4 Takeaways As Nashville's Metro Council Concludes Its Term | Nashville Public Radio

4 Takeaways As Nashville's Metro Council Concludes Its Term

Aug 21, 2019

After a couple of key votes this week, Nashville’s Metro Council concluded its four-year term. Many new members will soon join when council meetings resume in October. 

For the city’s elected leaders, the term was exceptionally busy — record-setting in terms of the number of bills filed and how many property rezoning requests the council fielded. 

WPLN’s Tony Gonzalez covered the term closely and spoke with All Things Considered host Jason Moon Wilkins. The conversation audio can be heard above. Here are four takeaways: 

1. The term will be remembered for massive struggles.

Although electric scooters have consumed a lot of attention recently, they hardly represent the past four years. 

Larger struggles for the council have been determining how to regulate short-term rental properties, charting a path for the future of the Fairgrounds, and debates over economic incentives for companies — which the council appears to be much less willing to approve in the future. 

At the final meeting, Vice Mayor Jim Shulman offered his list of accomplishments. Among them: 

  • establishing greater transparency for Tax Increment Financing deals; 
  • adopting new sidewalk requirements; 
  • setting “green” targets for Metro agencies; and  
  • eliminating so-called “jailers’ fees.” 

“We dealt with AllianceBernstein and Amazon and a Major League Soccer stadium, and Nashville Yards. We processed a record number of zoning bills and overlays. And we survived an unprecedented transition in the mayor’s office,” Shulman said. 

2. There was a record number of rezonings.

The defining challenge for the council was dealing with the speed of change in the city

Property rezonings, in particular, came through the agendas at a record pace — and proved to be a time-consuming slog for council members, as well as a frequent point of contention between developers and residents. 

Much of the tension has to do with density.  

On one side, developers and investors say the NashvilleNext master plan is often on their side in calling for more pockets of density in places other than downtown. 

But that’s on paper — and residents often fight back. Developments face resistance when neighborhoods or other businesses don’t want density near them. 

3. The Metro budget will remain tight, but the council will be more involved.

The past two years saw the council flirt with a property tax increase while worrying about funding cuts across Metro departments. 

Those difficulties could continue. 

One change under this council was a move toward a much more hands-on assessment of the city budget. The city’s charter puts a lot of budget control in the hands of the mayor. But the council has added more reporting and transparency requirements on the administration in an attempt to take some additional control of the process. 

4. A lot of new people are coming.

At least 14 newcomers will join the council. And depending on runoff contests next month, there could be up to 22 new members, out of the total 40 council seats. 

Their work begins in October.