Saturday, January 23, 2016

What happened at the Council meeting of 1-19-16: new regs for vacation rentals and pedal tabs, Waverly-Belmont Conservation Overlay approved.

Above is the Council meeting video from this past Tuesday January 19th.  I normally try to post it the next day following the meeting but other things took priority this week so I am just now getting to it.  Normally the announcement section of the meeting and the actual meeting are two separate videos but this time they are combined in this one. The actual meeting starts at timestamp 22:12.

For a link to the Council agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

There are no surprises in this meeting and no drama. There is not much point in actually watching  the meeting.  Here are the highlights. 

  • The mayoral appointment of Bill Freedman to the Airport Authority is confirmed. 
  • The resolution asking the Fair Board to reinstate gun shows at the Fairgrounds is deferred until the second meeting in March.  
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-86  which is another one of these PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deals is deferred one meeting.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-81 is  a bill which was disapproved by the Planning Commission and rezones 9.2 acres off on Clarksville pike which would allow the construction of between 72 to 120 apartment units of what is considered "workforce housing" which is another term for affordable housing. I thought this would be an important bill because it would test the strength of "councilmanic courtesy" in the new council.  However, wisely I think, the sponsor moved to amend the bill from the proposed multifamily rezoning to a SP rezoing and refer it back to the Planning Committee of the Council. He did not refer it back to the planning commission, which I think he should have done. SP zoning approves a specific plan for the site so people know where exits and entrances will be and setbacks and other things. "Councilmanic courtesy" is the practice of voting the way a fellow council member wants you to vote on his rezoning bills regardless of the recommendation of the Planning Commission.  The reasoning for this is that their is an assumption that the district council member knows what his constituents want and what is best for his district.  Some members follows a councilmanic courtesy policy most or all of the time and others follow the recommendation of the planning commission most or all of the time. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission takes 27 votes to pass the council. The fact that the sponsor has substituted the bill to a SP zoning instead of the original proposed rezoning will not change the recommendation of the Planing Commission since the Planing Commission is not being asked to reconsider the bill. This will still be an interesting bill to watch. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-99 which would end term limits for member of the Human Relations Commission was deferred one meeting.  I am pleased it was deferred; it to be defeated!  The Human Relations Commission needs to be abolished; it does not need to be strengthened. It serves no purpose except to promote and enforce politically correct attitudes.
  • The bill giving the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission authority to regulate hours of pedal taverns and other pedicabs and pedal carriages passes.
  • The council gave unanimous approval for a new conservation overlay for the Waverly-Belmont neighborhood.
  • The bill amending the rules governing short-term vacation rentals is amended, discussed and approved. Among other things it does is prohibit the owner of the unit from advertising that the unit can sleep more people than for which the unit is approved.
Here is The Tennessean report on this meeting: Metro Council takes step toward restricting pedal tavern hours

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The Folly of HB1632/SB1636

Josh Stites
by Josh Stites - In my four years on the Council I was considered a reliable conservative vote. But, it always bothered me when people assumed they knew how I would vote simply because an issue was declared “right” or “left”. In our culture of sound bites and snap judgments, consideration of every possible alternative is considered by many a weakness. But, I think the poverty-laced inclusionary zoning discussion is just one of these issues that doesn’t fit nicely into any box. For those who want background on the issue in Nashville you can go here, here, or here.

This week legislation was introduced on the state level to prohibit any local government from enacting legislation requiring inclusionary zoning. I’m not opposed to the state stepping into local affairs when it’s necessary to maintain a cohesive statewide business environment or protect citizens from harmful actions of a local government, but I think HB1632 passes neither of these tests. HB1632 is simply a Williamson County representative’s response to a small number of his financial supporters who themselves have a business interest in the zoning laws in Nashville. I get that and it’s nothing new. It happens across the aisle and at all levels of government. But, that doesn’t make it right or a good idea.

But my frustration is that Casada uses free market reasoning for his bill. I’m a big free market guy. And I agree that the free market could fix our affordable housing problem. Quickly. But, to those who have ever tried developing land or building anything in any big city, they know that land development does not happen in a free market. On the contrary it is a tightly controlled market by unelected but often well-meaning bureaucrats at the local planning departmentand the political and sometimes not well-meaning appointees of the Planning Commission. State law doesn’t just permit such meddling into the free market of local real estate - it requires it in Title 13, Chapter 4 of the state code. Each planning department, by state law, is required to create a general plan every ten years or so. This general plan serves as the tool by which planning departments dictate where a developer can build housing and what type of housing can be built. If Casada really wants to champion free markets, sponsor a bill prohibiting zoning. It’s worked well for Houston.

