This is a long council meeting at 3 hours and 10 minutes.
If you don't know what the council is voting on, council meetings are as about as exciting as watching paint dry; if you do know, they are about as exciting as watching water boil. To read my commentary on the agenda and to get your own link to the agenda and the Council staff analysis, follow this link: What is on the Council Agenda for Aug. 4th: A tax giveaway to Neighborhood Resource Center and a very long agenda. (update).
After the prayer and the pledge the next order of business is that candidates for office in the August 6the election get to introduce themselves and state the office for which they are running. I am surprised that more candidates did not avail themselves of this opportunity. However their campaing time was probably better spend attending Night out Against Crime functions or doing last minuet door knocking.
Following that there is a recognition and presentation of an award to Mr. Cleavland who is an official of Hobby Lobby whose efforts led to Balsa airplanes being sold at Hobby Lobby being manufactured in Tennessee. Councilman Tennpenny and Daune Dominy make the presentation. Following that is the confirmation of the Mayor's appointees to Board and Commission, all of which are approved without dissension.
Next are bills on Public hearings. I am only commenting on those that are of general interest or are very controversial. I do not even attempt to understand every zoning bill before the council. These are the ones I find of interest:
- BILL NO. BL2015-1064 amends the zoning text to allow DADU's (detached Accessory Dwelling Units) on property zoned Commercial Limited. In June 2014 the zone text was amended to allow them in residential zoned districts. This seemed like a good bill to me, but it is withdrawn by the sponsor.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1167 by Councilman Scott Davis changes from SP to RS5 zoning on about 238 acres. “Specific Plan District,” generally known as “SP,” zoning refers to a type of base zoning district which is not subject to traditional zoning districts’ development standards. Under an SP zoning, design standards are established for that specific development and are written into the zone change ordinance. RS5 is a medium density residential zone requiring a minimum 5,000 square foot lot and intended for single-family dwellings, prohibiting duplexes. I do not fully understand the issues involved in this rezoning, but no one was in opposition and the planning commission had approved it and it passees.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1168 also by Councilman Scott Davis and also deferred from a previous meeting effects about 636 acres and would change the current zoning by making applicable the provisions of the DADU overlay. DADU allows for accessory dwelling units, such as garage apartments, on a property and provides a way to create affordable housing options while also maintaining the character of the existing street-facing homes. In general, I think this is good zoning and is a way to increase the stock of affordable housing without mandating developers build affordable units or engaging in price-fixing or rent control. The sponsor withdraws the bill without explanation.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1254 would set restrictions over where rock quarries could locate in relation to other property lines and residences. It would have interfered with plans of Industrial Land Developers to put a quarry on 141 acres the company owns at 771 Burkett Road. About a hundred people wearing matching tee shirts were in the chamber in support of this bill. Since it was not introduced in a timely manner, in order to be heard would have required a suspension of the rules. There was opposition to suspending the rules so the bill was not acted upon and was withdrawn.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1255 would change the zoning text "to permit the transfer of development rights from historic properties in Metropolitan Nashville. This means someone could own a piece of property but could give or sell the right to develop it to someone else, meaning the historical property could not then be developed. That in itself would not protect the structure, but if one could not build on the site, there would be no incentive to tear down a historical structure. If the current owner did not own the development rights, developers would not be trying to buy his property. Something similar is a tool used a lot in rural areas to preserve the character of rural property. A farmer may own a farm and wish to keep it as a farm, perhaps wanting to pass it own to his children. He may give the "development rights" to a non profit conservation group. It is much like a deed restriction that says the property cannot be subdivided or have additional homes build on the property. I was unaware of this as a tool for historic preservation but it makes sense. However, I am still not totally clear how this would work. It appears this transfer of development rights from the owner of the historical property to the party receiving the development rights would somehow benefit the party receiving the development rights, but I am unclear how that would work. This bill passes. This was sponsored by CM Allen. As I have observe the workings of the Council, I have developed a great deal of respect for CM Allen, who has often tackled complex issues, found consensus and got legislation passed. She has tackled issues such as peer-to-peer services such as Uber and Lyft and vacation rentals such as AIRB&B, and in-home recording studios.