aside as "affordable."  It define "affordable" as affordable to someone making between 80% and 100% of the median area income. The effect of this is that the cost all new developments would increase and development of new residential property would be slowed and prices of all new development would increase. The final rules established by the Planning Commission would have to go back to the Council for approval. It is my understanding that State law would have to be changed before Metro could do this, however that is not certain. This bill needs to be defeated!
  •  BILL NO. BL2015-1152 eliminates a section of the DTC (Downtown Code). I do not know the impact of this change, but it is something that needs further investigation. If the staff analysis explains this, I will try to update prior to the meeting. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1155 would establish a DADA (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit) overlay district  for a lot of parcels in Councilman Westerholm's district. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1169  would apply a "contextual overlay" to about 78 acres in Councilman Westerholm and Anthony Davis's district. I do not know the impact of this contextual overlay and do not have an opinion of the merits of it, I am simply calling attention to it since it impacts so many properties.
 There are 24 resolution on the agenda. Most resolutions are lumped together and put on the "consent agenda" and all pass with a single voted. If a resolution does not pass the committee to which it was assigned unanimously then it is not on consent and is considered separately. Any council member may, from the floor, ask for a resolution to be pulled off of consent and then the resolution will be considered separately. Almost all of the resolutions are simply accepting grant money from the state. I do not see any resolutions of interest.

There are 80 bills on first reading, but I don't look at them until second reading and I doubt many of the members of the Council do either. First reading is a formality to get the bill on the agenda and all bills on first reading are passed at one time in one motion. Many of the bills on first reading are zoning bills. The reason there are so many bills on First Reading this time is that all pending bills not passed when this term of the council ends are removed from the agenda and would have to start all over when the new council takes office so those who want zoning changes are trying to get them approved before that occurs. This means the next council meeting will be a very long council meeting with a lot of bills on pubic hearing. The Council will probably have to have a special meeting to accommodate all of these bills. I also suspect that at Tuesday night's meeting there will be several members asking for a suspension of the rules to allow new bills to be added to the agenda for First Reading.

There are 12 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones I find interesting:
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1129  would establish a Codes Offender School, much like we have a traffic violations school or a "John's School" for those arrested for solicitation of a prostitute. I don't yet have an opinion on this bill and do not know the pros and cons. My first thought is, that codes violations is different than these other type offenses. I own a rental unit and had a tenant who created a situation that violated codes.  I was given adequate time to correct the violation and the codes inspector worked with me to bring my property back into compliance.  Some people who routinely run afoul of codes do so as a calculated business decision. I am not sure they would benefit by a codes school. I would be open to persuasion but I do not really see this as beneficial.  Will it cost the taxpayer's? 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1211 is a renewed attempt by Councilman Claiborne to end the practice of allowing former Metro Council members to get the lifetime benefit of city provided health insurance. Currently former Council members who have served two terms get this benefit. They pay 25% of the premium and the city picks up the rest. This bill would change that policy so that the former Council member pays 75% and the city only pay 25%. I support this proposal. Prior to term limits there was not that many former council members eligible for this benefit but with a massive turn over of the Council every eight years, there are now a lot of former council members eligible for this. Councilman Claibrone is timing his renewed effort to get this passed due to the upcoming election, thinking that incumbents facing reelection may be less inclined to vote against it. To read The Tennessean's coverage of this issue follow this link.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1212  would prohibit the sale of single cans or bottles of beer by off-sale permit holders located within 100 feet of a facility that provides food to homeless persons. I oppose this type of bureaucratic micro-management. This should be defeated.
There are 10 bills on Third Reading. Below are the ones of interest
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1127 is a tax give-away deal to benefit American General.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1143 is a bill which authorizes The Industrial Development Board  to negotiate and accept payments in lieu of ad valorem taxes with respect to CHS Realty Holdings III, LLC. What this means is that the city, though this board, funds the construction of the building and actually owns it for a certain number of years and as a tax exempt entity they do not pay taxes. However, the company for which they build the building pays something in lieu of taxes but not anywhere near what they would pay if they were paying taxes. This is one of the means by which the city entices companies to locate in Nashville. It provides that the company for whom this building is being build pays nothing during the period of construction and continues to pay nothing until 2019 and then pays only 40% of what they would otherwise pay until 2028, then they pays 75% through 2027, at which time they would began paying 100% of their tax bill. There is more to it than that. The company must hire a certain number of people to keep this deal. There are benchmarks of employment for different periods. This bills passed second reading on June 16th by a vote of 27 to 6 with no "abstentions" and  seven members not voting. The "not voting" may have been absent or they may have been out of the room or just sat on their hands. The six "no's" were Paudue, Stites, Stanley, Tennpenny, and Duval. I hope the "no's" stick to their guns and the abstentions join them and a few others switch to "no." This could be defeated! It is time to end the TIF and PILOT tax give-aways.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1146   is a bill which would allow "free-floating car-sharing vehicles to be exempt from the limitations imposed on vehicles lacking a residential parking permit when parking in a residential parking permit area."  There is a new service that allows members of a car sharing enterprise to get a car and drive it where they need to go, which may be on the street near there home where cars that park there are supposed to have a sticker saying they are allowed to park on that street. A member of this car sharing program may, for instance, take the bus to work but need to run an errand on their way home and they find an available car on their smart phone app and drive it home. This is a good innovation which helps make it possible for more people to survive without owning a car. I am pleased to see the city accommodate this innovation. I favor passage.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1147 is another one of the bills to advance rent control and home price fixing called "inclusionary zoning." The planning commission would have six months to come up with a specific proposal to implement this form of housing price control. That proposal would then have to come back to the council for approval.   Last Council meeting the sponsor said the bill would be on Third Reading. "Inclusionary zoning" will increase the cost of building housing and where it has been adopted it has produced very few units of affordable housing. It is essentially a tax on new construction. For more on this topic, follow this link. This bill like BILL NO. BL2015-1139 above needs to be defeated.   
There are four memorializing resolutions and if they meet the same criteria for inclusion, they will be included in the consent agenda. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law and simply express the will of the council and are often used to honor a sports team on a victory or honor a long-time employee on his retirement. The Council staff does not analyze memorizing resolutions. There are two significant memorializing resolutions on this agenda:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1515 by Charlie Tygard requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to require full-time Davidson County elected officials to submit an annual report to the Comptroller detailing the dates they worked. A recent report in The Tennessean revealed that many elected officials often do not work. This was discovered by an examination of when they used there swipe card to gain access to their office. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1568 request the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to take the necessary action to plant vegetation or erect a barrier to block the view of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from Interstate 65. I think this is a waste of effort. I don't like the statue myself, but do not think we should waste effort trying to hide it.

