Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What happened at the 8-15-16 Council meetng: Pot bill survives rare First Reading challenge, Affordable Housing bill advances, Google Fiber bill deferred.

For a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.  If you are going to actually watch the meeting, you really need to follow along with the agenda.

If you are going to watch the meeting you may want to watch it in double speed. That is usually what I do with council meeting and most meetings and speeches. I can watch it in double time and not lose much content and I slow it if something is interesting. To watch it in double speed, hover your cursor over "YouTube" and click it. The video will then open in another screen. Then click "setting" which is indicated by a gear icon. When that opens change speed from normal to the desired speed.  If you are not given that option, then follow this link for instructions.

Below is a summary and the highlights of the meeting.

All of the resolutions pass except the resolution to approve purchasing land for the new Cain Ridge school and it is deferred one meeting, apparently to track with a zoning bill not because there is any opposition. To see which of the resolutions were of significance see my commentary.

Bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and usually pass by a single vote. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. It is almost considered rude to vote against a bill on First Reading. All bills on first, pass lumped together with a single vote except for one that is with drawn and the bill that would  substantially decriminalized pot possession in Davidson County.

  • The bill that is withdrawn is a bill that would have imposed a 120-day moratorium upon the issuance of building and grading permits for multi-family developments on property within Metropolitan County Council Districts 28, 29 and 32.  This was a bad bill and should have been withdrawn.  We can't function as a city if we have different rules for different council district.  There is concern that those districts are seeing so much rapid growth that infrastructure cannot keep up with it. The concern may be valid but a moratorium on new development is not the way to deal with it.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-378 is the bill that would substantially decriminalized  possession or casual exchange of small quantities of marijuana in Davidson County. I favor this bill. To see my commentary follow this link.  The motion for a roll-call vote was made by Councilman Dour Pardue. In addition to Pardue others voting against the bill were council members Steve Glover, Holly Uezo and Bill Pridemore. Council member Karen Johnson abstained. It passes First Reading by a vote of 34 to 4. To see the discussion see timestamp 21:22 - 28:21.

Bills on Second Reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing. This passes by voice vote.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. Before being amended it was to be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars. It is amended to make the cap $2.5 million. The sunset date is also extended. I do not have copies of the amendment and am not sure how long the trial period last, but it would not come up for review until the next council takes office. Both of these changes make the bill less desirable in my view.  Apparently the builders wanted the longer trail period and I can understand why they would, but it means a new council would be evaluating the bill rather then the council that passed it. While I was previously of the view that I would support this bill, if I were serving in the council, I am now less inclined to be supportive.  If this passes, however, then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan could still pass but this may lessen the likelihood of that bill passing. The only way I think I could support this bill as amended was if I believed that passing this bill would result in the inclusionary zoning bill not passing. This bill however would work with the other bill, if the other bill also should pass, so that those who are required to build affordable housing under the inclusionary zoning proposal could also get this grant and lessen the pain.
 Background and more information on this proposal is in the press release from the mayor's office which you can find at this link.  Both developers and housing advocates support this bill, for the most part, or at least they did before it was amended. The bill will still be amendable on third reading. For those who want a deeper understanding of this bill, you may want to watch the meeting of the Ad hoc Affordable Housing Committee found at this link and the Budget and Finance Committee meeting found at this link. The bill is amended as noted above and then passes by a voice vote. To view the discussion see timestamp 33:57 to 44:14.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. It is also not as simple as it sounds. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  This was announced in January 2015. What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can string cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, ATT must move their cable, or who ever is below on the pole must wait for the provider with cable above to move their cable. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole. The complexity of this is explained in  articles you can find at these links:
Google Fiber warns it could pull plug over Nashville impasse  
Council attorney raises legal issues with Google Fiber proposal  
"Google One Touch" plan: Solution in search of problem
The bill is deferred one meeting. 
 Bills on Third Reading 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I would like to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. This is deferred one meeting.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. It passes.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-319  by Councilman Davis is subject to a last minute attempt to amend that generate some discussion and controversy. It is a rezoning that attempts to change properties that now has various zonings "to  permit all uses permitted by the MUL-A district except for alternative financial services uses." I am not even going to try to explain the nuances involved, but if you want to see the discussion see timestamp 1:01:55 to 1:17:09.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  which makes 60 "housekeeping" changes to the regs governing taxi cabs passes on a voice vote without discussion. 
The council passed the resolution and the bill that was necessary to facilitate "Marine week" in Nashville without any opposition.

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