Monday, September 5, 2016

On the Council Agenda for Sept.6th: Pot bill, changes to Short Term Rental regs, and Google Fiber, rent control and inclusionary zoning. (update)

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, September 6th at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and are streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day on the Metro YouTube channel. If you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just those segments. Also, I will  tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to.

This meeting may be more interesting than most. There are some really hot issues on this agenda: the pot bill, changes to short term rental and the real estate price-fixing bill known as "inclusionary zoning." If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis or you won't have a clue about what is going on. Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda.

Election of President Pro Tempore. The duties of this person is to conduct the council meetings in the absence of the Vice Mayor.  This position is sometimes heavily fought over.  It can tell you who supports who and can tell you how members are aligned.  It is usually not conservative - liberal devide but some times that is a factor. Sometimes the divisions are pro-development vs. pro-neighborhood, or some other division. This is basically a popularity contest and sometimes the election of the person wining the seat simply means they are well liked by their colleagues. I have no insight as to who is likely to win or who is running. Election of Council President Pro Tempore for a one-year term ending August 31, 2017.

There are 14 people up for confirmation to Boards and Commissions. These are people appointed to Boards and Commission by the mayor subject to approval by the Council.  While this could be an opportunity for the Council to exert some influence on policy, the Council just rubber stamps whomever the mayor appoints. There are 8 appointees to the Hospital Authority.  Metro is not required to maintain a charity hospital and yet keeps pouring money into this money pit. My view is we should get out of the hospital business but there is no move in that direction.  I wish someone in the Council would use this appointment process to make the case for privatizing Metro General the same way we privatized the two nursing homes that Metro operated up until a few years ago. If I were on the Council, I would not vote for confirmation of anyone who did not commit to being open to privatizing Metro General.

There is one of those resolution on public hearing for an establishment that already has liquor license to be granted a beer license. Why does the Council not just change the law and make this automatic? It makes no sense that some establishment can sell shots of whiskey but not beer. The State grants liquor license and Metro grants beer license and they have different criteria.

There are 26 bills on Public hearing. Most of them are zoning bills and I don't even attempt to gain an understanding or form an opinion on each zoning bill.  Usually a rezoning only concerns a few nearby neighbors. Also the arguments in opposition are almost always the same: more cars, water runoff, over crowded schools and character of the neighborhood. It gets kind of boring. I am only calling attention to a bill if it looks like it will be particularly controversial or if it appears to be a partial taking of someone's property or is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission or for some other reason it appears important. Here are the bills on Public Hearing, I find of interest.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-265 would make it easier to declare a PUD inactive. A lot of times, a developer will want to build more units than base zoning permits or he may wish to cluster building in such a way that violates some standard of the base zoning and he will present his desired plans to the Planning Commission and get the site approved for a Planned Unit Development. Often this is a much more desirable development than if the developer just build as permitted by base zoning.  Not all PUD's get built. Sometimes the financing does not come together or for some other reason the development does not get built.  After six years of inactivity, the Planning Commission can declare the plan inactive and the site reverts to base zoning. Before the MPC can do that however, they must make a determination that no construction has begun, and no  right - of - way acquisition or construction of off - site improvement has begun. In addition to they may consider “aggregate of actions” taken by a PUD owner. This would remove the "aggregate of action."  I would think that  there would be complex deals that are near coming together that should not be voided just because none of the other three conditions have been met. I will watch this hearing to see what people say about the "aggregate of actions" reason for extending a PUD.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-368  is a rezoning to allow development of 341 residential units and some mixed use commercial on Old Mathews Rd. I am watching this because anytime you have a rezoning to allow that many units, there is going to be some opposition.  
There are 23 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded.  Most of these resolutions are accepting grants or approving allowing signs to overhang the sidewalk. I don't find any of the resolutions to be controversial but these are the ones of interest.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-340   authorizes the Director of Public Property to go ahead and purchase the property that Metro has an option on, on Eagleview Boulevard in Antioch for a new school in the Cain Ridge cluster. The city is paying $850,000 for 13 acres.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-367  appropriates  $1,080,400.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund (4%) for the police department to purchase body armor and helmets for the police.
Bills on First Reading. There are 36 bills on First Reading but I usually don't review 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 pass by a single vote.

