Saturday, April 29, 2017

What's on the Council Agenda for May 2? Major attack on home-sharing (STRP), more control over landfills, not much else.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to and yet can still be a well-informed citizen of our city.  If, however, you are going to watch the council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis.

There are six appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously.  There are 17 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I usually do not read bills until they get to Second Reading.

There are 29 Bills on Public Hearing and most of them are zoning bills.  Public Hearings are real boring unless the property under discussion is next door to you.  Opposition to rezoning usually boils down to (1) impact on the capacity of infrastructure such as roads and schools, (2) potential to cause flooding, or (3) negative impact on the quality and character of the neighborhood.  I don't even try to gain an understanding of every zoning bill or form an opinion of its merits. I try to point out those that have wider implication than one neighborhood or that I have reason to believe will be particularly controversial or has already been to the Planning Commission and been disapproved. About the only bills on public hearing of interest this time are those that are attacks on home-sharing.

BILL NO. BL2017-608, BILL NO. BL2017-609, BILL NO. BL2017-610, and BILL NO. BL2017-611 are all attacks on home-sharing or Short Term Rental Properties such as those rented through AirBnB or similar services.  I oppose all of these bills.  
  • BILL NO. BL2017-608 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. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-609  would establish a 12- month moratorium on the issuance of new Type 2 and Type 3 short term rental permits. These are the non-owner-occupied Short Term Rentals. It would not prohibit those with certificates already from renewing their certificate.  
  • BILL NO. BL2017-610 is similar to 609, but it would impose a 36-month moratorium. The staff analysis says both of these are to be withdraw by the sponsor for further consideration. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-611 requires that an STRP application include a statement that “the applicant has confirmed that operating the proposed STRP would not violate any Home Owners Association agreement or bylaws, Condominium Agreement, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions or any other agreement governing and limiting the use of the proposed STRP property.” It would also require that the applicant notify codes if there was any such objection.  I oppose this bill.  Homeowners Association rules are private agreements.  Government has never taken on the responsibility for enforcing HOA rules. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-685 would make several changes to the current home-sharing regs. It would reduce the total number of STRP permits available, put new restrictions on the number of people who could occupy a STRP and impose restrictions and requirement on the "on-line marketplaces." The staff analysis does not address this, but I wonder if Nashville has the authority to compel an on-line marketplace such as AirBnB to provide them with reports.  They are not physically located in Nashville and they don't have to have a local business license. Could we require Amazon to tell us how many books are CD's are sold in Nashville? I don't know the answer but I wonder if this is even doable or legal.

