Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for 3-7-17: $14M giveaway for Opryland water park, Driving while Black, an attack on Airbnb, code of conduct for tenants of Barnes Fund housing.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, March 7th, 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 them. 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.

There are five appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously.  There are 27 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I do not read bills until they get to Second Reading.

There are 28 resolutions or bills on Public Hearing, and most of them are zoning bills.  Public Hearings are real boring unless the property under discussion is next door to you.  Opposition to rezoning usually boils down to (1) impact on the capacity of infrastructure such as roads and schools, (2) potential to cause flooding, or (3) negative impact on the quality and character of the neighborhood.  I don't even try to gain an understanding of every zoning bill or form an opinion of its merits. I try to point out those that have wider implication than one neighborhood or that I have reason to believe will be particularly controversial or has already been to the Planning Commission and been disapproved. Below are the resolutions of interest.

BILL NO. BL2017-580  extends indefinitely the Downtown Central Business Improvement District which is set to expire the end of this year.  The bill provides a mechanism whereby the property owners in this district may petition to dissolve the Improvement District. This area in the core of downtown has a special additional tax assessment and for that the district gets additional services. I do not expect this to be controversial.
 SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks.  In my view this is a flawed bill. It would require a developer to build a sidewalk in front of his residential development even it that would be the only sidewalk portion on a street. This has been deferred a couple times before. Since then more work as been done on the bill and it is expected that this substitute will be substituted.
SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2017-555  rezones 32 acres from R10 to RS10. R10 permits duplexes; RS10 does not. This type rezoning constantly happens and I think it is poor policy. A lot of members of the Council profess to want good mass transit and profess to be concerned about affordable housing. Lesser density decreases the supply of affordable housing and makes mass transit more difficult to achieve. At one time there were no residential districts where one could not build duplexes but for about the last thirty years, little by little, large swaths of the city have been rezoned to single family only. There is no movement to stop this practice however and the Planning Commission approves these type rezonings and they are popular with many neighborhood residents.
BILL NO. BL2017-611  would make it harder for people to get a Short Term Rental Property Permit (such as an Airbnb rental). It would require the consent of adjacent property owners, Home Owner Associations, Condominium Associations, or other such community associations prior to issuance of a Short Term Rental Property permit. I oppose this bill. 
There are 19 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.  Here are the resolutions of interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-459   ask the Police Department to inform the Council whether they agree or disagree with research findings in a recent report from Gideon’s Army regarding MNPD traffic stop statistics in Nashville, and to provide any other statistics or information necessary to refute, confirm, or add context to this report. The report in questions says you are much more likely to get stopped by the police if you are Black.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-566  by Scott Davis which expresses support for the Medical Cannabis Access Act currently pending before the Tennessee General Assembly. This was on the agenda last meeting and deferred. I strongly support this memorializing resolutions. 

Bills on Second Reading. There are 12 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-483 would require the police department to provide a quarterly report to the Council on how many traffic stops were made and what happened as a result of the stops. such as how many pat downs and how many searches and the race of the person stopped.

BILL NO. BL2017-559  would allow members of the metro council to initiate rezoning of property owned by the metropolitan government. Now the mayor may do so or department heads but not the district councilman. This sounds reasonable to me.  This was previously on the agenda and deferred to this meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: These are 14 bills on Third Reading and this is the only one of interest. 
BILL NO. BL2016-308   requires tenants of housing funded by the Barnes Trust Fund to comply with certain maintenance and standards of conduct and to refrain from any illegal activity on the premises of the dwelling being rented. This was on Second Reading October 6th, 2016 and proved very controversial. At that Council meeting several council members spoke against it, mostly the African-American members of the Council. They argued that it stigmatized tenants to require a code of conduct. It was amended to say landlords "may" instead of "shall" enforce standards of conduct.  This still did not satisfy some members of the Council. It passes on a voice vote with some audible "no's" at that meeting and has been deferred on third reading a couple times to this meeting. If it is deferred this time then the deferral will be indefinite. To see the second reading discussion follow this link and view the video and see timestamp 2:27:02- 2:43:11.

BILL NO. BL2017-589  is the $14M tax break package for the Opryland water park.   
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.   If can stand the suspense and just wait I will post the video here and provide commentary.

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