Bills on Second Reading. These are the one's of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-257   would make changes to the Short Term Rental Property regulations.  If someone was caught operating a STPP without a permit, a "stop work" order could be issued and they could no longer operate their property as a STRP and would have to three years before they could apply for a STRP permit and they could be fined $50 a day for each day they were found to have operated a STRP without a permit. Currently if found operating a STRP without a permit, they must wait a year before they can apply. For more information on this see, Nashville may ramp up penalty for Airbnb permit violators.
BILL NO. BL2016-343 is the “One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) bill which would allow one
company the right to work on a utility pole and move all of the cable that must be moved in order to accommodate a new company adding a cable to the utility poll.  This is being proposed to accommodate Google Fiber, which is trying to provide high-speed Internet to Nashville.  Other companies, such as Comcast, do not want anyone but their own people moving their cable. Also, there are labor contracts that complicate this. Also some in the music industry have an axe to grind with Google over an unrelated issue and are opposing OTMR. The Mayor's office has tried to work out a some agreeable accommodation but has not been successful. Google Fiber has threatened to abandon their plans for Nashville to get Google Fiber unless something can be worked out. After Louisville passed a similar bill, AT&T sued the city arguing that the city lacked authority to pass such an ordinance and they have threatened to sue Nashville if this passes. For more on this issue see this link, this link, and this and read the staff analysis.
BILL NO. BL2016-373,    BILL NO. BL2016-374  and BILL NO. BL2016-375  all make changes to Nashville's Short Term Rental Property regulations. Bill 372 says that any advertisement for a STRP must include the permit number. I am OK with that requirement based on current information. Bill 374 would require and affidavit from the permit applicant that renting the property as a STRP does not violate any HOA rules or Condo rules.  I do not think Metro should involve itself in private contracts and I oppose this ordinance. Bill 375 would prohibit more than three unrelated people from sharing a STRP. This would eliminate renting the properties to bachelorette group.  There is a STRP two doors down from me and it seems the majority of their guest or bachelorette groups. They have never presented a problem. This is way to restrictive.
BILL NO. BL2016-378  is the bill that would substantially reduce the penalty for  possession or
causal exchange of up to a half ounce of marijuana. Currently one can be fined up to $2500 and spend a year in jail.  Under this bill one would not be arrested but given a $50 ticket. Unfortunately, there are proposed amendments that will make this bill less attractive than the bill as introduced. The amendments would replace "shall" with "may."  Discretion is not rule of law.  The police should not have that much flexibility. It leads to unequal treatment and makes the policeman "the law."  The amendment also would remove the lessened penalty for casual transfer. This is still a step in the right direction but a much smaller step. To see my views on marijuana follow this link.

Bills on Third Reading.
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-133 is the inclusionary zoning bill. It is a form of price-fixing mandating that a developer must price a certain number of his dwelling units to be "affordable."  This applies to both rental and homes for sale. This bill needs to be defeated. It is immoral to dictate to someone the price at which they must sell their products. As a practical matter, it will produce very few units of affordable housing and will most likely have the opposite effect and make more housing out of reach for some people seeking housing.  It will also result in developers moving across the County lines and contribute to urban sprawl. It also violates state law which prohibits rent control. If this passes it will be subject to a lawsuit. For a detailed understanding of this bill, read it and read the staff analysis.

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.
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.
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 above; this is a voluntary plan. It caps available money at $2.5 million and has a sunset provision.  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. If the inclusionary zoning bill passes this grant could be the carrot that works with the stick of bill 133, however this bill can work as as stand alone incentive bill. It is 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.

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