Tuesday, April 7, 2020

What's on the 4/7/20 Council agenda: Scooter rules, Parking changes, Short-term rental rules.

by Rod Williams - The Council meeting will occur on Tuesday April 7th at 6:30pm. The following notice is on the agenda:

Notice of Electronic Meeting and Public Access
Members of the public may not attend this meeting in person in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. Council Members will not be physically located in the Council Chambers, and will participate electronically. Everyone else may watch the meeting live online at https://www.nashville.gov/Information-Technology-Services/Cable-Television-Services/Metro-Nashville-Network/Live-Streaming.aspx. Metro Nashville and Davidson County residents can also view Metro Nashville Network on Comcast channel 3, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Google Fiber channel 3 and streaming on the MNN Roku channel.
What the notice does not explain is how the Council will hear from the public. This is the first Tuesday of a month which is pubic hearing night on zoning and related matters. I have checked the Metro Council website, the Metro Clerk's website and the Metro press releases and do not find this addressed.  One would think this matter would be well publicized.  An unofficial but well-informed person told me all the bills on public hearing will be deferred till the May public hearing.

Here is a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff agenda analysis. Below I am providing a summary and some commentary on what I deem the most important items on the agenda.  I am skipping all the bills on public hearing.

Resolutions

Resolution RS2020-202 is "A resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement by and between the State of Tennessee, Department of Transportation, and The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, acting by and through the Metropolitan Department of Public Works, for signal maintenance for I-440 Traffic Operational Deployment of Blue Toad Spectra Power over Ethernet (PoE) Data Collection Devices, State No. 99111-4604-04; PIN 125652.00 (Proposal No. 2020M-004AG-001)." This would normally pass without controversy, however there is an issue that I thought may make this controversial. Many neighbors of the expanded I-440 corridor have complained of lighting pollution. Some have said that prior to the expansion that they were not bothered by the I-440 lighting but now it shines in their house like a spotlight. Normally the Council would have little leverage to influence the State to address these concerns. If I were serving in the Council I would hold up passage of this resolution until the concerns of constituents were addressed. I don't know if that is what is holding this up or not but it has been pending for months.  I do not know if it was deferred for the reason I suggested or some other reason.

Resolution RS2020-209 is, "A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to support a change in state law to include stormwater utilities among the utilities covered under the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority Act." The "whereas" section of the bill says "Metro is considering the creation of a new water and wastewater treatment authority to assume the assets and operations of MWS; and WHEREAS, a change in state law is needed to allow a Metro water and wastewater treatment authority to also operate a stormwater utility, … ." It then goes on to call for the change in law to include stormwater in the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority.  A utility can change rates without getting legislative authority and usually I would be reluctant to transfer that authority to an independent body, but I am open to this change.  Because Water and Sewer operates off of their own revenue and saving money or wasting money does not impact the city budget, the Council pays little attention to what goes on at Water. Water and Sewer has been a source of wasted money as long as I can recall. Maybe having an independent board that the Water and Sewer service answers to would be a good thing.  All this does is ask for a change in State law.  I would not oppose this.  If I had a vote I would be open to being persuaded that sitting up Water and Sewer as utility might be a good thing to do.

Resolution RS2020-236 is a resolution approving an application for a Digital Curb Challenge grant from COORD.  I am not exactly sure what all curb management entails and the resolution nor the staff analysis explains this but from I have learned this sounds like a good deal.  Nashville is one of only three cities to be selected for this trial  program. Some of what curb management can do is manage curb loading zones rather than having permanent fixed loading zones, it can better manage ride sharing and ride hailing by sitting up zones and it can institute demand sensitive pricing for meters within a certain zone. Learn more here. From what little I know about it this sounds like a good thing. Anyway, the grant is free and the program is for a trial period.

Resolution RS2020-251.  "A resolution recognizing the retirement of Kay Bowers and her years of service as Executive Director of New Level Community Development Corporation." This is not of general interest but I want to give a shout-out to Kay  Bowers.  I know her through the affordable housing community. Our work was related. She is a good person and has a heart for helping people.