There are 19 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. All resolution are initially on "consent," however, 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.  Most of the resolutions are routine things like accepting grants. Here are the resolutions of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-663 is a routine annual action calling the Metro Board of Equalization into session and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-664 is a resolution appointing hearing officers to hear appeals. These are typical actions, but some council members may take this as an opportunity to talk about the recent property reappraisals. This year, as all property owners probably know by now, Metro reappraised all real property. A lot of people have been shocked by the increased appraised value of their property.  There is a procedure to appeal your appraisal, however to successfully appeal you need a good argument as to why you think the city got it wrong.  Just saying, "I don't think it is worth that," will not get you anywhere. You need recent sales information or reasons why your property values were incorrectly calculated. If you want to see your appraisal on-line as well as see what other properties are appraised for, follow this link. Just because your property appraisal increased that does not mean your property taxes will go up. By law Metro is required to roll back the tax rate to a rate that would bring in no additional revenue.  Sometimes local governments play games with this rule and pass the required "certified" tax rate then immediately pass a new rate that does raise taxes.  To her credit, Megan Barry has said she will not raise taxes this year. To see what your new tax bill will be under the new appraisal and new certified tax rate, you can calculate it at this linkThe deadline to appeal your appraisal is May 19th.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-666  and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-667 are payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) deals between MDHA and developers to develop or rehabilitate affordable housing.  This is the third and fourth such deal for this purpose.  In the past, PILOT was used to entice employers to locate in Nashville. While I have been critical of Nashville's efforts to force developers to build affordable housing, I am supportive of the use of  PILOT agreements to encourage development.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-677 approves the execution and delivery of intergovernmental applications by Metro to the United States Department of Labor for the processing of H1-B petitions.  I have read the bill and the analysis but quite frankly do not understand this resolution but think it may be significant. Currently the Trump administration has suspended for six months the processing of H1-B visa applications. I did not know the Metro Government employs non-citizens but according to this, we do.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-678  request the Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide at least ten percent (10%) of its advertising space to other Metropolitan departments, boards and commissions to provide public service advertisements regarding local government services. I do not see the wisdom of this.  This would be a loss of revenue for MTA. However, this is probably not worth opposing unless MTA lobbies against its passage. It also ask MTA to respond as to the feasibility of this request so if MTA thinks this would not be wise, they do not have to do it, but can explain their opposition in a feasibility study.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 13 bills on Second Reading but most are routine things. Here is one of interest.
BILL NO. BL2017-687 establishes process and procedure for naming public buildings, structures and spaces of the Metropolitan Government.  I like this.  I think usually you should have to be dead before you get something named after you.  
Bills on Third Reading: These are 15 bills on Third Reading and not much that is of interest. Most are rezoning bill and they have all been approved by the Planning Commission. Here are ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro more control over the approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner.  This is essentially replacing Metro's current procedure with a State approved plan known as the "Jackson law."  While this bill, on the one hand, gives Metro more control it also in some ways takes away some Metro authority. It increases the notification requirements, requires a bill with three reading rather than approving a landfill by resolution which is only one reading and it does some other good things. On the other hand, Metro would lose some authority in that an unhappy applicant for a landfill could appeal to Chancery Court. On balance, I think this is a good bill, but it is not simply.  The bill  passed on Second Reading by a vote of 28 to 8 with 3 abstentions.and was re-referred to Public Works Committee. It is amendable on Third Reading. To see the  discussion that occurred on Second Reading follow this link and see timestamp 47:30 - 1:17:52
BILL NO. BL2016-498  would require approval by the Metropolitan Council for obstructions or excavations which close or occupy any portion of the public right of way for a period in excess of one  year. I like this. I am all for accommodating growth but if a developer is going to block a street for more than a year, there needs to be some plan to accommodate the public. 
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 can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video here the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

House Democrats call on Senate to reject Mark Green as Army secretary

by Michael Collins , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee – Nearly three dozen House Democrats are asking the Senate to reject Tennessean Mark Green’s nomination as Army secretary, arguing he cannot be trusted to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers are able to serve without discrimination or harassment. ... Thirty-one House Democrats signed the letter ... None of the letter’s signers are from Tennessee. (link)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ex-Nashville judge Casey Moreland indicted on federal bribery, tampering charges

Ex-Nashville judge Casey Moreland indicted on federal bribery, tampering charges

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Mayor Barry Calls for funding of light rail transit, new employee benefits, and other massive spending in State of Metro Address

Mayor Barry delivers her 2017 State of Metro address
Metro Press Release, April 26, 2017- Mayor Megan Barry called on Nashvillians to “embrace the future” during her 2017 State of Metro Address held at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza, where she discussed Nashville’s transit future while detailing her recommended $2.2 billion fiscal year 2017-18 budget. Metro is expected to have the lowest combined property tax rate in its history at less than $3.16 per $100 of assessed value following the 2017 property reappraisal.

“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” said Mayor Barry. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor. I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could – and I might just do it anyway!”

Following the passage of Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, Mayor Barry announced her intention to work with the Metro Council and community partners to develop and present a transit plan to Nashville voters that will include dedicated sources of revenue to build high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro, and Charlotte Pikes, along with a Northwest Corridor from North Nashville to Clarksville.

Mayor Barry noted that the Gallatin Pike corridor is an obvious choice to start that process as it currently carries the most transit riders in the region, development along the corridor has demonstrated a market for transit-oriented development, and planning processes have shown that the neighborhoods along Gallatin support comprehensive mass transit.

“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” Mayor Barry said in announcing her intention to move forward with community partners to develop a transit referendum for the voters of Nashville. “We will be a 21st-century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we had to succeed.”

