Thursday, May 17, 2018

(Part 1) What happened at the Council meeting on 5-15-2018: Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan deferred.

At over three hours long, this is a long meeting. If you are going to watch it, it helps to know what is going on. To access an agenda, the staff agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link.

Since this is a long meeting, I am breaking this report into two parts. This first part primarily concerns the public hearing on the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan. While this plan may not be of interest to everyone, this is a big deal.

All mayoral appointees to Boards and Commissions are approved without dissent. There were several appointees to the Human Relations Commission on the agenda.

Public Hearing on the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan (Substitute BL2018-1139).

A new authority has been given to cities by the State to plan, facilitate and guide develop around

transit stops to encourage a certain kind of development around those stops and to give cities the authority to issue Tax Increment Financing bonds for improvements in the designated area. This would be the first time this authority has been used. The Donelson plan will likely be the template for when this is tool is used again, so it is important that the Council get it right.

This designation as a transit-oriented redevelopment district  would apply to the area around the Donelson stop on The Nashville Star line. This plan sits development guidelines and does a lot of different things. There is a lot of detail in the staff analysis for those who want to know more.

The plan sits aside $10 million in TIF funding for affordable housing. TIF stand for Tax Increment Financing and is the type of financing that has funded much of the gulch development and downtown. Under TIF, instead of the tax income generated by a development flowing into the city coffers it is used to fund development in the redevelopment area. The logic for this is that without the use of this tool the development would not have occurred in first place. At one time this made scene and was a tool for redeveloping blighted area. In my view it is being abused.

I believe this new transit-oriented redevelopment authority can be a good planning tool and approve of it. However, I do have concerns. A major concern is that this may give to MDHA the authority to condemn property and take it for redevelopment without that action going back before the Metro Council. MDHA has a long history of misusing eminent domain. You may recall the case of Joy Ford, who some years ago had to fight MDHA which wanted to take her small music business office to make the property available for a larger development. That is only one of many instances where MDHA has taken property which was not in any real sence "blighted" and and simply took the property so a larger concern could develop property that would bring in more tax revenue. I could not support any bill that gives MDHA condemnation authority. In my view, all use of eminent domain should require council action.   I am trying to get clarification of this point.

A whole bunch of people speak in favor of this bill and against it. Most of those speaking against say they are not really against it they just want it improved. One of those speaking against is former Councilman John Summers speaking on behalf of The Coalition of Nashville Neighborhoods. I often disagree with Summers but this time he raises several good points, one of which is that TIF money is not MHDA money and TIF financing diverts money away from the general fund and robs the city of the funds to support general services and instead gives that money to support specific developments. He says instead of giving MDHA control of the TIF money and letting them decide how it is spend, he says that each project seeking TIF funding should have to come back before the Council. I agree. (see timestamp 1:04:20 for his remarks)

Several people speak against the bill saying that while it will result in the development of some units of affordable housing that it will tend to destroy more units of affordable housing than it creates. Often people oppose the development of affordable housing in their neighborhood but no one argues against the bill on those grounds. Some speak against the bill, because the bill would prohibit the establishment of twenty-some types of businesses in the overlay district. The bill is criticized because development decision making would be shifted from the democratic process of a councilmen sponsoring bills to decisions being made by MDHA.  Action on the bill is deferred until June 5th.  To view the public hearing and council discussion of this bill see timestamp 34 - 1:28:35.

To read 20-page MDHA report on the plan, follow this link
To read the bill and the staff anallysis, follow this link.
Here is a link to The Nashville Business Journal report on this issue: What a development in Donelson means for Nashville's $5.4 billion mass-transit overhaul 
The Tennessean coverage: Donelson debates Nashville's first planned transit-oriented district.

Check back for the part 2 report on what happened at the May 15th Council meeting.

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