In Nashville the current plan (Nashville Next) generally calls for affordable and workforce housing to be concentrated in pockets along the major corridors of Nashville. Think: Murfreesboro Road, Lebanon Pike, Charlotte Ave, Dickerson Pike, Franklin Road, West End Avenue, Hillsboro Road. I’m not a class warfare conspiracist, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that the number of affordable units built along Hillsboro Pike and West End in the next decade won’t be enough to house the workers required for one downtown hotel. This “free” market that Casada hides behind in defense of his bill is anything but. It’s law already that the local government has the authority to dictate where affordable housing units are to be built, why all of a sudden does he care how many?

And the head scratcher for me is this; when affordable housing is torn down to make way for newer more expensive homes or other uses, where do those people needing affordable housing go? They move to where the affordable houses are - that is gradually further and further from the urban core and ultimately out past the county line. Developers who don’t want to contend with the burdensome regulations and requirements of the Metro Planning Commission are going to go to where land is cheap. So all the suburb representatives and senators, including Senator Haile of Sumner who is sponsor of SB1636, should be delighted that Metro wants to keep the poverty associated with affordable housing in Davidson County.

Advocates of IZ make a convincing case that the worst thing for someone growing up in poverty is to be around more people in poverty. Therefore, concentrating all of the poverty in certain areas by way of mandating the small areas where affordable housing exists is truly an institutionalized disservice to the least among us. The poor we will always have with us, but how we treat them and the opportunities we give them to advance says a lot about our character. And if you want to read more about that you can go here, here or here.

While I have a different view and am pleased to see legislation introduced that would ban mandatory inclusionary zoning, I am pleased to present an alternative point view from my friend, former Councilman Josh Stites. Rod 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

State legislation would ban housing price-fixing, mandatory inclusionary zoning.

Measure’s aim: Block city requirements that builders set aside low-income housing 

by JOEY GARRISON The Tennessean, Jan. 20, 2016 -  Some Nashville poverty advocates continue to push for the creation of a new Metro policy that would mandate affordably priced homes be included in new residential projects.

But newly filed state legislation would prevent cities from adopting such a plan, known as mandatory inclusionary zoning.

 As he promised in the fall, Tennessee Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, has introduced a bill that would prohibit local governments from requiring that a certain percentage of existing or newly constructed private residential units be reserved for affordable or workforce housing. Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, has signed on as the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

Tennessee already has a law that says local municipalities can’t control the cost of rent. Whether that restricts local governments from adopting a zoning policy that mandates affordable housing units among rental properties has been debated. (link)

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Public hearing on the future of the Fairgrounds.

The Fair/Codes/Farmers Market Committee of the Metro Council will be hosting a meeting to hear from the public concerning the future of the Fairgrounds. This meeting will be held in at the Fairgrounds in Wilson Hall on Tuesday, January 26th from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. "There will be an open discussion and the meeting will end at promptly 8:15," according to an announcement.

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Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday, January 21, 2016

Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday, January 21, 2016, 5:30 PM/ Mafiaoza's 2400 12th Ave S Nashville, TN 37204. For more info, follow this link.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Update. What's on the Council Agenda for 1-19-16: Gun Shows at the Fairgrounds, a stronger Human Relations Commission, and a disapproved zoning change.

The Council agenda for 1-19-2016 is available at this link. The staff analysis is not yet available so I am providing my analysis without benefit of the staff analysis, so you may want to check back for an update or seek out the staff analysis for yourself at this link. The staff analysis is now available but I have not read it.

Appointments to Boards and Commissions. There are ten mayoral appointments on the agenda for Council confirmation. As is usual, I expect all to be confirmed without debate. The most notable of these appointments is that of former mayoral candidate, Democrat Party fund raiser, and local business tycoon Bill Freeman to the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. I think this is a good appointment. The Metropolitan Airport Authority is undergoing its first major management restructuring in 28 years and it recently received a scathing evaluation from a consultant hired to evaluate the organization. The  $119 million-per-year organization that oversees Nashville International Airport was criticized for being "paternalistic, dictatorial and centralized.” To read the Tennessean's report on the issues surrounding the Airport Authority follow this link. Someone of the high profile and business credentials of Bill Freeman on the board of the Airport Authority can restore confidence that needed changes will take place at the Airport.

Resolutions: There are 15 resolutions on the agenda. At this time they are all on "consent," meaning they are deemed non-controversial and will be all lumped together and pass by a single vote instead of being considered separately. A resolution will be moved off of consent and considered separately unless it receives a unanimous positive vote from the committee to which it was assigned. Any member from the floor may ask for an item to be taken off of consent or any member may request his dissenting vote or abstention be recorded. Below are the resolutions of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-76   is "A resolution requesting the Metropolitan Board of Fair Commissioners to reinstate and continue to allow gun shows on Fairgrounds property and to otherwise comply with Section 11.602 of the Metropolitan Charter."