While looking towards the future of transit, Mayor Barry detailed her proposal to utilize the $119 million in new revenue that is a result of new buildings coming online and continued growth in business and tourism throughout the city. Highlights of the FY17-18 operating budget include:
  • $40.6M to promote fiscal responsibility through debt service payments, including $11.4M in reserves for future requirements.
  • $879M for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a 4.3%, $36M increase over FY16 to fund higher pay for teachers, literacy and ELL programs, and social emotional learning to help students manage emotions and maintain positive relationships.
  • $4M more for the Metro Nashville Police Department to fund 22 new officers for foot patrols that will enhance community policing efforts, as well as 48 new officers, 6 for each precinct, to better match the growth in population and improve response times.
  • $1.9M to the Nashville Fire Department to fully fund new EMS Medic units started in FY17, along with 14 new fire recruits and fire inspectors.
  • $18.1M in new funds to compensate Metro employees through a three-year pay plan, which will fund increments and 2% open range increases, along with a 2% cost of living adjustment for FY18, with 3% open range and COLA proposed for FY19 and FY20.
  • A $7M increase in the Metro Transit Authority subsidy, which is the largest single-year increase ever, to fund the elimination of transfer fees and extend the Music City Circuit to Tennessee State University along the Jefferson Street corridor.
  • $500,000 for the Metro Arts Commission to fund temporary public art projects and the THRIVE program to meet the neighborhood demand for public art and creative place-making projects, as well as increase funding for arts grants.
  • $500,000 to launch a Conservation Assistance Grant Program to leverage effective partnerships in conserving public and private lands and resources of conservation value in Davidson County.
Along with increases in pay, Mayor Barry announced that she will recommend a new Paid Family Leave policy to the Civil Service Commission that will allow Metro employees to take six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, or a seriously ill spouse, child or close relative.

“It’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our employees, and it’s the right thing to do for their families,” said Mayor Barry about the proposed Paid Family Leave policy. “It’s also the smart thing to do, because we want to attract and retain the best employees.”

Mayor Barry will also be releasing a capital spending plan in May to coincide with the release of the Mayor’s recommended Capital Improvements Budget. Some highlights released during the State of Metro include:
  • More than $35M for MTA to purchase 31 new hybrid buses to replace our aging diesel fleet, upgrade the fare collection system, and fund the implementation of the nMotion strategic plan for transit.
  • $65M for sidewalks and paving, $3M for sidewalks connected to schools, $2M for bikeways, and a doubling of funds over the previous year for the Mayor’s Intersection Improvement Program.
  • $15M for body and dash cameras, along with $8M for new laptops and printer equipment for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
  • Funds to build a community center and 2 ice rinks in Bellevue, a pocket park on Jefferson Street, expand the Hadley Park tennis center and start design on a new Hadley Park branch library.
  • $25M in general obligation bonds to fund new affordable housing programs.
“Growth has brought many exciting opportunities to our city, but it’s also made it difficult for many residents to stay here. The demand for housing has raised prices throughout the city, and we’ve responded by attacking the problem on multiple fronts,” Mayor Barry said in announcing two new innovative initiatives to fund, build, preserve, and retain affordable housing options.

The first would be to leverage the $25M in bonds to fund new affordable housing programs to purchase and rehab low-income housing that is at-risk of becoming unaffordable to tenants, as well as a program to allow Metro to build new affordable housing on city-owned property. The second is the creation of a new program to allow Metro to offer expedited property tax abatements to incentivize developers to build affordable units and rehab existing units. All of this is in addition to the Mayor’s continued commitment of $10M in operating funds for the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, and $2M for the Housing Incentive Pilot Program.

Metro Finance Director Talia Lomax-O’dneal will deliver a more in-depth presentation of the budget proposal to the Metro Council at 1:00PM today in the David Scobey Council Chamber in the Historic Metro Courthouse. Following delivery of the Mayor’s budget proposal, the Council and the Budget & Finance Committee will conduct public hearings as well as hearings with each individual department. The Council is required to pass a balanced budget by June 30, or the Mayor’s recommended budget proposal goes into effect by default.

