Friday, January 5, 2018

(final update) What happened at the 1/2/18 Council meeting: trampling property rights deferred, Nick Leonardo elected judge, new short term rental regs advance, more transparency for corporate welfare approved, ...



At four hours and 20  minutes long this is a long council meeting.  I skimmed parts of it and I zipped through most of the bills on public hearing at double speed, so I may have missed something. If you are going to watch the Council meeting you really need a copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. You can get those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda at this link.

Bill to take away property rights deferred.

proposed bill to kill The Ridge at 
Antioch deferred,
In my view the most important item on the agenda was BILL NO. BL2016-219 on Third and Final Reading which would trample a persons property rights and kill and affordable housing project. It was differed by rule because the sponsor was not at the committee meeting considering the bill.  It will be back on the agenda January 16th.  For much more on this issue, follow this link: Contact your Council member. Stop the trampling of property rights and the killling of an affordable housing development.

Nick Leonardo elected judge.
Ana Escobar loses General
Session Judge contest to
Councilman Nick Leonardo



A high profile item on the agenda was the council election to fill a General Secession Court vacancy. The Council selected Councilman Nick Leonardo over Ana Escobar, a high-profile domestic violence victim advocate who was highly favored by the Nashville Bar Association. The Tennessean  provides a more detailed report on this issue which you can read at this link: Metro Council votes to appoint Councilman Nick Leonardo judge over prosecutor Ana Escobar.

Mr. Holliday who was also a nominee withdrew his nomination. The name of Ana Escobar is placed in nomination by Councilman Robert Swope. Pat Shea, former president and CEO of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, urged the council to support Ms Escobar. In my view, Ms Escobar was the better candidate to serve in this position which hears most domestic violence cases in Nashville. Escobar has worked both as a prosecutor of domestic violence cases and as a defender of those accused of the crime. She is an expert. I think the practice of giving preference to ones colleague simply because you served with them in the council is a practice which should end. Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher made a passionate speech in favor of Councilman Leonardo.

By a vote of 21-16 the Council selected Leonardo. It you wish to watch the council process and speeches relating to this election see time stamp 3:15-19:30. When the minutes of the meeting are posted I will post the record of how individual members voted.

New home sharing restrictions advance.
The item of most interest to the public on the agenda was Substitute Bill BL2017-937 and three other bills on public hearing all dealing with the issue of home sharing or "short term rental property." This issue has been being worked on by the Council for months. BL2017-937 was a bill that had the support of the home sharing community but did not go far enough to satisfy many neighborhood activist types. It was the result of an ad hoc committee of five council members assigned earlier this year to study the issue. It imposes new restrictions on home sharing and lowers the cap of how many such units may exist but does not take away from anyone currently providing this service the right to continue to do so.   

Bill BL2017-981  would allow “STRP–Owner-Occupied” as an accessory use in specified zoning districts and allow “STRP–Not Owner Occupied” as a use permitted with conditions in specified districts. So,  as I understand it, what the practical effect of this would be is short term rental could exist in residential areas where the owner lives in the property on the same lot as the short term rental unit.  A person would not be allowed, however, to own the house next door and rent it as short term rental. Those already existing however could continue to exist.  

Bill BL2017-982 also deals with short term rental but seems less significant than the others.  If adopted in conjunction with BL2017 608 or  BL2017 937 or  BL2017-981 its impact would be limited to allowing duplexes to be considered for owner-occupied permits under certain circumstances.

Bill BL2017-1005 would allow Hotel/Motel use within the Urban Zoning Overlay (UZO) district on no more than three percent of the residentially zoned properties within each census tract. This bill is disapproved by the Planning Commission. A UZO is essentially the old part of the city and it generally calls for pedestrian friendly construction with parking behind a business rather than in front of it and it imposes other restrictions. While this is not exactly a short term rental ordinance, some hotel-motels rent rooms primarily on sites like Airbnb and are much like non-owner occupied multifamily short term rental, so this would put a cap on those type businesses. 

Not on pubic hearing but a bill which is worse than any of the other is BILL NO. BL2017-608 which 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 2021 for “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied.” If this passes in addition to ending short term rentals of homes not occupied by the owner, in order to offer home-sharing services, one would have to get their property rezoned. 

All of the bills on public hearing were all lumped together to hear from the public. Unlike a regular pubic hearing, where the council hears from the proponents first and then the opponents, the vice mayor allows people to line up an one by one and have their say on any or all of the four bills either pro or con. The public hearing goes on and on and on and gets real repetitive. If you are already familiar with the arguments pro and con, there is not much to be gained by watching the public hearing. To get a flavor of the public hearing you may want to sample a few but their is little to be gained by watching the complete public hearing.   To view the public hearing and the discussion see timestamp 53:52- 3:55:49. For a good clear explanation by Councilman Shulman of what bill 937 would do go to timestamp 3:31: 37 -3:30:24 in the video. The Tennessean does a good job of reporting on the public hearing and provides some background. For more on this issue see my commentary and to read The Tennessean's reporting see, Nashville council advances new Airbnb rules, setting up legislative showdown.   

Substitute Bill BL2017-937 passes by a machine vote of 19 in favor, 14 opposed, 4 abstentions and 3 not voting. I will post the results of the vote in a later blog post.
Bill BL2017-981 passes by a machine vote of 17 for, 16 agaisnt, 4 abstentions and 3 not voting. 
Bill BL2017-982  passes by a machine vote of 28 to 13 and 4 abstentions.and 3 not voting.
Bill BL2017-1005 fails by a machine vote of 6, 21,10, and 3 not voting.


More transparency for corporate welfare.
BILL BL2017-983 which would require certain information for the assessment of economic and community development incentives offered in the form of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements and Council approval of such agreements passed by voice vote. This bill was supported by a liberal activist group and labor unions and opposed by some business interest and the Chamber of Commerce. On this issue I found myself allied with the liberals.  In my view more transparency in awarding incentives to business is a good thing. To read The Tennessean's account of the council action on this bill see, Nashville council passes new transparency rules for future city incentives.

Other Council Action
Mayoral appointments to boards and commission were approved without dissent as this council almost always does.  All bills on First Reading were approved by a single vote as is the norm. Other than the short term rental bills discussed above none of the other bills on public hearing generated much controversy, most were approved without anyone from the public speaking on them.

Bill BL2017-938  on Public Hearing which would exempt religious institutions from current sidewalk requirements, provided the religious institution is within the General Services District and does not abut an existing or planned sidewalk was deferred to the first meeting in March.


Bill BL2017-1029 on Public Hearing which would require contributions paid in lieu of the construction of sidewalks to stay within council districts is deferred to the April public hearing

Bill BL2017-1030 by Councilman Glover on Public Hearing which would  require an annual study be conducted by the Department of Public Works to determine the cost of sidewalks within Davidson County and to preclude in lieu payments absent such study is deferred to the April public hearing.

Bill BL2017-951 on Second Reading which would establish a  Community Oversight Board for the police department is deferred indefinably.

BILL BL2017-1031 on Second Reading which is the mayor's $5.2B mass transit bill is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2017-608  on Third Reading which is the worst of the proposed short term rental bills and would phase out all non-owner-occupied short term rentals is deferred one meeting in order to be on the same agenda as the other short term rental bills.

SUBSTITUTE BILL BL2017-953 on Third Reading which imposes various regulations regarding commercial solicitation  including restricting door-to-door commercial solicitation to the hours of after sunset or 7:00 pm, whichever occurs later passes.

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