Thursday, May 18, 2017

(final update) What happened at the Council meeting of May 16, 2017: Sam Coleman elected Judge, banning of homesharing (Airbnb) delayed, privacy is protected,

The big news of the evening is that the Council elects Councilman Sam Coleman as a General Session Judge to replace Casey Moreland who resigned in disgrace.  The other big items is that the move to ban all short term rental properties except those that are owner occupied is deferred until the second meeting in July.  For media accounts of these developments follow the highlighted link above.

If you are going to watch the meeting, or if you simply want to know more about what was before the council than what I report here, you need a copy of the Council agenda and Council staff analysis.  To access those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Before the council gets down to business, there is an address by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Northern Ireland. Nashville and Belfast are sister cities. Following that thetr is a presentation recognizing Restaurant Appreciation Day. The Council gets down to business at timestamp 14:45 in the video and the first item is the confirmation of three mayor appointees to boards and commission and they are all approved by voice vote without dissent, as is the norm.

Election of a General Session Judge.
To view this action see timestamp 19:00 to 47:50.  This list of nominees is called in alphabetical order and each candidate is give five minutes to address the council. The five minutes may include a nominating speech by the council sponsor who placed the name in nomination as well as the candidate.  If you want to know what they said, watch the video.  Below are the nominees:

  • Michael Clemons, a partner at Clemmons & Clemons PLLC, the law firm also founded
    Sam Coleman
    by Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons. He was not present and no one spoke on his behalf.
  • Councilman Sam Coleman, an attorney in private practice is the current member of the Council representing the Antioch area. Councilman Tanaka Vervher made a short introduction and Councilman Coleman addressed the Council.
  • Ana Escobar, who was an assistant prosecutor at the District Attorney’s Office and was Metro clerk from 2011 to 2013. Councilman Robert Swope who nominated Ms Escobar spoke as did and Councilman Bob Mendes and the Councilman Fabian Bedne. Bedne played the Hispanic card. The candidate did not speak.
  • Martesha Johnson, has worked in the Davidson County Public Defender's Office for eight years. Councilman Nancy VanReece made a nomination speech and the candidate addressed the Council.
  • Nick McGregor, a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Nick McGregor. A gentlemen whose name I did not get spoke for McGregor and then he addressed the Council.
  • Tillman Payne, has practiced family law, personal injury and criminal law in the Nashville area for more than 10 also worked as a public defender in Wilson County. Mr. Payne addressed the Council
Adam Dread had been a nominee but had withdrawn his name from consideration prior to the meeting.  After the speeches the Council voted by open ballot. The vote was Coleman 19, Escobar 14, Johnson 3, and two abstention. Councilman Coleman having a majority, there was no second round of voting.

The resolution on public hearing concerning allowing a restaurant a variance from the distance requirements for a beer permit is withdrawn.

Resolutions. Most bills pass "on consent," meaning they are lumped together with a lot of other resolutions and pass by a single vote.  A bill is on consent  if it got unanimous support in the committee to which it was assigned and no one objects. Below are the ones of interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, the entity must inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  This seems like a wise move.  The Council needs to be involved early in the process of exerting control over the city's debt. This was on the agenda on April 18th and deferred to this meeting at the request of the sponsor. This passes on a voice vote without much discussion.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover would adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of funds budgeted to service debt. This was also previously on the agenda for April 18th and deferred to this meeting at the request of the sponsor. When the city borrows money, the amount of money it takes to pay the bonds which finance the borrowed money is a part of the annual operating budget and is called "debt service." The city has never had a policy establishing a limit on debt service. I support this.

