Monday, July 11, 2016

(final update) What happened at the 7/6/16 Council meeting: Effort to kill Antioch affordable housing development fail, the right to regulate natural gas compression stations advance,

Tuesday night's Council meeting proved a victory for property rights in the case of the proposed affordable housing development in Antioch but property rights did not fare so well in some other actions.The effort to kill the Antioch affordable housing project was delayed, and probably killed (BILL NO. BL2016-219 ). This development is all set to go and Karen Johnson, the district council member, had a bill on the agenda to take away from the property owner what he currently has the right to do.  Karen Johnson however moved to defer the bill indefinitely last night after concluding the pubic hearing and passing it on second reading.  While the bill can be brought back up, Council members have to be given a week's notice. She says she plans to bring it back and have it placed on the October 18th agenda.

The hearing on the bill had both proponents and opponents with neighbors arguing it would "ghettoize" their community and several speakers arguing in favor of property rights. Apparently many Council members had concern about the bill.  Should her bill pass, mostly likely the owner could win a law suit suing the city for taking his property. To take away a permitted use is a "taking."  Property rights are more than just holding legal title.  When property is taken it should only be for a public purpose and owners should be compensated for their loss. While Johnson says she will bring the bill back up, I do not see that the facts will change. I know we now have a very liberal Metro Council now, but I suspect even many liberals are not comfortable trampling property rights.  If they are unconcerned about trampling property rights, they are probably concerned about exposing the city to a law suit the city is most likely going to lose and the loss of future State assistance in the form of tax credits the state has threatened to withhold  should Johnson's bill pass.

In an article that appears in the Tennessean, Johnson says while her proposed ordinance is considered still active the indefinite deferral will prevent the developer from getting permits needed to begin construction on the project. I do not see the logic of her reasoning since the owner already has all of the rights he needs to proceed.  Metro Planning Director Doug Sloan apparently also does not see Johnson's logic and told The Tennessean that because the owner's  rights are vested, the developer should be able to move forward with getting permits approved.

To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 16:47- 1:00:45.  Here is the Tennessean report on what transpired:

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, July 6, 2016 - In a surprise move Tuesday, Councilwoman Karen Johnson led the indefinite deferral of her legislation that would down-zone property in order to block a project for low-income residents called The Ridge at Antioch, a 96-unit apartment complex that Arkansas-based RichSmith Development has planned for Forest View Drive near Murfreesboro Pike. .... “I’m not giving up on it, but there are a lot of questions because it’s a complex issue,” Johnson said. “Many council members have not had low-income tax credit properties in their districts. .... Johnson said she plans to bring the bill back up to be placed on the council's Oct. 18 agenda. (link)

To access the Council agenda, the Council staff analysis of the agenda and my analysis and commentary on the agenda,  follow this link.

Tuesday night's council meeting at over six hours long was a super long council meeting.  I did not watch every minute of the whole six hours, skipping fast though some of the zoning public hearings. I think however, I caught anything of significane.  Many of the zoning bills interest no one but the nearby neighbors and opponents make the same argument over and over again that the proposed rezoning will cause (1) more traffic, (2) flooding problems, (3) overcrowded schools, and (4) change the character of the neighborhood.

Below is part one of the Council meeting:

Other Bills on Public Hearing:
 BILL NO. BL2016-219 which applies a Contextual Overlay District to 231.8 acres in Council member Hurt's District passes on Second Reading with no one speaking on it. A Contextual Overlay is a zoning tool that can be applied to residential neighborhoods. It applies design standards in order to maintain and reinforce established form or character of residential development in a particular area.  It does not affect the base zoning of a property.  It essentially keeps property owners from building something on their lot that is terribly our of character with the neighborhood.  It addresses such things as Setback, Height, Lot Coverage, and Access, Garages, and Parking. There are several neighborhoods that have this designation.
BILL NO. BL2016-218 would allow Council members to initiate three zone changes a year without paying the required fee to the Planning Department usually associated with considering a zone change. It passes on Second Reading. President of the Neighborhood Alliance John Stern speaks in favor as well as former council member John Summers. Currently council members can do one zone change without paying the fee.. Most zone change request come from the owner of the property and the zone change is requested as part of a plan to develop the property, but there are occasions when a group of property owners may want a rezoning or a community may want a rezoning, that is not part of a planned development. Those instances should be rare and I don't know if this change to allow a council member to have three free rezonngs is justified or not, but it was not being opposed by the Planning Department and no one spoke in opposition.
BILL NO. BL2016-266  which would amend the Mansion at Fontanel Specific Plan District to let Fontanel Properties add 136 rooms to the six-room Inn at Fontanel bed and breakfast-style luxury boutique hotel passes Second Reading.  It is disapproved by the Planning Commission. To read The Tennessean's report on this issue see Controversial Fontanel expansion vote set for July 19. To view the long pubic hearing on this bill see timestamp 1:28:45 to 3:13:36.
BILL NO. BL2016-293 in Scott Davis's district would rezones 54 acres, comprised of many parcels, from various current zonings to R6-A which is a medium density residential district. It is deferred two meetings and will go back to Planning Commission then back to Public Hearing.  I oppose taking away a persons property rights and would not support this unless it had the approval of those whose properties are being rezoned. As is, this is disapproved by the Planning Commission.
BILL NO. BL2016-297  is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. It is a downzoning, without the property owners consent, of 19 acres, essentially a "taking" of property. It is opposed by the Chamber and various other pro private property rights groups. It passes on Second Reading.  
BILL NO. BL2016-298 also in Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres consisting of a bunch of properties from various current zonings to RM40-A which is a high density residential zoning allowing 40 units per acre. This has not been to the Planning Commission yet. I have the same concern as on the above bill. Is this taking of property rights? It passes on Second Reading.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-219  is part of the effort to get local authority to permit gas compression stations. It passes on a voice vote and is not on the consent agenda. I think it is reasonable that local people have say in whether or not such a facility gets build in their community and commend Councilman Bedne for the hard work he has exerted to achieve this objective. Currently local of state governments have no say in permitting gas compression stations.  The Federal Government does not allow local governments to disapprove them under the argument that gas pipelines are protected interstate commerce. There is a way local and state governments can gain permitting authority. This resolution is only one step in a complex process to gain that authority. To learn more, view the discussion at timestamp 4:26:50 to 4:37:25.

