Monday, November 14, 2016

What's on the Council Agenda of 11-15-16: Museum of African American Music controversy, "Driving while Black," annexation, and Short Term Rental Property.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, November 15,  at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. 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 you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just those segments. Also, I will  tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to.

If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis. You will have a better understanding of what is going on. Follow the highlighted link to view the agenda and staff analysis.  Here is my commentary and analysis.

There are four people up for confirmation to Boards and Commissions. These are people appointed by the mayor subject to approval by the Council. They will be approved as always. There are two insignificant resolution on Public Hearing. Both are for exemptions from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit for establishment that already have an on-site liquor permit.
There are 30 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.  None of  the resolutions appear controversial but below are ones of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-406  would expand from one year old to three years old, the vehicles that are exempt from being required to be tested for auto emissions. This makes sense. Vehicles not over three years old almost never fail the emissions test. This was deferred the last two meeting.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-434  is another one of those bills that pay companies for coming to or expanding in Nashville. This one is for Warner Music Group. It will provide $500 per year for seven year for new employees hired by WMG.
 RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-435  is a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal for an affordable housing project on Old Hickory Boulevard. In the past PILOT was used by the Industrial Development Board to lure companies to Nashville in order to create jobs. Now MDHA is authorized to use this tool also. So, if I understand it correctly, the land would be owned by MDHA and since MDHA does not pay taxes, the developer of the property would pay this payment in lieu of taxes. The PILOT however would be only about 1/10 of what the developed property would otherwise pay in property taxes. This is for an affordable housing project for those earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income. To make this deal work the developer will also be using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-459  ask the Police Department to inform the Metropolitan 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 ask them to provide any data to refute the finding of the Gideon's Army report. The Civil rights group Gideon's Army released a report in February called "Driving while Black," that alleged racial profiling by Metro Police. The group clams that from 2011 to 2015, metro officers conducted more than 7 times the amount of traffic stops than the national average, and black drivers were up to 5 times more likely to be stopped. The police say that the reason police stop more Blacks that Whites is that they patrol more heavily in high crime areas, which are Black neighborhoods. For news reports on this topic see this link, and this link. While I suspect this to pass, I expect some grandstanding. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-460  request the Mayor to get an independent assessment of the location of the National Museum of African American Music at the former Nashville Convention Center. The city gave an inducement to the developer of the property to provide free space for this museum. Early plans showed it with a frontage on Broadway.  The proposed development is multi-use with a much needed downtown retail component. The developer has said that the corner of Fifth and Broad needs to be something that will draw traffic to the retail. He has moved the museum entrance to 5th avenue. Blacks are upset. To read more about this see, Mayor Barry warns against breaking agreement over museum dispute and The deal's done, but critics of $430M downtown project aren't silenced.
BILL NO. BL2016-463  defines what is "mulch." This is a good example of over regulation. An existing regulation says not over 5% of a lot area may be mulch. Now we need to define mulch.

Bills on First Reading. There are 11 bills on First Reading but I usually don't review bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and usually pass by a single vote. Only rarely is a bill on First Reading considered separately.

Bills on Second Reading.
These are 11 bills on Second reading and these are the one's of interest. 
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-381 is another anti Short Term Rental Property bill. It would make it more cumbersome to get a STRP permit and further restrict the number of permits allowed in any census track. I oppose this bill.  The mayor has hired a consultant to study Metro's Short Term Rental Property issues. Also, in a decision in a law suit brought by the Beacon Center contesting the constitutionality of Metro's STRP ordinance, on October 21, 2016 the Eighth Circuit Court for the 20th Judicial District declared the STRP regulations to be unconstitutional. This was on Second reading last time and deferred and I expect it to be deferred again. I would expect the Council to delay this bill and come back with a comprehensive bill that addresses STRP.
Bills on Third Reading.  There are 13  bills on Third Reading.  These are the bills of interest.
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-409  request to rezone from R80 to SP zoning for property located at 7897 Old Charlotte Pike, to permit all uses permitted by R80 and a kennel. I don't know anything about the merits of this rezoning and am only pointing it out because it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission 7 to 0. A disapproved bill requires 2/3rds approval by the Council members. It is sometimes hard to override a PC negative recommendation.   
BILL NO. BL2016-454   amends  the Metropolitan Code to remove the stipulation that only restaurants that possess a license liquor license can obtain an exemption to the minimum distance requirements for beer sales. Currently if an establishment wants a beer license, they have to be a certain distance from away from a home, or a school, or church or park. Liquor license are issued by the State and beer license by Metro, so some establishments have liquor license but not beer license. For those establishments, the city can now make an exception to the distance requirement.  The city can not, however, grant an exception for any other establishments. This would allow the city to grant an exemptions to other establishments seeking a beer license. This bill would require a pubic hearing on the proposed exemption. This proposed change makes sense. I support it.
BILL NO. BL2016-455  would annex into the urban serviced district various properties located in Council Districts 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, and 31. This was on public hearing last meeting where quite a few people spoke in favor and in opposition. While Nashville has a single government instead of a city and a county as do most places, we still have two tax districts.  The rural parts of the county are in the General Services District and the more developed parts of the county are in the Urban Services District. The only thing the people in the USD get that those in the GSD do not, is garbage collection and street lights. They have the same street cleaning, fire, police, schools, libraries, parks, etc. The 2016 tax rate for Urban Services District is $4.516, and the rate for General Services District is $3.924 per hundred dollars of assessment. If these areas are annexed then the city would be responsible for garbage collection and would provide street lights. Sidewalks is not factor in this annexation proposal. Several people who spoke at the public hearing in favor of the annexation seemed to think they would  get sidewalks if annexed.

One impact of increasing these taxes is that this will likely increase rents in multifamily apartments in these areas to be annexed. While renters do not directly pay property taxes, they pay indirectly it in the rent they are charged. Residential property is assessed at 25% of appraised value, yet commercial and multi-family property is assessed at 40% of value. At a time when there is much concern about affordable housing, affordable housing advocates should advocate against this tax which will hit renters harder than property owners but they do  not.

Currently, for most people the increase in taxes, if annexed, would not be much more than they currently pay for private trash collection. However, if taxes are increased next year, which I anticipate to occur, then the new tax payment would most likely be considerably more than what residents in the GSD pay currently for private trash collection.

To see The Tennessean report on this see, Madison residents debate joining Nashville's higher property tax district.   For a background report see The Tennessean's, Nashville neighborhoods pass on offer for more services, higher taxes.    To see if you live in an area proposed to be annexed into the Urban Services District see this link.

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