On Tuesday December 1, 2015 the Fair Board voted to discontinue gun shows at the fair grounds after the pending gun show of the December 4th and 5th weekend. The Fair Board was supposedly going to develop new guidelines to improve safety at the Fairgrounds and then would reconsider allowing gun shows if exhibitors would agree to the new rules.  No one really believed the Fair Board would ever allow gun shows to return to the fairgrounds. Metro legal weighted in and legal told the Fair board to allow the gun shows scheduled for January. This resolution was on the Council agenda for December 15th, but since Metro legal had ruled the gun shows scheduled for January could still take place this was deferred, I would assume to see it this could be resolved without Council action. It has not been resolved so this is back on the agenda.

With a much more "progressive" council than ever n the past, it will be worth watching how this turns out. I suspect the major motivation for this is simply a dislike for gun culture and support for anything to curtail the proliferation of gun ownership. I also suspect however that there is certain elite liberal snobbishness at play which looks down its nose at gun shows. Until country music became the most listened to format and a major source of income for Nashville, the elites were embarrassed by country music also. I tend to think the opposition to gun shows may be motivated more by a sociopolitical class prejudice rather than a gun control motivation.  I believe there is a certain desire for Nashville to appear progressive and enlightened and progressives want the "redneck" element to be deprived of outlets to express themselves. They would prefer that part of Nashville's identity not be tied to stock car racing, flea markets, and gun shows. Also, the Gun and Knife shows bring in a quarter of million dollars a year to the struggling fair grounds. Part of the effort to end the gun shows may be an effort to deprive the fair grounds of revenue in hopes that it will eventually be operating so deep in the red that there will be greater reason to close the fairgrounds and sell off the property.They would much prefer that property be a trendy mixed-use development or a corporate campus.

Bill Goodman's Gun and Knife show has been operating at the Fairgrounds for 35 years and there is no evidence that illegal gun sales have ever occurred there or even that a gun or knife purchased there has ever been used in a criminal act. There are some felons who have stated that the gun shows at the Fair grounds is where they obtained their gun, but one may surmise they did not want to admit to an additional crime of stealing a firearm so those admission from felons should be taken with a grain of salt.

Only licensed dealers are permitted to sell firearms at the fairground gun show. Under current law if you as an individual sell a gun to another individual, you do not have to be a licensed firearm dealer and you do not have to perform a background check on the person to whom you are selling. That is what is known as the "gun show loophole."  However, at the Nashville Gun and Knife Show only licensed dealers were allowed to exhibit and sell guns.

 RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-86  is another one of these PILOT deals (payment in lieu of taxes). I don't know if this is a good deal or not, but I hope it is carefully scrutinized.

Bills on First Reading. There are five of them and they will be passed by a single vote of the council. Bills on First Reading or normally not debated or evaluated.

Second Reading: There are seven bills on second reading. These are the ones of interest:
BILL NO. BL2015-81 is a bill which is disapproved by the Planning Commission and rezones 9.2 acres off on Clarksville pike which would allow the construction of between 72 to 120 apartment units of what is considered "workforce housing" which is another term for affordable housing. Here is a link to a Tennessean story about the The planning Commission's unanimous vote to disapprove the bill. At the last council meeting a lot of people spoke both for and against the bill. To win council approval, since it was disapproved by the Planning Commission, will require 27 votes. This will be the first test of the new council to see if "councilmanic courtesy" is really dead.

BILL NO. BL2016-99 would end term limits for member of the Human Relations Commission.  This needs to be defeated! If anything the Human Relations Commission needs to be abolished; it does not need to be strengthened. It serves no purpose except to promote and enforce politically correct attitudes. Anything they do that really needs doing could be done by other agencies. There is a Fair Housing Office to take fair housing complaints and the Attorney Generals office can take complaints of illegal discrimination.  One of the most objectionable things this agency does is sponsor the twink booth at the Gay Pride festival. They call it the "youth pavilion." 
Third Reading: There are 25 bills on Third Reading and most of them are zoning bills. These are the ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2015-84  establishes the Waverly Belmont Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District.  This would restrict the tearing down of existing housing and building a very large home or two large homes on the lot.  On some streets in this part of town, there are more big new houses than original smaller houses.  I understand the desire to preserve the character of the neighborhood but a consequence of not allowing the character of a neighborhood to change and more expensive homes to be build is that our tax base does not keep pace with the demand for more spending.  Also by restricting this type of tear-down and replacement with larger homes in one area puts more pressure for this to occur on those areas adjacent to the area with the overlay.  It shifts the problem and intensifies it for neighboring neighborhoods. For more information see the Tennessean reporting on the issue.

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