Thursday, March 3, 2016

What happened at the March 1st Council meeting: New regs for payday lenders, Farmers Market deal, and $3.49M subsidy deal for Lifeway Gulch development

To see my analysis of this meeting's agenda and to get a link to the Council agenda and the agenda staff analysis, follow this link.

Below are the highlights of the meeting:

BILL NO. BL2016-132 on Public Hearing is an attempt to regulate alternative financial service businesses such as pawn shops, payday lenders, and check cashing business, and title loan companies, not by trying to define the products or service they provide but by saying they are alternative financial service companies if they operate outside normal banker's hours. See my commentary and a response to my criticism from Councilman Jeff Syracuse at this link. Surprisingly, no one from the public speaks in favor or against the bill. I would have thought there would have been. It passes without opposition.

BILL NO. BL2016-139  on Public Hearing is a bill to rezone a piece of property in a residential area from residential to SP in order to allow a nursing home to be build on that location. There is opposition but the bill passes Second Reading. Over the years of watching the Metro Council, I have seen this before. I do not understand the opposition to nursing homes.  Old people in wheel chairs do not commit much crime and unfortunately, for those in nursing homes who are often neglected, nursing homes are not generators of large traffic volume.  In my view, the zoning code needs to be changed so that nursing homes are not considered a medical facility but consider a residential use. Nursing homes need to be in quite residential areas and we need lots of nursing homes, so people can locate their loved ones near them rather than miles away. As I have had to care for my invalid wife, and for a few months she had to spend time in a nursing home, I have become more aware of the difficulty in finding quality nursing home care. It is sad to see many people in nursing homes who are treated with indifference by nursing home staff and who seldom get visitors. If you must put a relative in a nursing home, it is important to check on them on a regular basis to make sure they are getting proper care.  It is easier to check on them if they are in a nursing home nearby and in order to have that situation, we need more nursing homes and they need to be scattered and in residential areas. Two neighborhood groups near the proposed rezoning take a position against it. To watch the discussion see time stamp 15:03 - 35:27.

BILL NO. BL2016-140  and BILL NO. BL2016-141 on Public Hearing effect an already approved Planned Unit Development by reducing the number of units.  The only reason this interest me is that I am always concerned when we take away property rights and to reduce the number of units from a plan that was previously approved is a taking of property. Due to public safety concerns or other factors there may be times when a plan may need to be amended or have additional conditions imposed but that should only be done with extreme caution. To see the discussion go to time stamp 35:34 - 55:30.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-102  which takes out the north shed portion of Farmers Market and turns it back over to the State passes on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-145 by Councilman Coleman  request that the proceeds from the proposed buy-out of the lease for state-owned property at the Farmers Market Facility be directed back to the Farmers Market capital improvements and operating budget. It passes on consent. I think it is bad policy to give the Farmers Market another $4 million dollars in subsidy. The money should go to the general fund and if it is necessary and wise to further subsidize the Framers Market, then it should be done though the regular budgetary process.

BILL NO. BL2016-149  on Second Reading authorizes Metro to enter a participation agreement for the construction of public infrastructure improvements and to accept a donation of property for a park. The ordinance obligates Metro government to spend up to $3.49 million in infrastructure costs such as sidewalks and sewage and the owner of the property would give 1.26 acres to Metro for a park. While $3.49 million dollars is a lot of money, this development gets no TIF (Tax Increment Financing) nor a PILOT (payment in-lieu of taxes) deal.  This is an incentive deal to keep Lifeway headquarters downtown.  Several councilmen raise questions asking if this is a good deal for the city. While I think it is healthy to have open discussion on the Council floor, some of this discussion is normally questions that would have been answered in Budget and Finance Committee. Despite all of the discussion, the bill passes on a voice vote with no audible "no" votes. (see time stamp 1:14:47 - 1:44:47)
Here is The Tennessean's report on this bill: Metro Council advances LifeWay bill despite questions.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-99  on Third Reading which would strengthen the Human Relations Commission by removing the term limits for members of the Commission passes on a voice vote. This is disappointing.  I hoped someone would take this opportunity to speak against this useless agency which serves no purpose but to promote political correctness.  If I were serving in the Council, I would have asked to be recorded as voting "no."

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