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1272 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would apply a DADU overlay to 672 acres. DADU is "detached accessory dwelling unit." There are restrictions on size of the accessory dwelling unit and access and other things. I think this is a great way to increase density and promote affordable housing. As we grow, we are going to have to accept greater density if we are going to maintain affordable housing in the county and if we are to avoid more urban sprawl. Also, we need greater density if we are going to have a good mass transit system. I view this as a positive move but maintaining character of the neighborhood, keeping a neighborhood predominately owner occupied, and opposition to more local traffic are arguments against this. This passes. The DADU overlay text amendment has not yet passes. So, if the DADU text does not pass on third, then this bill cannot be passed on third. There is an attempt to defer this until the text change authorizing DADU passes, however given the time constraints due to this being the winding up of this term of the Council, a deferral of this bill would in essence kill it. Davis makes a good argument in favor of his bill. The effort to defer this bill fails and this bill passes. See time stamp 52:02-1:00:13.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1586 approves an Amended Economic Impact Plan, providing for $15 million dollars of tax increment financing, for the Bellevue Mall Development Area. This is the same way we have financed a lot of downtown development. Under a TIF plan, the tax revenue generated from the project does not flow into the city coffers but goes to MDHA for development. Without this kind of financing, many projects arguably would not get built. The text of the bill explains in more detail how TIF works. While I think we have abused TIF for downtown development, Bellevue Mall has struggled so long, that if I were in the Council I would probably vote for it.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1592 authorizes the director of public property to exercise an option to purchase 568.2 acres of property located on Marrowbone Road and Whitlow Mountain Road for the expansion of Beaman Park. As an avowed conservative, some might think I would oppose government expenditures of this kind; I do not. As we grow, I think it wise to preserve open space and park lands and we should get critical lands and beautiful sites when they are available. A more crowded city needs good parks and places for people to commune with nature and enjoy outdoor recreation.
Bills on Second Reading of interest:
- 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 is deferred indefinitely. I think this is a good bill. 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. The bill was on public hearing on July 7th and deferred indefinitely. It passes on a voice vote.
- 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. The bill was previously on second reading and was deferred. It is fails on a machine vote of 14 for, 15 opposed and 2 abstentions.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1304 is a tax give away to the Neighborhood Resource Center.
In June 2007, the city sold at a bargain price a historic piece of property to NRC, located 1312 3rd Ave. North, known as Fire Hall # 1. The property was sold for a price of $86,000 and was appraised for $147,000, meaning Metro essentially gave $61,0000 to NRC. However, the deed stipulated that if NRC ever failed to occupy the building, NRC was entitled to the $86,000 they paid for the property and the cost of any improvements to the property and the property would revert to metro.
Since that time, NRC has fallen on hard times and now wants to sell the property, but they want to change the original deal. Now they want to pay Metro $100,909 for the property, sell it and pocket the difference. The property is currently appraised for $590,000. That would be a huge windfall for NRC and would fund their operating budget for a long time.
The Neighborhood Resource Center is a non-profit group that while doing some non-objectionable, if not good things, also engages in some far left political activity, as they did in 2011 when they hosted a meeting to discuss how to implement the Contract for the American Dream.
The Contract for the American Dream was a project of the far left MoveOn.Org. A whole host of other liberal and leftist organization were also partners in the Contract for the American Dream campaign including Planned Parenthood, Progressive Congress.org, Progressive Democrats of America, Daily Kos, People for the American Way, and Code Pink.
A long time staffer (unsure if he had the title Executive Director, but he was always the public face of the organization), Mike Hodge was a community organizer trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition. Hodge now works for the progressive group NOAH. In addition to that overtly leftist Contract for the American Dream effort, NRC often engaged in activity, that while not terribly offensive, was more suited to an organization such as a labor union or political organization rather than a non-profit claiming a charitable purpose.
Some of what they do, such as helping neighborhoods start neighborhood watch programs is not at all objectionable but they do much that is objectionable. NRC is good at going into neighborhoods and getting people stirred up to stop projects which could actually help communities. They often stir people up to stop affordable housing projects and they attempted but failed to stop the partnership between Metro Parks and Belmont University that lead to the massive investments and improvements to E. S. Rose Park.
At one time NRC was heavily funded by United Way and received funding from other sources but lost most of their sources of funding. In December 2014 they attempted to get Metro to give them funding as a charity. After several delays, the Council turned down their request for funding.
To learn much more about the Neighborhood Resource Center, follow this link.
