Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Council agenda for 3/15/2016: Tax Increment Funding reform, gun shows at the fairground, banning The Contributor sales...

For you own copy of the Council agenda  follow the highlighted link. The Council staff analysis is not posted and the meeting is tonight.  Why it is not posted, I do not know. When the staff analysis is posted, if it is, you can find it at this link.

My time has been limited to study the agenda, and I very well may have missed something important.  Also, without the staff analysis, I may have missed the significance of something. Below is a summary of the meeting agenda, listing only what I consider the most important items on the agenda.

Gun Shows at the Fairgrounds. RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-76  is the resolution by Councilman Glover requesting the Metropolitan Board of Fair Commissioners to reinstate and continue to allow gun shows at the fairgrounds. He also has an ordinance on the subject. The resolution is a request;  the ordinance,  BILL NO. BL2016-161   mandates that the Fair Board keep dates available in their calendar to allow the gun shows to rent the facility at the fairground. It argues that the charter amendment that saved the fair grounds from destruction stated that all activities being conducted on the premises of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as of December 31, 2010 should be continued on the same site and that discontinuing the gun shows violated that charter provision. It also says that since the Fair Board failed to rescind their action discontinuing the gun shows, that litigation is very likely to occur challenging the action of the Fair Board in discontinuing the gun shows. So, it directs the Fair Board "to reserve a sufficient number of weekend dates after January 1, 2017 for the scheduling of gun shows at the Expo Center, matching the frequency with which gun shows have been scheduled since passage of the Charter Amendment of August 4, 2011, until such time as a court of law or the Tennessee Attorney General determines the Fair Board’s compliance with the Metropolitan Charter, state and/or federal legislation in regard to its actions of December 1, 2015 regarding gun shows." The Friends of the Fairgrounds group has urged their members to show up at the Council meetings wearing red shirts to show support for this ordinance.  Read CRITICAL CALL TO ACTION, THIS TUESDAY, FRIENDS OF THE FAIRGROUNDS!

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-148 is another TIF deal (tax increment financing). This one however is to keep available for low income elderly, the Old Hickory Towers, an existing 217 unit high-rise apartment building.  MDHA would actually own the property and an investor would have a long term lease on it and would renovate the building. Financing for this deal would also include  low-income housing tax credits (“LIHTC).  In a idea world, we would not need this type of safety net housing for the elderly and housing would not have to be subsidized, but without the income based housing for the elderly, many elderly would be homeless and die on the streets. I support this method of providing housing for the low-income elderly. I am also pleased to see TIF used for serving the low income instead of used to finance only luxury super expensive condos downtown.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-168,   "A resolution recognizing April 15, 2016, as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence in Davidson County and across the United States."

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-169,  "A resolution supporting House Bill 2147 / Senate Bill 2098, currently pending in the Tennessee General Assembly, which would require the principal of a school to allow a patriotic society time to recruit students to the society during school hours."  An example of a "patriotic group" is the Girl Scouts.

 BILL NO. BL2015-32 on second reading is a bill to prohibit the selling of newspapers or other things in the right of way to people in automobiles. This would have the effect of outlawing The Contributor newspaper sales.  Nashville's Contributor has been one of the most successful street newspapers of its kind in the country.  A lot of people are now housed who were formerly homeless due to the success of their selling The Contributor. I approve of The Contributor as a way of providing charity to the homeless. It is much preferable for the public and the non-profit sector to help the homeless rather than the government. While selling The Contributor is still panhandling, it is a more dignified way of panhandling than simply holding a sign and getting contributions. Also The Contributor makes an effort to help their sellers get their life together and imposes certain restrictions on their appearance and behavior and teaches them certain skills. I oppose this bill.

BILL NO. BL2016-147 on second reading makes changes to a blighted property grant program for commercial properties. I do not have information about the current grant program so I do not know if these changes are for the better or not. The bill defines where and under what circumstances the grant would be available.

BILL NO. BL2016-157 on second reading "pertaining to tax increment financing:" Below is a press release from the Mayor's office explaining the bill:

Legislation Introduced To Strengthen Laws Authorizing Redevelopment Districts In Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 24, 2016) – Mayor Megan Barry, Councilmembers at-large Bob Mendes and Erica Gilmore are announcing new legislation, reached in consultation with the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), aimed at clarifying and strengthening rules related to tax increment financing (TIF) in MDHA redevelopment districts.

“MDHA redevelopment districts are a great tool for helping to revitalize parts of Nashville, and this legislation will strengthen that tool in a way that create more clarity and promote transparency in the process,” said Mayor Barry. “Now, once the term of a TIF loan expires, the increment tax revenues previously used to pay down the loan will be returned to the general fund to be invested in areas such as public safety, education, and transportation.”

The legislation, filed by Councilmembers Mendes and Gilmore, revises laws related to redevelopment districts, which created by MDHA and approved by the Metro Council with the purpose of promoting redevelopment that is sustainable from economic, environmental, aesthetic, public safety, and historic preservationist perspectives.

"This ordinance changes the ground rules for tax increment financing in Nashville by letting Metro recover tax revenue more quickly, giving Metro more ability to decide what projects are funded with our tax dollars, and requiring new annual reporting about all TIF loans," said CM Mendes. "I want to thank the Mayor's Office and MDHA for working to improve how tax increment financing works and is reported to the public."

Tax increment financing is a tool used by MDHA in approved redevelopment districts that utilizes incremental increase in property taxes from projects to pay off loans used to get the projects built. Once the loans are paid off, the new tax revenues are available to Metro in the general fund.

“MDHA has a 30 year history of administering TIF for the better of Nashville. This tool has made possible countless projects including Hall of Fame Park, First Tennessee Park, Ascend Amphitheater and a mixed-use project at 1821 Jefferson Street,” said Ralph Mosley, MDHA board chair. “We hope these new refinements will help the general public better understand the program.”

Highlights of the legislation include:
  • It clarifies that tax increment financing (TIF) revenues collected for future TIF loans will stay with the Metropolitan Government general fund once the loans are paid off.
  • All new redevelopment district plans, and future amendments to existing plans, will require the proceeds from land sold by MDHA to be used solely within that particular redevelopment district area. The ordinance includes an express exception to allow revenues from the three Rolling Mill Hill properties being sold by MDHA to be used as part of the Envision Cayce project.
  • All new TIF loans approved after the effective date of the ordinance will require that the debt service portion of the taxes remain with Metro and are not to be pledged toward payment of the TIF loans.
  • The ordinance adds specific reporting requirements for MDHA to provide to the Finance Director and Council. This will include information about the terms of each outstanding TIF loan, as well as information about the use of TIF throughout all of the redevelopment districts.
The proposed ordinance, BL2016-157, will be heard on first reading on Tuesday, March 1st.
This is an improvement. Currently once the TIF loan is repaid, the tax revenue still flows to MDHA.  Many of the new downtown developments generate almost no tax revenue for the general fund.  TIF was originally intended to help redevelop blighted communities. Does anyone still think downtown Nashville is "blighted?"

BILL NO. BL2016-160 on second reading amends the distance requirements for a beer license. Currently a business seeking a beer permit must be a certain distance away from a residence, a church, playground, day care centers and schools. This waives those distance requirements if the establishment is separated from those entities by a four-lane state or federal highway. This makes sense to me.

BILL NO. BL2016-117 and BILL NO. BL2016-132 on third reading would amend the zoning code in an attempt to curtail alternative financial services businesses such as payday lenders. I oppose this bill. See my commentary on the bill when it was on second reading and the sponsors response to my criticism at this link.

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