Thursday, August 4, 2016

(final update) What happened at the 8-2-16 Council meeting? Rent control/Inclusionary zoning advances, Fontanel expansion approved. Free parking for old people dies.

The Rent Control/Inclusionary zoning bill, SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-133, was the hot topic of the evening. It passed second reading by voice vote and was then deferred one meeting. It will be debated on third reading. . The inclusionary zoning proposal was on public hearing and had more than 40 people speak on the bill, many more proponents than opponents. Proponents included those involved in affordable housing development and liberal advocacy groups and several members of the clergy.  Opponents included the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Nashville Apartment Association and the Nashville Association of Realtors. To view the public hearing on the bill see timestamp 9:20 to 2:22:02.

The proposal would both mandate and incentivize Inclusionary Housing. It would require that any developer who builds more than five rental units and who seeks additional development entitlements beyond that permitted by the current base zoning  would have to set aside a certain percentage of the units as "work force housing" or "affordable housing."  I do not know  how many developers who develop more than five units must currently seek variances to current base zoning. The variances or entitlements beyond base zoning may be for things such as greater height or greater density.  I am trying to determine if most developers must now get variances beyond what is allowed by current base zoning in order to make development feasible.  I suspect they do. If it is such that a developer can not not make a development work without a variance, then this is a bill that really relies much more on  punitive measures than incentive measures

Under this proposal, to partially offset the loss of profit the developer would have made had he not been required to build "affordable" units,  the developer would be given a grant.  This bill applies only to rental units, not units for sale as was originally considered.  The set-aside units would have to be maintained as affordable rental units for 15 years.  This very likely violates a state law which prohibits rent control.  No doubt if this passes it will be challenged in court.

I oppose this bill. It will likely cause developers to develop outside Davidson County which will increase urban sprawl and contribute to our traffic woes. It will lessen financing for development. It will slow the development of new units of rental housing, which may push rental prices even higher. Where it has been enacted, inclsionary zoning has produced very few units of affordable housing. The mayor has a much more attractive proposal in the works that would  truly be voluntary in nature and would rely on providing grants to developers who develop affordable housing units. That is a much better approach.  For those who want a deeper understanding of this issue beyond what I have reported, I suggest you read the bill and the staff analysis. Here is the Tennessean's report on the issue: Affordable housing advocates pack council meeting to demand action.

To access the council agenda, council staff analysis and my agenda commentary follow this link. This is a long meeting at almost four hours. I am only hitting the high points of the meeting.

The prayer is a song by Danny Flowers an award winning song writer and artist. The song is Hush Hush Somebody is Calling my Name, an old slave song from the 1860's. He performs it acappella and it is powerful and chilling. Beautiful!

Below are other bills on Public Hearing of interest:

BILL NO. BL2016-265  which makes modest changes to the process for canceling a Planned Unit Development, making it easier to do so, is deferred one meeting.

BILL NO. BL2016-293 in Scott Davis's district which would rezone 54 acres, comprised of many parcels, from various current zonings to R6-A which is a medium density residential district is withdrawn. 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. I was never sure if this had the approval of the property owners whose properties would have been rezoned. This bill was disapproved by the planning commission.

All Resolutions pass. None of them are of much interest.
All bills on First Reading pass without discussion as is customary.

Below are the Bills on Second Reading of interest:

BILL NO. BL2016-239 which would provide free parking for old people was back on the agenda after being deferred from the June 7th meeting. It is deferred indefinitely.  This was a bad bill and I hope it is dead for good. I never understood the logic of this. Why are rich elderly people more deserving of free parking than poor young people?

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. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2016-329  makes 60 changes to the regs governing taxi cabs. The staff analysis calls these changes "housekeeping," but anytime you make that many changes there will be controversy.  Council member Gilmore voices concern about some of the changes in the bill. It passes.

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. The bill is deferred indefinitely "by rule" but the sponsor announces he is putting it back on the agenda.

Bills on Third Reading: 

BILL NO. BL2016-282 is the bill to allow Fontanel to expand and build a 136- room hotel. This is of little interest to the general pubic but has been a hot issue is Whites Creek. It passes. Here is The Tennessean's report on the approval of the plan for Fontanel: Fontanel expansion clears Metro Council by two votes.   This is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. Councilman Sledge makes a good argument that voting for this plan undermines the integrity of the General Plan which resulted from the NashvilleNext process. Councilman Scott Davis calls into question the importance that should be given to NashvilleNext. I don't have a very informed opinion on this zoning proposal and have not followed it closely, but tend to think that if I was in the Council I would vote for it.  I do think NashvilleNext was a sham and am not persuaded when one uses NashvilleNext as a justification for their position.  Being a disapproved bill it took 27 votes to pass; it got 28. To see the discussion see timestamp 3:19:20 - 3:53:45.

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