Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Short-term rental policing, rules for sidewalk closure and enforcement of property standards on the way

Consultants will follow-up with a report on the Metro Public Works permitting process for street and sidewalk closures 

Metro press release, 12-20-2016 - Consultants engaged to review the operations of the Metro Codes Department’s Property Standards Division have released their findings in a new report presented to the Metro Council and public at-large.

One of the first items to be implemented from the report will be for Metro to utilize the HOST Compliance software that will help track and identify active STRPs within Nashville. This will assist Metro in collecting any unpaid taxes on the properties and give the Codes Department a list of properties suspected of improperly operating an STRP without a permit. Additionally, Mayor Barry will be seeking an increase in the budget for the Codes Department to hire the additional staff members required to meet the needs of our growing city.

“Rules and regulations are only effective if you have consistent enforcement,” said Mayor Barry. “I appreciate all of the community leaders who participated in creating this report, which will guide our efforts to ensure a better quality of life for residents of every neighborhood.”

The report from Fiscal Choice Consulting, commissioned by Mayor Megan Barry in response to concerns about the enforcement of Short Term Rental Property (STRP) regulations, lists a variety of recommendations on how the property standards division can improve service to the community. The division’s principal responsibility within the Metro Department of Codes & Building Safety to monitor and enforce issues such as minimum property maintenance standards for existing buildings and structures, high grass and weeds, junk, trash and debris, abandoned vehicles on the public right-of-way, and short-term rental properties.

“In the Metro Codes Department, we always strive to provide the best service possible to the citizens of Davidson County,” said Terry Cobb, director of the Codes Department. “It is great to have a fresh set of eyes come in and offer ways to improve operations and service. Our staff is looking forward to ensuring that these recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible to improve enforcement throughout the city.”

Recommendations on how to improve operations include:
  • Filling any vacant positions within the property standards division and hiring an additional seven staff members to allow for more proactive and responsive enforcement
  • Having at least one customer service representative and one inspector on staff that is fluent in Spanish in order to address language barriers
  • Using HOST Compliance software to identify and locate active STRPs in Nashville that may be operating without a permit or not paying required taxes
  • Improving forms and data collection methods to better interact with the public and address their concerns
  • Coordinating with the Metro Nashville Police Department to record and track habitual violations of the noise ordinance at STRPs
  • Creating better processes to deal with high grass/weeds and abandoned vehicles
  • Enacting an administrative hearing officer in lieu of environmental court in order to expedite enforcement of codes violations (the Vice Mayor and Metro Council are already empowered to do this under 2.20.130 of the Metro Code of Ordinances)
As Metro begins implementation of the recommendations in this report on the property standards division, Mayor Barry has requested that the same consultants begin a review of the permitting process in Metro Public Works. The department is responsible for issuing permits for sidewalk and street closures, the volume of which has increased dramatically in response to a large increase in building permits and the installation of fiber throughout the city.

“It is incredibly frustrating to drive down streets, especially downtown, and continuously see sidewalks and street lanes blocked off for no discernible reason,” said Mayor Barry. “Some closures are inevitable with the level of growth we are undergoing, but we need to be far more intentional and purposeful in seeking alternatives to closing off streets and sidewalks.”

The goal of the permitting process review is to determine whether Nashville is following best practices established in other cities for determining how and when to issue road or sidewalk closures, in addition to reviewing the staffing and organizational structure within the department. The report is anticipated to be released by the end of the first quarter in 2017.

To view the full report follow this link: Property Standards Division Report.

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