Tuesday, January 3, 2017

(Update 2) What's on the Council agenda for 1-3-17: New Short-term rental rules, taking back over Knowles Home,

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.   Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you can be a well-informed citizen of our city and still not have to watch the council meetings. If, however, you are going to watch the council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis, otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis. Below is my commentary and analysis.

After the call to order, invocation, pledge and approval of the minutes of the last meeting, the next order of business is the approval of Rules of Procedure of the Metropolitan Council for the coming year. Usually this is a pretty tame exercise but sometimes if someone feels the rules worked against their interest or the vice mayor treated them unfairly, there may be an attempt to modify some rules and it could be contentious but I don't anticipate a fight over the rules.

There are five appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect them all to be approved unanimously.

There are five resolutions on public hearing, all to grant an exemption to the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit.

Bills on Public hearing, most of the time, are zoning matters that interest no one except nearby neighbors and I don't even attempt to form an opinion on each zoning bill.  I only call attention to those that have an impact beyond one neighborhood or that for some reason I think will be contentious. I also like to point out bills which are disapproved by the Planning Commission. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission must get 26 positive votes to pass instead of a simple majority of those present. The Planning Commission will disapprove a bill if it is contrary to the General Plan.  Here are the bills of interest:

BILL NO. BL2016-394  is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission that rezones several properties on Whites Creek Pike from RS40 to CL zoning. That is a rezoning from a residential zoning to a commercial zoning. For a description of the different zoning classifications follow this link.
BILL NO. BL2016-491  requires that building façades fronting a street shall provide a minimum of one principal entrance (doorway) and a minimum of 25% glazing. Glazing means glass work. That seems awfully restrictive. Some owners building their dream house may not want a front door or that many windows.  I would have to hear a good argument as to why this is necessary before I could support it. I have emailed the sponsor asking for an explanation and will post an update when I get a reply.
BILL NO. BL2016-492  clarifies and modifies Short-term rental (STRP) rules.  In October of 2016, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Metro's existing rules were unconstitutionally vague. This bill attempts to correct that defect and defines terms. It also incorporates recent changes passed by the Council to the STRP legislation. It identifies three different type of STRP and sets limitation on the number of the different types. It sits the minimum and maximum length of stay for an STRP.  Why if someone wanted to rent a STRP for more than thirty days, they are not permitted to do so, I don't know. This bill requires that the owners contact information be posted within the property and the owner be available 24/7 to answer calls from renters. It spells out how complaints are handled and says that if a permit is revoked a new permit cannot be issued for that property for one year. It established a fine of $50 a day for operating a STRP without a permit. These rules appears overly restrictive and I oppose this bill but expect it to pass. We already have parking and noise ordinances and I just do not see the need for this volume of regulations.
I expect to hear a lot of people speaking in favor of this bill at the public hearing and some will say the regulations do not go far enough.  I hope some STRP owners or people who want to become STRP owners speak also in opposition, but I suspect the wheels are greased and it would do no good. In my view, by over regulating STRP, the city is addressing a problem, if it is a problem, that would resolve itself if left alone. There are thousands of new motel rooms either approved or  proposed for Nashville.  The lodging shortage is being resolved. Also, operating a STRP is hard work and is not as lucrative as one might think. I expect the number of properties being converted to STRP to level off even without government action. I expect some will revert to long-term rental.  On the street on which I live there is a STRP diagonally across the street and another two doors down from me.  I never have had a problem with them. I don't mind seeing the young girls in town for bachelorette parties come and go.  Some people are just not happy if other people are having fun. 
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  addresses sidewalks. It tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. Under this bill, under certain circumstances a developer of a duplex would have to build a sidewalk in front of the house even it there was no other sidewalks on the street. It makes it more difficult for a developer to pay an "in-lieu" fee instead of building sidewalk.

There are 11 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.  None of the resolutions are of particular interest. Most of the resolutions are accepting grants. One resolution allows the Metro Transit Authority to borrow money in anticipation of receiving grant funds that have been awarded to MTA. I think that sounds reasonable.  One is settling a claim against the city for an accident in which a police car hit another car and the accident was caused by the police officer. In cases like this, if Legal recommends settling, then I always assume it is best to settle.

There are 19 bills on First Reading. First Reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not discussed by committee until after First Reading.  Almost always, bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.  I do not examine bills on First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading
BILL NO. BL2016-461  require employees of Metro to report fraud and unlawful acts committed against the Metropolitan Government to the Metropolitan Auditor.
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would make it more difficult to locate landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities in Davidson County. It adopts a state standard for approval that is already established as an option for local governments. Included in what this would do is it would require Council approval of "the plans" for such facilities not just the location of the facility and it would require approval by ordinance, not just a resolution, and it would establish criteria for evaluation.
BILL NO. BL2016-496 would prohibit vehicles from parking in electric charging station spaces. This was on Second Reading last meeting also and deferred to this meeting. I have never done it but I have been tempted to take one of those spaces myself.  I attend a monthly luncheon downtown and park in the parking garage below the library.  When the garage is full, I have driven though the garage repeatedly looking for a space to park and I have seen the empty charging stations and been tempted.  There are three of them, I believe.  I have never seen them in use.  If I were in the Council, I would ask for a report of how often they are used and how much revenue the city is losing by providing those spaces for charging stations. Maybe we only need one or none at all. 
BILL NO. BL2016-527  is a bill that would require outdoor pen enclosures for dogs be larger than what the current law requires. This bill would require the pen be at least 900 square feet no matter how small the dog. This is to be deferred. Update: This is to be deferred indefinitely or withdrawn. The sponsor is scrapping this ill-conceived bill. To read the Tennessean report see, "Nashville proposal to overhaul dog pen, fence rules to be scrapped."
BILL NO. BL2016-529  would approve the removal of  certain buildings and structures on the Fairgrounds. This is part of a Fairgrounds improvement plan in which some existing building are to be torn down, but not the racetrack. These building are to be replaced. The Charter requires Council approval to tear down any building at the Fairgrounds. This bill is not a plan to destroy the Fairgrounds but part of a plan to improve the facility.  Don't be alarmed. This protection was put in the Charter by referendum following former Mayor Dean's attempt to abolish the Fairground and make the property available for redevelopment for other uses.
BILL NO. BL2016-540 would cancel the lease agreement with the management company than manages the Autumn Hills nursing home, formerly a Metro operated facility that is in the process of being fully privatized. It would also rescind the Council’s approval of the Purchase and Sale Agreement between Metro and the Vision Real Estate Investment Corporation for the sale of the 76 acre property. This facility is the Knowles Home Assisted Living and Adult Day Services facility, not the Bordeaux Long Term Care facility. I had previously, in another post, confused the two. This would not affect the Bordeaux facility which is under a separate agreement. I hope the Committees of the Council carefully consider this ordinance and this does not put Metro on a path to taking over a facility that Metro had previously been on a path to completely privatize. Metro should totally get out of the nursing home business. For more on the issue follow this report from News Channel 5: Council Begins Process To Get New Autumn Hills Management.
Bills on Third Reading. There is not much of interest and no controversial bills.

BILL NO. BL2016-494 reestablishes the Metro Property Tax Relief Program assistance to low-income elderly residents of the county.  There is a State Property Tax Relief  Program and this bill increases the amount of that relief by matching what the State provides. Follow the link for more information. If you or someone you know are elderly and low income, look into this.  Due to escalating property values, many elderly low-income residents would be forced out of their home if not for this tax relief program.
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 it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel.

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