Monday, August 6, 2018

What's on the 8/7/18 Council Agenda: Taking private property w/o compensation, Metro Tax dollars to Conexion Americas, Amending the Charter, a Conservation overlay for Edge Hill, .Fairgrounds and Soccer..

The Ridge at Antioch
By Rod Williams - Like a monster that won't die, this ugly bill keeps rearing its head.  Bill BL2016-219  on Third Reading, again,  is the bill to trample private property rights and kill an affordable housing development in the process.  This bill would cancel an approved Planned Unit Development and down zoning a persons property without their consent. This effort to pass this bill has been pending since June of 2016  If was first pushed by Karen Johnson and is now being taken up by Councilman Bedne.

If this bill passes the State of Tennessee has threatened to withhold future tax credits used to help finance affordable housing developments. I don't know why this development has not already occurred.  I can guess that with the threat of this hanging over the head of the developer, that it impacted the financing. Should this bill pass and the owner want to continue the fight, he probably has a winnable lawsuit to pursue.  This would most likely be considered a "taking" of property.  When government takes property the owner should be compensated and it should only be taken for a public purpose.  Government taking of property does not have to mean taking title.  To take away a right that one previously enjoyed may be a "taking" of property. This is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission and will require 27 votes to pass. For more on this story see this  link and this.

This time the bill has picked up a lot of co-sponsors. I am very disappointed to see my friend Robert Swope sign on to this bill. He is the most conservative member of the Council and I seldom disagree with a vote he cast, but this bill is clearly a taken of property and is wrong. (update: I spoke to Robert, it assures me he opposes this bill and his name appeared as a sponsor in error.) If it passes I hope the owners take Metro to court and continue the fight.  
 

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the staff analysis for those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along.  Below is a summary of what is on the agenda.

Elections and Confirmation: There are 4 mayoral appointments to Boards and Commission before the Council for confirmation. Usually, these are confirmed without controversy, discussion or dissension.

Public Comment Period:  This is new for Nashville and is only the second meeting which has had a public comment period. Time  is dedicated to allow members of the public who have registered in advance to speak upon matters related to the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County community. The only public comments we have had heretofore have been on zoning matters and, once a year, on the budget.  We have never had an open comment policy. This is common in smaller cities and I don't know how common it is in other cities the size of Nashville.  I suspect liberal activist will use this platform a lot.  I hope conservatives will also.  I would not be surprised to hear several people speak in favor of the proposed police citizen review board at this meeting.

Resolutions and bills on public hearing: There are four resolution and seventeen bills on pubic hearing. The resolutions are requesting  exemptions from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit. The bills are rezoning request or related zoning bills.I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. At public hearings almost all opposition come down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood. You will hear the same arguments over and over. I only call attention to bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or are bills that have already been to the Planning Commission and have been disapproved by the Planning Commission, or  for some other reason are of interest This is one of interest: 
Bill BL2018-1245 would apply a conservation overlay to 43 acres in the Edge Hill community. This is an attempt to slow the gentrification of this historically Black community near downtown west of 8th Ave., east of music row.  With this overlay in place most existing housing could not be torn down and replaced with two tall skinnys. Also substantial modifications or additions could not be made to homes. Where new construction was permitted, the new construction would have to comparable in style to the existing homes in the community. The community is deeply divided on this issue. The Planning Commission only approved this by a vote of 4 to 3 after two hours of heated public hearing. For more on the issue, read the Tennessean report, South Nashville community bitterly split over plan to restrict development.
Bill BL2018-1280 approves the plans for a non-hazardous liquid waste processing facility to be located at 2832 Whites Creek Pike. I don't know if this will be controversial or not but often people oppose any facility that processes waste.
Resolutions: There are 45 resolution on the agenda in addition to the resolutions on public hearing. Initially all resolutions except  resolutions on public hearing are on the consent agenda. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes unanimously the committees to which it is assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter-agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Here are the resolution of interest:
Resolution RS2018-1314 proposes six charter amendments to be submitted to the voters for ratification. This will take 27 votes to be approved.
  • Three of them are related the line of succession for the office of mayor and how a vacancy is filled. The staff analysis says one of the three is contrary to state law, so this will likely be deferred. 
  • The fourth proposed amendment would require oaths of office for mayor, vice mayor, and members of council to include an oath to uphold the Charter of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville. Currently, such oaths reference only support of the Tennessee Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.
  • The fifth proposed amendment would change the term limits for the offices of councilman and councilman at-large from two (2) terms to three (3) terms. It would also change “councilman” to “councilmember.” The attempt to expand term limits has been tried before and rejected by the voters.
  • The sixth proposed amendment would update the Metropolitan Charter with general neutral references in place of masculine-only pronouns. References to “he” would be changed to “he or she,” “his” would be changed to “his or her,” “him” would be changed to “him or her,” “councilman” would be changed to “councilmember,” and “policemen”would be changed to “police officers.”  I oppose this. amendment. A "councilman" can be a female and a policeman can be a female policeman. I see no need to make this change. Also, I understand that the masculine singular pronoun may include females. If someone says, "Everyone brought his own lunch," I do not assume that the group only included males. I see no need to change the language to the awkwardly worded "he or she." 
Resolution RS2018-1319  appropriates $551,051.45 in Community Development Block Grant funds for sidewalk improvements in North Nashville. This is money that could instead be used to leverage the building of units of affordable housing.