Currently debt service is 11.5% of the budget and in the proposed FY18 budget it is 12.7%.  If this were to pass, some capital proposed capital projects could not be funded. I support the effort to get control of Metro's spending.  In addition to debt service, Metro pension and health insurance liabilities are areas of concern and should be addressed.   The city is awash in money now, but someday there is bound to be a slow down.  While cutting budgets are painful, if parts of the budget are beyond the council's control such as debt service and pension obligations, then budget reductions become much more difficult. This is deferred "by rule."  It could be brought back up at a future council meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-667  authorize  Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency MDHA) to enter an agreement accepting payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the renovation of a 208-unit apartment development located at 2715 Whites Creek Pike, known as Haynes Garden Apartments. Up until recently PILOT agreements were used only to entice businesses to locate in Nashville.  This will be the fourth time, this tool is used to support affordable housing.  Under this agreement, over the ten year period of the agreement, the developer would pay $4.6 million less in property taxes than he would have paid without the deal, assuming the property would get rehabbed without this deal. This passes on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-678  request the Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide at least ten percent (10%) of its advertising space to other Metropolitan departments, boards and commissions to provide public service advertisements regarding local government services. It is clarified that other agencies of Metro that wanted to advertise on Metro buses would pay the cost of the advertising out of their budget so this would not impact MTA's budget. It passes on a voice vote.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-682  establishes the certified tax rates for Metro.  This is required by law. Following a reappraisal, the city can not bring in more revenue than it could prior to the reappraisal, so the city must adopt a new tax lower rate that brings in the same amount of revenue as prior to the reappraisal. What sometimes happens is that a local government will pass the new certified tax rate, then immediately pass another resolution sitting a higher rate.  Much of the public will blame the higher taxes on the reappraisal, not understanding what has really happened.  To her credit, Mayor Barry is not proposing to do that. The new certified tax rate will be the new tax rate.  While almost all property was appraised at a new higher value as a result of the reappraisal, those whose property values increased less than the average increase will actually end up paying less property taxes, while those whose value increased more than the average increase in value will see a tax increase. Since the largest increases in values have occurred in areas that  were previously modestly priced such as The Nations, Inglewood, Wedgwood-Houston,  Woodbine and North Nashville, those areas may experience substantial increases in property taxes.  The more affluent areas that already had high  property values saw more modest increase in their property value so they will likely see a property tax decrease. The current combined USD and GSD rate in Nashville is $4.516; the new certified rate will be $3.115. This is deferred "to track with the budget."

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-685 adopts a new fee structure for animal control. Under the new schedule if you dog is picked up, the impound fee is $50 and the daily boarding fee is $18. This is deferred "to track with budget."
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-690  approves an agreement between MDHA (Metro Development and Housing Association) and Metro. MDHA agrees to make payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the property that they own which is tax exempt property.  This is amended to be for seven years only and not unending. At the end of seven years this would be renegotiated. It  also addresses what happens when the city builds housing that is not for low income people which they now do and it addresses what happens to commercial property on MDHA land.  Thjis would require commercial entities to pay a PILOT equal to what they would pay in property taxes. It requires market rate rentals to pay a higher PILOT than low income rentals but apparently a rate lower than what they would pay in property taxes. This bill was worked on by Councilman Mendes and he improved it for the city. Councilman Mendes is to be commended. This passes by a voice vote.
All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote, as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading. Here are the ones of interest:
BILL NO. BL2017-608 would be a radical change and would establish distinct land uses for “Short term rental property – Owner- Occupied” and “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied”, and establishing a phase out date in year 2019 for “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied.” This has been in the works a long time. It is deferred on second reading made amendable on third reading and rereferred to the Planning Committee and set for a third and final reading for the second meeting in July. Apparently there is still a lot of work to do on this bill.

This bill is an outrage and I strongly oppose this bill if it would do the things it is proposed to do as of now. A lot of people spend a lot of money to buy and rehab and furnish and set up a Short Term Rental Property.  They registered the property as required and paid the taxes and now they are having the rug pulled out from under them.  Short Term Rental Property is a benefit to Nashville and while there are a few bad players, most of the bad players are operating without a permit. Rather than go after those violating the law now, the Council is apparently going to end this valuable service and punish people who are playing by the rules.  The hotel industry is one of the forces behind trying to ban STRP.