Councilman Phil Claiborne and Councilman Robert Duvall speaks against the bill. The staff analyst makes the case that this is a fair deal. He argues that Metro must share with NRC the appreciated value. It passes on a machine vote of 30 in favor, 3 against and no abstentions. The four council member who voted against the bill were, Claiborne, Duvall, Dominy and Tenpenny. I will be offering more documentation that is in fact a tax giveaway and not a good deal for the city. Check back. To view the discussion see time stamp 1:38:07-1:45:20.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1306 is another of those PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) sweetheart deals to encourage businesses to locate or expand in Nashville. This one would lure a company from Lavergne to Nashville and give them a $710,000 tax break. It passes with no opposition.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1308 gives Piedmont Natural Gas two pieces of property and $159,617 to reimburse them for $530K of cost they had in relocating a pipeline during the construction of the Sounds ballpark. This was left out of the construction cost appropriations when approved by the Council. Bo Mitchell asks why? Good question. An expensive project anyway and plagued by massive cost overruns Mitchell suggest this cost was not included at the time the project was being build in order to deceive the council. It passes.
- BILL NO. BL2013-569 amends the zoning text as it relates to car sales lots, car washes, auto repair centers and maybe some others. It does a lot of things including dictating the type of fence or wall that is permitted in front of the establishment, to requiring at least 1,000 feet between car lots. This bill was disproved by the planning commission. This bill was first introduced in October 2013. It is deferred indefinitely, which kills it since all pending bills must start all over when a term of the Council ends.This bill is primarily of concern to councilmen representing Nolensville Road. Nolensville Road has seen little of the improvements of other areas of town and there are used car lot after used car lot down Nolensville Road and also lots of pay day lenders and pawn shops. A lot of the used car lots seem to do very little business. I see the problem, but I am not sure this is a solution. If not used car lots, the parcels would probably be vacant lots. The solution for Nolensville Road is some economic growth.
- SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2015-1120 creates a DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit) overlay district that could be used in zoning districts that are not zoned R. In June 2014, the council approved a zoning text change to allow detached accessory dwellings on lots within the R districts. The bill is deferred one meeting. The sponsor says she will have more meetings to address some remaining concerns and will be offering an amendment. She only has one more chance to get it passed or it would will have to start over with a new Council. I support this bill.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1147 is a less bad form of "inclusionary zoning." Since Substitute Ordinance No. BL2015-1139 was approved on third reading at the July 21 council meeting, this less bad version of bad concept is not needed and it is withdrawn.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1153 creates some new zoning districts which would be deemed more pedestrian friendly. It passes.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1155 would apply a DADU overlay to 120 acres in Councilman Westerholm's district. It is deferred one meeting.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1210 is the bill that would amend the zoning code to say where a natural gas compression station could be located. This is an attempt to restrict them to certain industrial areas and keep them out of rural and residential areas. This was primarily prompted by a natural gas compression station planned for Joelton and many people spoke in favor of this bill at the last public hearing. Without this bill the pipeline companies could build gas compression stations wherever they thought they were needed, subject to getting a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). However, federal law prohibits local governments from regulating natural gas facilities through zoning. This is probably a futile effort. Other cities have tried the same thing and lost. The bill passes. Now, if Metro refuses to give a permit to the gas company, they will probably take Metro to court and Metro will probably lose. Council member Evans explains why this is a bad bill and why she is voting no and offers examples of previous similar attempt to pass text amendments aimed at one business and how that has cost the city money. I understand the genuine concern of people in Joelton and I understand the council members responding to the concern of there constituents, and I can understand the desire to stand up and defy the federal government, and I understand "sending a strong message," but this is probably a wasted effort that will end up costing the city money and accomplish nothing. I would be torn on how to vote if I were serving in the Council, but I think the responsible vote is a vote against this bill. It passes by a vote of 30 for, 3 against and 1 abstention but 6 not voting. I guess a lot of council members all got the urge to go to the bathroom at the same time. See time stamp 2:21:23 - 2:40:50.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1273 and BILL NO. BL2015-1274 are bills that create two new redevelopment districts. One in Bordeaux and the other in the James C. Casey Homes area off Shelby Avenue. This would make these areas eligible for Tax Increment Financing and other benefits.They pass.
- BILL NO. BL2015-1278 would allow the council to exempt by resolution, after a public hearing, an applicant for a beer permit from the distance requirements of the regulation. This makes so much sense to me. As we become more dense, their will be a greater desire for neighborhood pubs and restaurants. Many sites or off limits for such due to their proximity to a church or park or residence. This is deferred one meeting.