Resolution RS2020-257 expresses the Metropolitan Council’s support for SB2908/HB2013, currently pending before the Tennessee General Assembly, which would allow metropolitan governments to enact an impact fee or privilege tax on development. I do not know enough about this to have an opinion.  I am inclined to oppose impact fees.  The argument in favor, is that development does not pay for the stain they place on infrastructure and services. An opposing argument is that any additional cost and restraint placed on development further causes a loss of affordable housing.  The more overhead placed on construction, the less a developer can afford to build affordable housing. The reason I find this resolution interesting is that the Budget and Finance Committee recommended it be withdrawn.  That is unusual, so their must be good arguments against it but I did not watch the B &F meeting.

Bills on Second Reading

Bill BL2019-109 makes changes in the city policy toward scooters
or what is termed "shared
urban mobility devices."  This was on the agenda some months ago and deferred an excessive number of times and taken off of the agenda "by rule." It is back. This one has some provisions I like such as requiring more speedy response by fleet owners to complaints of overturned scooters and things and new rules establishing 'no sidewalk use' zones and slow zones. I like that it eliminates the restriction on number of scooter companies that can operate in Nashville, but I do not like that it cuts in half the overall number of scooters.  I think market demand should dictate that. The hatred of scooters seems to have abated somewhat or people have just leaned to live with them, but I still fear that if this does not pass something more restrictive, such as a ban, may pass. I would support this and vote for it if I had a vote.

Bills on Third Reading

Bill BL2019-78 – This ordinance requires a minimum distance for any new Short Term Rental Property that are Not Owner-Occupied, from churches, schools, daycares, and parks. No new STRP permit could be located less than 100 feet from a religious institution, a school or its playground, a park, or a licensed day care center or its playground, unless, after a public hearing, a resolution receiving 21 affirmative votes is adopted by the Council. In my view this is uncalled for. I oppose this bill. I live on a street with several short-term rentals and have never had a problem. I have one diagonally across the street from me. Maybe some people do have a problem but that indicates a need for more enforcement not making it more difficult to have short-term rental. There are hotels and restaurants within 100 feet of some of the same class of entities identified in this bill. This would place greater restriction on homes rented short-term than we place on businesses. There is a greater likelihood of complaints against owner-occupied housing and long-term rental housing that there is from short-term rental. To me this looks like just another unjustified piece of legislation to attack short-term rentals. This passed on second reading on a recorded vote of 20 in favor, 8 opposed, 4 abstain, and 8 not voting.

Bill BL2020-117 would remove the requirement for a minimum number of parking spaces for various uses for properties on multimodal corridors as designated in the major and collector street plan. There is not now a parking requirement for properties in the central business district and properties in urban overlay districts. If you drive down a thoroughfare and see separated businesses surrounded by parking lots, that is the result of our car-oriented planning which was considered wise planning in the period following WWII. A lot of what was considered wise planning then is now out of favor. Vibrant cities are build for people, not cars. The car-oriented planning has led to massive urban sprawl. This bill would not prohibit one from providing parking but would not require it along multimodal corridors. I support this concept but do not know which streets it would apply to. I could not find such designation in a search of the Panning Commissions website. Usually when one speaks of multimodal corridors it means a street that also has light rail or bus rapid transit. We don't have that in Nashville and I don't know which streets have that designation in Nashville. This was probably provided in committee.   I am surprised no one spoke against this when it was on pubic hearing, because cities without parking requirement have people competing for parking spaces. Residents have to sometimes get used to hunting for parking spaces on their street when a certain number of on-sight parking spaces are not required. It passed second reading with no opposition.

BILL NO. BL2020-149 would require landlords to provide at least 90 days’ written notice to tenants before increasing the tenant’s rent. This is likely to reduce the availability of affordable housing and raise rent prices. This type interference in the market hardly ever achieves the desired result. There is already the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) which requires a 30-day notice. Nashville should not have a more restrictive rule than other places in Tennessee. It would probably not be enforceable. This needs to be defeated. If it does pass, I hope the State invalidates it.

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