There was a bill before the Senate of the State Legislature that would have stopped Metro from doing this. It passed the House but the Senate deferred the bill to the next legislative session which convenes in January. However, various state legislators have warned Nashville to not pass such a ban.   If this bill passes the Council and I assume it will, one can expect lawsuits and in January the State legislature may very well nullify this action. To read many other post on the topic of STRP, follow this link.

 BILL NO. BL2017-646   by Councilman Rosenberg would prohibit a company from installing some types of surveillance equipment or expanding the number of such items of surveillance technology, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology. that capture activity on a public sidewalk or street, without prior Council approval.  As amended, some types of surveillance technology, such as cameras, would have to come back before the Council before expanding the number units in sue by a certain percentage.  It would also ban license tag readers by government. Councilman Mina Johnson moves to defer the bill. Councilman Elrod moves to table the motion to defer and makes a good case against deferral. The conflict over this bill essentially boils down to the city of Belle Mead which wants to operate tag reading technology which this bill would ban. Unfortunately Councilman Elrod made his argument to table the deferral before he moved to table, which is violation of Council rules. The motion to defer fails by a voice vote and the bill passes on a roll call vote of 28 to 6 to 1. I am disappointment by some who voted "no."  I think of several of them as "the good" councilmen and thought they would be supportive of protecting the public from a snooping Big Brother and would support the right of privacy. This was a reasonable bill. I am proud of the Council for passing it and commend Councilman Rosenberg for the work he did on this. The "no" votes are Jim Shulman, Bill Pridemore, Robert Swope, Doug Pardue, Mina Johnson and Larry Hager. To view the discussion see timestamp 1:31:24 to 1:50:21.

BILL NO. BL2017-705  would establish an incentive program for neighborhood that are in full compliance with codes.  A neighborhood could be awarded $5000.  Under this plan, if a neighbor has an overgrown lot, codes could review the violation but not impose penalties and the neighborhood could exert pressure on the offender to come into compliance. I do not like this. I do not want to give more power to neighborhood leaders who may have been elected by a tiny fraction of the neighborhood.  Neighborhood organizations have no official status and no legal authority I don't want to give them power. This program could cost up to $875K per year and is not in the FY18 budget. It is deferred at the request of the sponsor for one meeting.

BILL NO. BL2017-706 by Scott Davis would reallocate the tax money collected from homesharing (airbnb, STRP) and create a new program. Currently Metro collects a tax on STRP and the revenue is dedicated to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing. This bill would create a new Metropolitan Neighborhood Improvement Fund (NIF) and direct that half of the revenue collected from STRP be directed to this fund. This NIF would be a new bureaucracy with an appointed board and various powers and a mission to improve neighborhoods.  I oppose this.  We do not need another bureaucracy. We already have various agencies to deal with the issues that this NIF would deal with.  I also do not think more agencies should operate off their own dedicated funds.  Funding priorities should be decided by the mayor and the council. It is deferred to the first meeting in July.

Bills on Third Reading. Below are the ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2017-611 is another anti-homesharing bill. It requires that an STRP application include a statement that “the applicant has confirmed that operating the proposed STRP would not violate any Home Owners Association agreement or bylaws, Condominium Agreement, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions or any other agreement governing and limiting the use of the proposed STRP property.” It would also require that the applicant notify codes if there was any such objection.  I oppose this bill.  Homeowners Association rules are private agreements.  Government has never taken on the responsibility for enforcing HOA rules. This bill has been disapproved by the Planning Commission so will require 27 positive votes to pass. The bill is deferred to July 6th.

BILL NO. BL2017-653  this is a bill of minor importance which would add to the list of acceptable documents those documents that a owner may submit with their application for STRP
that shows they do in fact occupy the property.  I support this bill. It passes.

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