Saturday, September 10, 2016

(Part 2) Council Meeting of 9-6-16: Pot bill passes, rental price-fixing passes, and affordable housing grant program passes.

This is part two of my report on the Council meeting of Sept. 6, 2016. For part one follow this link. This report starts at 2:39:21 in the video.

This was one of the more important and interesting council meetings.  If you want to have a better understanding of what is going on, follow this link for a copy of the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda.

More Bills on Second Reading:
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.  This passes on a voice vote without discussion.
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 would have opposed this. I do not think Metro should get in the business of ensuring people are abiding by private contracts and an HOA reg or Condo rule is a private matter and Government should not involve itself.  This passes on a voice vote without discussion.
 Bill 375 would prohibit more than three unrelated people from sharing a STRP. This would eliminate renting the properties to bachelorette group.  There are a couple STRP on my street, one two doors down from me and one across the street one door up from me.  It seems the majority of their guest are bachelorette groups. I see them coming and going getting picked up by Uber. I sort of enjoy having them on the street. They have never presented a problem. I believe there are some people who are just not happy if other people are having fun.  It may be that large groups have partied all night and caused a problem, but we have laws to deal with that already. This is way too restrictive and I oppose it. It was deferred one meeting.

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, this bill is amended so that it is less attractive than the bill as introduced. The amendments replaces "shall" with "may,"  saying police "may" issue the ticket for $50 instead of saying that shall.  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" instead of enforcers of the law.  The amendment also removes 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.

Dave Rosenberg makes a good presentation explaining his bill. Sheri Weiner makes an argument against the bill, in my view a weak argument.  Sam Colman argues in favor and several others speak on the bill also. A couple council members make the argument that marijuana enforcement has a disproportionate impact on minorities although White people smoke pot at about the same rate as Black people. Councilman Russ Pulley, a former State and local law enforcement officer, makes one of the better arguments in favor. Also Councilman Hager makes a good argument and explains the complexity and waste of time spend with arrest, conviction, and expunging of records currently of people arrested under current law. Councilman Bedne makes the argument that marijuana is not a gateway drug and is not addictive.  For more on this legislation as reported in The Tennessean see this link. The bill passes on a voice vote with some audible "no's." It appears the bill is in good shape to pass third reading without a problem. To view the discussion of this bill see 2:42:24 - 3:20:28.

Bills on Third Reading.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-133 is the inclusionary zoning bill. This has been debated and studied for about a year now. Inclusionary zoning is a form of price-fixing mandating that a developer must price a certain number of his rental dwelling units to be "affordable."  This now applies to rental and not homes for sale. I adamantly oppose this bill. In my view it is immoral to dictate to someone the price at which they must sell their product. As a practical matter, this 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 most likely violates state law which prohibits rent control. The Beacon Center of Tennessee has already announced they will challenge the bill in court. The position of Metro legal is that this bill does not violate state law because it does not "require" developers to sit aside units. What the bill does is require the set aside if a developer gets any type of variance to base zoning, which most developers have to do in order to made a development work financially. It will be up to the Courts to determine if this really is a violation of the Stare law prohibiting mandatory set asides to be priced as "affordable."  

For a detailed understanding of this bill, read it and read the staff analysis. One of the changes in the substitute is that it establishes a sunset provision, sun-setting the bill on 12-31-2019. It can be extended by a resolution of the Council.  This is the same sunset date as Bill 343. The bill passes on a voice vote.  I am disappointing that the three or four members of the Council who purport to be conservative did not make an argument against this bill and did not go on record in opposition. To see the discussion see time stamp 3:21:25 - 3:36:35.

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. It passes without discussion on a 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 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.  The mayor advocated this bill but was neutral on Bill 133. Both developers and housing advocates support this bill, for the most part. The grant program this bill creates could be the carrot that works with the stick of bill 133, however it could have worked as a stand alone grant program. Projects getting the grant funding established by this bill would individually have to be approved by the Council for the grant. Councilman Cooper raises a problem with the bill. For the discussion see time stamp 3:40:22 - 3:47:09.

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