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  1. RS2015-1568 This statue has been there before I was an adult. I'm 62. As a citizen who believes if you own the property, you can do with it as you please. I think the city and state are wasting their time and OUR money in this effort. Please tell us, just how many people see this statue while driving along I-65 at 75+ miles an hour. Quit giving into this, if we erase a statue, or do away with a flag, racism will somehow magically be gone.....lets give proper history lessons in school about what the civil war was really all about first.

  2. An email from Councilman Josh Stites:


    I briefly wanted to offer my thoughts on BL2015-1139, the affordable housing bill, since you have emailed us about this and posted to your blog opposing this bill.

    I plan to support this bill tonight for two primary reasons. The first is that this bill doesn't implement affordable housing legislation - it only asks the Planning Department to study and recommend legislation promoting affordable housing countywide. Any recommendations that they make will come back to the Council within six months for Council consideration at which time the Council may accept, reject or amend the Planning Department's recommendations. This does nothing to implement price controls or zoning rules relating to affordable housing. It only requires the Planning Department to study and make recommendations.

    Secondly, I completely agree that in a free market the market will make corrections to meet a need such as in the case of the need for more affordable housing. However, I don't believe that land use in Davidson County is unencumbered by regulation enough to be accurately considered a free market. We have seen a centralized effort in recent years to move "affordable housing" out of specific areas into the outer areas of the county. While District 13 certainly has its share of poverty and remains a desirable place to live - I don't think it serves the people of District 13 or the county well to have centralized efforts to create pockets of poverty by forcing affordable housing to transit corridors of Murfreesboro Pike, Gallatin Road, Nolensville Road, etc. I, like you, would much prefer to see the market free to provide and meet demand wherever it exists, but I think the reality is that Metro is too intertwined in land use and planning to realistically expect pure market corrections.

    I welcome your feedback to my rationale.

    You are free to post this if you feel it's helpful. But, my intent is to explain my vote to you. As always, I appreciate your input and your great effort to keep Nashville informed and involved. The GOP has an unnecessarily large deficit of influence in Metro and you do as much to help bridge that divide as any politician can or has. Your efforts are appreciated.


    Email from Rod Williams to Josh Stites:

    Josh, thank you for the feedback and the complement, but I think you are wrong about BL2015-1139 .

    This bill does more than just tell the planning commission to study and recommend, it tells them to create rules and regulation that implement "inclusionary zoning" and directs that such rules establish establish certain things, one of which is that 14% of the units in any new development or renovation of existing developments or conversion of existing rental developments to for-purchase units, be set aside as "affordable." That moves us much closer to final implementation of inclusionary zoning. This moves that ball down the field. If you are against this form of price fixing with the nice sounding name of "inclusionary zoning," now is the time to take a stand.

    While you are right that Metro is too intertwined in land use planning to realistically expect pure market corrections, the answer to that is not to further destroy the market by imposing price controls; the answer is to identify those government impediments and work to remove them.

    Inclusionary zoning is a great leap in government interference in the operation of the market. The government should not be in the business of forcing a developer to build housing of a certain price point or telling a landlord for what price he must rent his apartment or telling a person selling his home what price he may sell it for. I ask you to reconsider and vote "no" on this bill which advances a socialist agenda.

    Rod Williams
    A Disgruntled Republican

  3. The version of BL2015-1139 that will be voted on tonight is not the one that is on the council's website. They will instead be going with the planning commission's amended version. See page 85 of the following PDF file for the full text.