The State of Metro Address featured the best-selling and most awarded female gospel artist of all time, Nashville native CeCe Winans, whose latest album, “Let Them Fall In Love,” debuted at the top of the charts. Winans performed “Never Have to Be Alone” and “Peace from God” for the crowd of more than 1000 attending the State of Metro.

The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands opened up the event, and Nashville’s 2016 Youth Poet Laureate and Nashville School of the Arts junior Gray Bulla read a poem written for the occasion.

Charles Strobel, founding director of Room in the Inn, gave the invocation for the State of Metro, which concluded with Blessings for Our City from four Nashville faith leaders - Pastor of Church Life Frank Stevenson of Olive Branch Church, Rabbi Laurie Rice of Congregation Micah, Imam Ossama Bahloul of the Islamic Center of Nashville, and Bishop Dr. José Rodriguez of Casa de Dios Apostolic Church - in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish respectively.

To read the Tennessean report on the State of Metro address see,  Mayor Barry commits to light rail on Gallatin Pike, kicks off public vote for funding transit,

To read the full text of the address follow this link: State of Metro address.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mayor Barry's office slams debt limit proposal

by Joey Garrison , USA Today Network - Tennessee - Middle Tennessee’s leading anti-tax crusader has launched a petition effort to add a referendum to the November 2018 ballot that would let Nashville voters decide whether to limit Metro’s borrowing capacity by capping the city's debt level.

If the measure passes, it could complicate plans for a $6 billion regional transit system that Mayor Megan Barry wants to start funding.

The debt limit referendum, led by Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham, a resident of Sumner County, would amend the Metro Charter in two ways: (read more)

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The Tennessean reports, Nashville sued over new affordable housing law.

by Joey Garrison , USA Today Network - Tennessee -Metro Nashville was hit with a highly anticipated lawsuit on Monday by the free market think-tank Beacon Center of Tennessee over a new Metro policy that is aimed at jump-starting more affordable housing. 

"We are filing this lawsuit not just because we disagree with this 'affordable housing' plan, but because Nashville is acting unconstitutionally and in defiance of state law," Braden Boucek, director of litigation for the Beacon Center, said.

"Tennessee has expressly told cities they cannot pass these sorts of laws, which makes Nashville's mandate on 'affordable housing' both illegal and unconstitutional. Cities are not independent and cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow."

But supporters of the ordinance, including bill sponsor Councilwoman Burkley Allen, have argued that the policy is a voluntary inclusionary zoning policy based on development incentives and not a mandate because the requirement is only triggered when a developer chooses to apply for new development rights. (link)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Homebuilder Association sues Metro to overturn the Inclusionary housing law.

The below story is Reposted from The Beacon Center.

The Story

 Imagine being a young, hardworking professional who can already barely afford to pay rent in the city where you are just beginning your career. Next, imagine that your landlord raises your rent so that a person even poorer than you can afford to move in next door and pay less. Now you will have to move further away from your job and live somewhere less desirable because you can no longer afford your rent.

Are you mad? You should be. This is just one of the many unfair scenarios that Nashville’s leaders are about to bring into being thanks to their unconstitutional “affordable” housing plans. When Nashville government officials decided housing wasn’t affordable enough, they decided that homebuilders should solve the problem instead of government. Nashville recently enacted a law that, in certain instances, requires homebuilders to sell a fixed percentage of the homes they build at below market value. In other words, Nashville is demanding that people lose money on an investment in order to promote social welfare. Ironically enough, the people that Nashville thinks should bear the cost of addressing affordable housing—homebuilders—are the very ones who are most directly addressing the problem in the first place.

Homebuilders, like the thousands of small business owners and individuals our client the Homebuilders Association of Middle Tennessee (HBAMT) represents, increase the supply of housing, thereby lowering the cost of housing. The homebuilders want nothing more than to address any affordable housing issues by increasing the supply of housing. The biggest obstacles are Nashville’s restrictions on their ability to build homes, obstacles which increase with Nashville’s new “affordable housing” mandate. John Sheley, the trade organization’s Executive Vice President, has worked in his field for nearly 30 years and decided to take action on behalf of all builders to challenge Nashville’s new law.