SUBSTITUTE RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-270 request the civil service commission to establish paid maternity and paternity leave for metro employees.  I oppose this resolution.  Metro employees are paid well and have generous benefits.  They should not have benefits substantially better than the private sector or State government. While I think we should support families, we should not expand benefits for metro employees who already have very generous benefits and never have to fear losing their job.  Also, if we should have a paid maternity leave program, it should not apply to single mothers.  We should not be encouraging illegitimate births.This passes on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-277  request that the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam communicate with Nashville’s business groups and community before passing legislation that could be detrimental to Nashville and Davidson County commerce. Of course, as Councilman Elrod pointed out before asking to be recorded as abstaining, this resolution is unnecessary. Metro has a lobbyist and we have local legislators to look after our interest.  The bill is not on the consent agenda. It passes on a voice vote. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-286 would approve an application for a Paid Leave Analysis Grant in the amount of $217,632 from the U.S.Department of Labor. The proceeds would be used to conduct a paid leave analysis study across the Metropolitan Nashville area.  This is part of the plan to promote paid maternity leave for Metro employees. It passes on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-306 request that the Council approve the location of the Sheriff's new administrative offices before any funding is dispersed for the project. The location of the new jail has been a concern of the Council. Council members from Antioch who fear it will be build in their community and do not want that to happen. It passes on the consent agenda.

Bills on Introduction First Reading. It is customary to pass all bills on first reading without discussion, however, correctly in my view, BILL NO. BL2016-133 the inclusionary housing bill  is discussed. The discussion starts at time stamp 4:41:40. 

Part two

Part two starts mid -discussion of a motion to defer BILL NO. BL2016-133 , on First Reading, which would establish an inclusionary zoning ordinance which would incentivize inclusionary zoning. There is a motion to defer the bill and that motion fails. The bill passes and is re-refereed to committee.  This bill incentivizes the development of affordable housing units for any residential development that seeks additional development entitlements beyond that permitted by the current base zoning district.  This is not as bad as an earlier version but is still price-fixing and still a bad bill and may violate state law. A better affordable housing bill is going to be introduced by Council member Sheri Weiner. I do not think the council should try to force developers to build affordable housing and any effort to encourage it should be a grant program instead of a disguised mandatory program. The Weiner proposal is better than this bill.  To learn more, read the Tennessean's Competing affordable housing plans to face off before Metro Council. To see the discussion see the start of the video to timestamp 2:24.

Bills on Second Reading. This is the only one of interest. 
BILL NO. BL2016-257 would allow Codes to issue stop-work orders against illegal, non-permitted short-term rentals and increase the ban on an STR permit at such a property to three years. Now, if one is caught operating a short-term rental without a permit, the ban on getting a permit is one year. The Tennessean explains this at this link: Nashville may ramp up penalty for Airbnb permit violators. There are three amendments to the bill and the committee recommended deferral for two meetings. The sponsor follows the committee recommendation and the bill is deferred.

Bills on Third Reading.
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-234 adds “natural gas compressor stations” to a list of facilities regulated as a “major source” of air pollutants which require a local permit and would do some other things. This is part of an attempt to stop proposed natural gas compression stations planned for Joelton and Cain Ridge.  Federal law says that local government can not stop these developments and the Federal government has the right to permit them. This authority is a federal power under the Federal government's right to regulate interstate commerce. However, there is a process whereby a local government may gain permitting authority and this is part of that process to gain that authority.  This is really complex. It is clarified that this would not stop the pending gas compression stations in Joelton and Cain Ridge. To view the discussion see time stamp 12:42- 32:27, It passes on a roll call machine vote of 25 in favor, 3 opposed, 6 abstentions and 5 not voting.
BILL NO. BL2016-240 establishes new rules and fees for developers who close streets or sidewalks during construction. This is more complex than it sounds.This would attempt to fix what is a real problem.This is deferred one meeting.
BILL NO. BL2016-258  is what appears to be a sweetheart deal that puts Metro in bed with the state teachers union. It  sells the old Ben West library to the TEA and TEA would allow Metro to use the property rent-free for up to 12 days a year.  The TEA would pay $2 million dollars for the property but Metro wold let them take ten years to pay it and they would not have to pay interest. The city put out a Request for Proposals which included a requirement that the building be preserved. I do not know what, if any, other proposals where received. This passes on a voice vote without discussion.
BILL NO. BL2016-259 requires that the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in conjunction with any other related entities, provide to the Metropolitan Council, no later than December 31, 2016, a comprehensive mass transit plan for Nashville and Davidson County. The plan is to identify a source of funding also. This passes on a voice vote without discussion.

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