Monday, August 17, 2015

What is on the Metro Council Agenda for Aug. 18, 2015: tax giveaway to Neighborhood Resource Center, DADU text amendment,

The big item of interest on this agenda is a bill on third reading which would change the terms of an original deal in order to provide a windfall for the leftist Neighborhood Resource Center. See the analysis of BILL NO. BL2015-1304 below.

If you don't know what the Metro Council is voting on and you watch a council meeting, you will find it boring. If you have your own copy of the Council agenda and staff analysis the meeting will most likely still be boring, but you will at least know why it is boring. Think of it this way: with an agenda and analysis watching a council meeting is as exciting as watching paint dry; without an agenda and analysis it is as boring as waiting for water to boil.

There are eight appointees to Boards and Commissions on the agenda for Council confirmation. They will all be rubber stamped as always.

There is one resolution on public hearing and it is to allow a restaurant that already has a state liquor license to be exempt from the distance requirement necessary to get a beer permit. This seems like a waste of time. In my view, if you have a liquor license then you should automatically be eligible for a beer license. What kind of logic is there that says you may sell hard liquor but not a beer? There are no bills on public hearing.

There are 28 resolution on the agenda all lumped together and put on the "consent agenda."  If a resolution does not pass the committee to which it was assigned unanimously then it is not left on consent but 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.  Most of the resolutions are simply acceptance of routine federal pass-thorough grants. Here are the resolutions of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1603 approves issuing $15 million in bonds to pay for improvements at the Titan's Nisan stadium for improvements as required by the Titan's lease agreement with the Sports authority, to be paid for from the $3 ticket tax added to tickets sold for events at the stadium. These bonds are not a general obligation of the city and no regular tax revenue will be used to pay off the bonds. I see no reason to oppose this.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1604  authorizes the issuance of $200 million in the form of "commercial paper," which is a form of short term financing, for water and sewer projects. This is not a general obligation of the city which could lead to mandatory tax increases. Given the explanation in the staff analysis, I see no reason to oppose this.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1605  appropriates $250K from the 4% fund to purchase a shredder truck for the Sheriff's department. Money set aside in the 4% fund can only be used for equipment purchase and building repairs. The Director of Finance has refused to approve the resolution as to the availability of funds and the Sheriff's department has sufficient 4% money for this purchase if they choose to use it.  This resolution will be substituted for a memorializing resolution asking the Sheriff's department to purchase the shredder truck.  Is this a document shredder truck or a chipper truck? I don't know. I assume a chipper. The public works function provided by the sheriff's office is very popular among members of the metro council.
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1606  approves a $200,000 grant to expand the Nashville Financial Empowerment Centers program.  I would be more pleased if this money was raised privately instead of using tax dollars, but I think this type program is beneficial to our community.  It provides financial counseling to anyone in Nashville who needs it. I have worked most of my adult life in a field teaching people financial literacy and counseling people in financial crisis. While I generally oppose programs that subsidize poverty, I support programs that help lift people out of poverty. Financial coaching or teaching financial literacy can change lives. I am convinced that poverty is more a function of poor decision making and financial ignorance than a function of how much money one earns. With correct values and knowledge and wise decision making one can earn more money.  Poverty is a result of attitude more than anything else. I would vote for this bill if I were in the Council.
There are no bills on First Reading or Second Reading. This is the last meeting of this term of the Council thus no bills on First or Second Reading. Any bills not passed on August 18th will be dead and will have to start over with the next council. Many of the bills on third reading are zoning bills that don't interest me.   These are the bills of interest on Third Reading:

  • BILL NO. BL2014-838 is the bill that would as I understand it, extend historical overlay protection for part of lower Broadway.  This is a complex issue and when it was acted upon in October 2014 and then deferred indefinitely the Council engaged in some adept and rare parliamentary maneuvering.  To understand the issue and the maneuvers on the bill at that time you must watch the video of that October 21st meeting carefully. To see the video follow this linkTo see the discussion see time stamp 27:02- 50:30. Below is how the Tennessean described this issue at the time:
    In other business Tuesday, historic preservationists scored a victory, with the council voting down a plan that could have led to a makeover of the historic Trail West store building on Lower Broadway.
    At issue is a block of property at Broadway and Third Avenue South still unprotected by the rest of the area’s historic overlay, as a way to accommodate a Westin Hotel proposed in 2007 but never built.
    Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, who represents downtown, had proposed an ordinance to extend the historic overlay to include this block, but at the last minute had sought to exclude the Trail West property at 217-219 Broadway. There, broker Marshall Karr, who recently purchased the property, is eyeing a three-story, open-air structure anchored by a steakhouse.
    Gilmore’s amendment to exclude the Trail West building from the overlay, however, failed by a 14-20 vote. Later, Gilmore’s motion to withdraw the legislation, which could have enabled the demolition of the building, failed as well by a 12-21 vote.
    “Historic preservation is what makes downtown Nashville great,” said Councilwoman Emily Evans, who sought to protect the Trail West building. “It is the golden goose. Let’s not kill it.”
    I assume passing this bill without the amendment which would have excluded the Trail West building is a good thing.  It appears that in October 2014 when Gilmore could not pass the bill excluding Trail West, she did not want to pass it at all but now is willing to extend the historical overlay without that exclusion. I hope my interpretation is correct but am not absolutely certain and hope preservationist are paying attentions.

  • 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 passed on Second Reading last Council meeting. I assume it will pass.
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2015-1120 establishes a provision in the zoning text that would permit communities that are zoned "RS" to have detached accessory dwelling unit on those properties, if a DADU overlay is placed on the properties.  A DADU overlay is already permitted for neighborhoods zoned "R." "RS" is a zoning that prohibits duplexes.  At one time, there was no "RS" zone and duplexes were allowed in any "R" zoned property.  Overtime, many neighborhoods were rezoned RS to prohibit duplexes. There is a lot of confusion and concern over what is happening with regards to detached accessory dwelling units in Nashville. Follow this link for a detailed analysis of BL2015-1120 provided by the Green Hills Neighborhood Association.
 I support BL2015-1120 and other bills that advance DADU's. I think that allowing accessory dwelling units on lots will create affordable housing without the heavy hand of government mandating it or imposing price controls. It will also expand the tax base so we can afford to pay off all of the debt the city had accumulated without raising taxes. It will make mass transit more likely to develop and succeed and it will reduce future urban sprawl.
  •  BILL NO. BL2015-1155 would apply a DADU overlay to about 129 acres of "R" zoned property in East Nashville.

  •  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 build something bigger 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.  The transferring the development rights and the receiving of the development rights would have to be approved by Metro. The receiving party would then have the right to greater development on the property to which the rights were transferred, but I am still a little fuzzy on how this would work, but it seems like a good concept.  
  • 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.  If the DADU text amendment of bill 1120 above does not pass on, then this bill cannot be passed. Last meeting there was an effort to kill this bill but Davis made a good argument in favor of his bill and the effort to defer the bill failed. 
  • 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, there will be a greater desire for neighborhood pubs and restaurants. Many sites are off limits for such due to their proximity to a church or park or residence. A restaurant that sells beer across from a park is not going to negatively impact that park. On a case by case basis this would allow exemptions from those distance requirements. This was on third reading last meeting but deferred one meeting. 
Fire Hall # 1
In June 2007, the city sold at a bargain price a historic piece of property to NRC, located 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.
NRC should never have gotten such a sweetheart deal in the first place. 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 by the tax assessors office. It may be worth much more than that.  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 even occasionally 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, 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.
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.  Last Council meeting when the bill was on Second Reading CM 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.  I suspect he is right.

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