And for good reason. This plan is illegal and unconstitutional, as it demands that private individuals bear the burden of addressing what some have decided is a public concern. It is no more acceptable to expect property owners to address public housing by losing money on the houses they build than it is to expect grocers to lose money on the food they sell to address hunger. If there truly is a lack of affordable housing in Nashville, then the government should get out of the way and let the free market and the builders solve it naturally by creating a larger supply. But they should not force private parties to do it on their behalf. Their current plan will make housing more scarce and decrease the availability of affordable housing. This is fundamental to the constitutional protection of private property rights. What’s more, it is also illegal because the state of Tennessee has a law that bans local governments from passing mandates forcing homebuilders to set aside residential apartment units as “affordable.”

The Problem

In September 2016, the city of Nashville passed a law that, with limited exceptions, requires homebuilders to set aside a portion of their development as “affordable” or “workforce” housing or instead pay a significant fee into a slush fund. As anyone who has been paying attention knows, a government program that begins with the term affordable is typically anything but. Need proof? Look no further than the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That redistribution of wealth scheme has left working-class Americans with astronomically higher prices and fewer health insurance options, all in exchange for a worthless guarantee that it will be more “affordable.”

“Affordable” housing is essentially the Obamacare of housing. It makes it more expensive to build. This will result in developers building fewer homes, which will cause housing supply to dwindle. The extra costs will be passed on to buyers and renters, increasing their expenses. In both scenarios, it will cause prices to rise for those who can afford it the least: lower- and middle-income earners. If you think housing is expensive now, just wait until it’s “affordable.”

Not only will this mandate make housing less affordable, it will also create the same fiscal cliffs as many other welfare programs. If a person will have to pay more for their housing as their income increases, then they will be less likely to pursue moderate increases in pay or take on more work to move up in life. This scheme by Nashville’s government creates a disincentive for the poor to improve their lives.

A requirement that property owners set aside a certain percentage of their housing inventory to sell at below the market price (or setting price controls at all) is more than just inconsistent with the American tradition and offensive to rudimentary notions of free markets. Forcing developers to sell the apartments they build at a loss poses very serious legal and constitutional problems. Governments can’t condition things like building permits on the surrender of constitutional rights, such as the right to seek full value of one’s private property. Taking private property for a public purpose without just compensation is a takings issue that courts have ruled to be unconstitutional countless times. Cities can’t get around that by conditioning their agreement on the surrender of this or any other constitutional right.

On top of the constitutional and economic issues with this law, Nashville does not have the authority to enforce this plan in the first place. The state has never given cities the power to address affordable housing in this manner, and if there was any lingering confusion on this issue, the Tennessee General Assembly cleared it up in 2016 when affordable housing mandates began to surface in Tennessee. In response to the spread of these ordinances, the legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates as they relate to rental properties. Nashville passed its law anyway, even though it is illegal under state law.

The matter has already garnered a good deal of local media attention, as it should. And, given the spread of similar ordinances across the southeast (including an anticipated ordinance in Atlanta sometime next year), this trend of liberal cities thwarting constitutional protections set by state governments will only continue to worsen.

Bad policies that take hold in cities such as Nashville have a tendency to spread throughout the state. Nashville is blatantly disrespecting state lawmakers (and thereby the will of the people) who already voted to ban this practice. If Nashville can pass an affordable housing law in defiance of state law, then it can pass a $15 minimum wage law or a gun ban. We don’t want our cities to become sanctuary cities for liberal policies, therefore Nashville needs to be reigned in here and now.

In late July 2016, before the proposed ordinance was brought up for a second of three readings before the Metro Nashville Council, the Southeastern Legal Foundation and Beacon sent a letter to city officials analyzing the proposed ordinance from a legal perspective. We explained that the proposed ordinance not only violated state law, but that it was patently unconstitutional. The letter was raised by the Metro Council’s attorney and discussed in the hearing. The Council passed the ordinance anyway. Their willful disregard for the rule of law proves that, in this situation, the only way to protect the Constitution is in the courtroom.