Resolution RS2018-1328  would issue General Obligation bonds in the amount of $50 million, $25 million of which would be for demolition of existing fairgrounds buildings and $25 million would provide infrastructure for the proposed MLS stadium. There are also three bills pending also related to the fairgrounds land giveaway soccer deal and this will be deferred to track with those bills.


Resolution RS2018-1329Resolution RS2018-1330, Resolution RS2018-1331, Resolution RS2018-1332, and Resolution RS2018-1333  each appropriates $200,000 from various departments of Metro Government to various selected non-profits. Some of these, such as the Oasis Center and St. Lukes and Nashville Adult Literacy Council, I am familiar with. Others such as Nations Ministry Center and Moves and Grooves, I have never heard of.  I do not approve of giving Metro Tax dollars to non-profits. If it s contract for a non-profit to provide a service that is one thing, but to just give various agencies money, I do not think is appropriate.
Conexion Americas is slated to get $50,000. While Conexion Americas does some worthwhile things, they also provide services to illegal aliens and advocate on behave of illegal aliens. If I were serving in the Council, I would oppose this resolution. Metro should not be picking winners and losers among the various non-profits operating in this city.  If I was picking which non-profits to support, I would give to the Union Rescue Mission. Charity should be a volunteer activity, not having money taken from me against my will and given to an organization I may or may not chose to support. I can chose to give to United Way or not and I can chose to give money to Union Rescue Mission or Conexion American. I do not get to chose to pay taxes or not.
Resolution RS2018-1356  by Steve Glover expresses the intention of the Metropolitan Council to suspend action on any agreement related to any lease and redevelopment of the Nashville Fairgrounds until all necessary procedures have been completed. This would simply say that Metro would not make any decisions regarding the stadium and would not incur additional expenses regarding the stadium until the hurdles that stand in the way of the deal being approved are resolved. This is an attempt to not put the cart before the horse. This sounds like common sense, but I would expect it to be opposed by advocates of the stadium.
Bills on First reading: There are 24 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading. They are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare circumstances. I normally don't read them until they get to second reading. On this agenda there are several bills on First Reading related to the fairground. Here they are:
Bill BL2018-1289 approves the demolition of certain buildings and structures necessary for the construction of a new Major League Soccer Stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville, and amending Title 5 of the Metropolitan Code to impose a privilege tax on the sale of tickets to events at the new Major League Soccer stadium. This is probably the best chance to still kill the stadium and land giveaway. It takes 27 votes to demolish buildings at the fairgrounds.

Bill BL2018-1290 is the bill to rezone the 10 acres at the fairground that is to be given to the stadium developer.

Bill BL2018-1291 declares the ten acres to be given away as surplus property and approves a ground lease for the property.

Bill BL2018-1293 approves a privilege tax on the sale of tickets to events at the new Major League Soccer stadium. 
I will have more to say on these bills when they get to second reading or in a separate post. 

Bills on Second Reading: There are eight. Here are the ones of interest.
Bill BL2018-1142  says that if a request for funds from the 4% fund is going to be spend in  single council district that that district councilman will be given advance notice. This sounds reasonable to me.

Second Substitute Bill BL2018-1202 would regulate "shared urban mobility devices," such as bicycles and scooters, and if establish a permitting system for them. This was prompted by the arrival of Bird Scooter in Nashville. This would establish a one-year pilot program for the scooter, impose a lot of cost, including a $35 per scooter and a whole lot of regulation. I initial reaction is that this is overkill.

Bill BL2018-1281 would require sexual harassment awareness training of Metro employees and contractors. The staff analysis says we do not know how much this would cost and that HR does not have the resources to track compliance.

Bill BL2018-1283 essentially says that Metro cannot use the proceeds from sale of surplus property to balance the budget.  While it seems to make sense that one should not use one-time money to fund on-going cost, as we did this year, I am not sure that this flexibility should be taken away. There may be times when the city needs to do that. 
Bills on Third Reading: There are 20. Most are approved zoning bills. I have discussed Bill BL2016-219  at the top of the page. Here are others of interest:

Substitute BL2018-1139 (as amended) is the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan.   This has been worked on for a long time and is a complex bill.It would guide redevelopment around the Music City Star Donelson train stop and contains an affordable housing component. New authority from the state provides for this type of designation and this will be the first time that authority has been used.  This development hit a bureaucratic snag explained in this Tennessean article: $300M Donelson development stalled by oversight dispute. I assume that has now been resolved or this would not be back on the agenda. This bill is to be amended on third reading. For more on this complex bill, see the lengthy staff analysis.

Bill BL2018-1182 is a disapproved rezoning bill in Councilman Karen Johnson's district.  I am only calling attention to the bill because it is disapproved and will require 27 votes to pass.

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