Thanks to effective roll-out of the vaccine, Nashville is re-opening for business! As of May 14, all Covid-19 related business restrictions except the indoor mask mandate will be lifted, and businesses can operate at full capacity. The Metro office of special events has already seen a rush of applications for reviving many of Nashville’s traditional gatherings, including the July 4 celebration. It is still important to wear masks inside and in crowded spaces to protect those whose are not vaccinated, like our children, but we can begin to return to normal. I am so appreciative of the Metro Health Department for creating an efficient and effective vaccination process. The Music City Center vaccination location will close at the end of May, but vaccines will still be available at the former K-Mart site at 2491 Murfreesboro Pike and increasingly at many drug stores and doctors’ offices. Appointments can be made by calling 615-862-7777 or online, but walk-ins are also taken. Vaccines are free in many places and have been determined to be safe and effective for anyone over the age of 12.
Metro property owners have just received their 2021 Property Value Reassessments. State law requires a reappraisal every four years to take into account different growth rates throughout the county, and to redistribute tax payments accordingly. County-wide the average increase in property values since the last assessment in 2017 is 34%. The attached heat map shows how those increases were spread out around the county. Highest increases were seen in the northeastern half of the county. The district range was from 20% in District 24 around Sylvan Park to 51% in District 2 including Bordeaux and West Trinity Lane. Because state law requires that the city can’t receive a windfall from the reappraisal, the tax rate will be adjusted downward, and many properties in the districts that appreciated less than the county average will see a decrease in taxes owed. Those in the more appreciated areas will see an increase in taxes, but it will be a lower percentage than the property value increase. Property owners who feel that the reassessment is incorrect or who can provide information about loss of income that may lower an assessment, can appeal here. There are deadlines for each phase of the appeal process beginning with May 21 for the informal appeal.
There are tax relief programs available for property owners at certain income levels and in certain zip codes. The trustee operates Metro’s tax freeze and tax deferral programs with information available at the Office of The Trustee website. The Housing Fund has created a Housing Resiliency Fund to support existing low-to moderate-income homeowners residing in following seven (7) zip codes: 37013, 37206, 37207, 37208, 37211, 37216, and 37218. The Housing Fund will build on an initial donation from Amazon to fund the program in order to attract additional sources from philanthropic organizations. Applications for tax help will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Participants must have an annual household income below 120% of the area median income (AMI) to participate. This means $98,800 for a family of four or $69,150 for an individual. Participants must own their home and have lived in their home prior to January 1, 2020. The fund pays the difference between taxes after the most recent increase.
The Metro Budget was laid out to the public at the Mayor’s State of Metro address on April 29. This year is expected to be a rebuilding year with additional funding from the American Rescue Plan to help cover remaining costs from last year’s pandemic. Revenues are expected to move back toward normal as the tourist economy picks back up, and that will enable Metro to begin to fill positions that have been frozen for the past three years. The school budget is fully funded, Public Works will fill positions to improve traffic management and traffic calming, and additional funds will be made available to help preserve and increase Nashville’s affordable housing stock. For the first time in several years all employees will get cost of living increases and the possibility of merit increases. The budget presentation can be seen at the Nashville.gov website.
I am working with council members from East Nashville, North Nashville, and downtown on a proposed DADU overlay bill. BL2021-620 would create a new type of overlay similar to historic overlays or urban design overlays that an area could apply for if it wanted to allow “mother-in-law” cottages (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit) in back yards while still prohibiting duplexes. This kind of overlay would be possible only in the inner core of the city known as the UZO, and it would not allow Short Term Rental use in the newly built DADU’s. The zoning code already allows DADUs in areas where duplexes are allowed and spells out design guidelines limiting size, height, and location on the lot. The DADU can have a maximum 700 square foot living space, and a footprint maximum of either 750 or 1000 square foot depending on the lot size. Height must be less than the principal structure’s. The DADU must be behind the principal structure with minimum lot setbacks of three to ten feet. The bill itself does not change any property in Nashville; it only creates a tool that neighbors, working with council their member, can decide to use to create more housing options in a specific area. Adopting a DADU overlay for an area would require notification to every property in the proposed overlay, community meetings, Planning Commission and Metro Council public hearings, and three readings before the Metro Council. Where adopted, this could provide new options for those who are being pushed out by Nashville’s rising housing prices, including Nashville’s service workers, teachers, creatives, and retirees. This will be on third reading on May 18.
The council is continuing to refine several pieces of License Plate Reader (LPR) legislation first introduced back in December. Currently Metro law prohibits operating LPR technology on public right of way. The new legislation was introduced in response to several issues, such as difficult-to-prosecute drag racing on public streets in the Antioch area, and increases in car related thefts in neighborhoods. BL2020-481 would allow LPRs only within police cars. BL2020-582 would allow LPR’s on public right of way for a broader category of uses but spells out more specifically how data should be protected and puts in place an oversight and audit requirement to prevent abuse of data for uses other than solving specific crimes. The Public Safety, Public Works, and Personnel Committees have held multiple special sessions to learn about the technology, the civil liberties risks, and safeguards other cities have put in place to prevent abuse of data. Those meetings can be viewed on Metro’s Youtube channel. Public input is welcome on this very complicated topic. With a robust discussion we may be able to create a way to balance safety and privacy. These bills will be back before the council May 18.
Metro Public Works has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire a vendor to assist in implementing a Parking Modernization program. This is very different from a long-term privatization that many people have expressed opposition to. This would be a five-year program, and Metro would still maintain ownership and control of all parking meters. Parking rates would still be set by the Metro Traffic and Parking Commission. The key component is to work with an industry expert to convert from coin meters to smart meters or kiosks that could also communicate with parking apps to guide drivers to open meters and allow drivers to add time to meters remotely. The goal of an effective parking program is to ensure that there is parking available for patrons of downtown businesses. The current system of coin operated meters enforced by four staff members has allowed many cars to occupy metered spaces all day long without paying and without consequences, leaving actual customers with no place to park. The RFP will enable Metro to bring our parking infrastructure into the 21st century and to train Metro employees to effectively enforce it.
The deadline to get a Real ID, which will be required to travel by airplane, has been rescheduled again, this time from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023. ID’s can be obtained at Davidson County’s full service driver service centers on Hart Lane or Hickory Hollow Parkway and downtown at the Express Center. At least four pieces of identification are required - proof to establish citizenship or legal presence, proof of your full Social Security Number, two proofs of Tennessee residency. You should also be prepared to provide documentation of any name changes that may have occurred. You can go on-line and see where wait times are not long before choosing where to make your appointment. More information is available at the TN.gov website.
I hope everyone is enjoying being able to get out and mingle again. Get your vaccine and encourage others. Please let me know what is on your mind at email@example.com or 615-383-6604
Metro Council At-Large