It is now imperative that we take action to protect the property rights of Tennesseans and their values from out-of-control local governments.

The Law

We intend to challenge Nashville’s affordable housing mandate as illegal under Tennessee law and unconstitutional in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Ordinance Violates the Fifth Amendment.

The Takings Clause prohibits the government from taking one’s property without just compensation. Here, Nashville is not “taking” the developers property outright, it is demanding that they lose money in exchange for the city’s permission to develop, and if they do not want to do that, they can just kick into a slush fund to avoid the mandate. The courts have recognized these sorts of shenanigans before and have stated that a demand for a person to surrender a right in exchange for a permit is still an unconstitutional taking.

The Takings Clause exists because the Founders did not envision a country where governments could strong-arm private parties into paying for things the government did not care to pay for itself. The Supreme Court has made clear that the Fifth Amendment not only protects one from a physical taking, but also from governments that misuse the power of land-use regulation.

To prevent governments from circumventing the Takings Clause and from trying to accomplish indirectly what they cannot do directly, the Supreme Court applies the “unconstitutional conditions doctrine.” Under this well-settled doctrine, “the government may not require a person to give up a constitutional right…in exchange for a discretionary benefit conferred by the government where the benefit sought has little or no relationship to the property.” In other words, the Takings Clause prohibits Nashville from forcing homebuilders to choose between the permission they need to build and the right to receive just compensation from a taking. This “affordable housing” mandate is a prime example of the “gimmickry” that the Supreme Court so harshly rejected over two decades ago.

The Ordinance Violates Tennessee Law

The law passed in 2016 by the Tennessee legislature prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates took direct aim at measures such as the one presented in this ordinance. Despite Nashville officials’ statements otherwise, the ordinance is not an incentive-based approach, which would be allowed under the new state law. The ordinance requires property owners comply as long as financial incentives are available. But when the incentives are available, not when they are provided to the property owner, the property owner must comply. The property owner has no ability to opt out.

The way Nashville’s zoning is currently structured, there is almost no place left to build. So homebuilders almost always have to ask the city to rezone the land to allow for buildings of a greater height or density before a project can go forward. And the city will not allow any changes (and thus will deny permission to build) unless homebuilders agree to its onerous demand that they address affordable housing by losing money on some of their homes. By requiring homebuilders to do so before Nashville will give them the permission they need to build, Nashville has imposed a kind of a condition on development. That’s exactly the sort of law that the state of Tennessee has said is illegal.

Due to the aforementioned reasons, the Beacon Center is filing a lawsuit against the city of Nashville and seeking an overturning of the city’s “affordable” housing mandate.

Case Logistics

The plaintiff in this case is John Shely with the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee. They are seeking clarification on the law and the overturning of Nashville’s affordable housing mandate. The defendant is the Nashville Metro Government.

Legal Documents


The Legal Team

Braden Boucek is the Director of Litigation for the Beacon Center. Prior to joining the Beacon Center, he worked as an Assistant United States Attorney, and before that for the State of Tennessee as a trial and appellate prosecutor.

Justin Owen is the president and CEO of the Beacon Center and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.

The Beacon Center will work this case in conjunction with Southeastern Legal Foundation in Atlanta, one of the most established and well respected free market litigation groups in the nation. SLF will be represented by Kimberly Hermann, General Counsel for SLF. Prior to working for SLF, she was in private practice and an accountant for an international accounting firm.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Republican Bill Lee announces run for governor of Tennessee

Bill Lee
Republican Williamson County businessman Bill Lee has announced his candidacy for Governor. He has no prior political experience. He is chairman and former CEO of Lee Company, a construction company that employees 1150 people. He is running on a campaign of  jobs, education and public safety.  He has a personal story of tragedy and faith and has been active in faith-based charitable work and will likely appeal to values voters as well as pro-business Republicans. To read The Tennessean story of his entry into the race follow this link. For a Tennessean story from March when Lee was "close to jumping in the race," see this link.

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