Zoning, Zoning, Zoned

THE FIRST TWO MONTHS OF 2015 SAW the conclusion of lengthy deliberations about zoning ordinances that were generally supported but whose details needed further study prior to finalization.
     On February 24th, Council Member Burkley Allen (18 – Hillsboro Village) passed two companion ordinances that officially legalized Short-Term Rental Properties (STRPs), such as AirBnB and VRBO, in Nashville. CM Allen had been working on drafting those ordinances with input from residents, hosts, Metro departments, and state and other legal agencies for approximately two years. Eventually, CM Allen’s efforts led to two separate ordinances that addressed different aspects of legalizing STRPs. BL2014-909 amended the Metro zoning code to create Short-Term Rental Property as an accessory use in residential zoning areas so that commercial zoning is not necessary to operate an STRP in most cases. BL2014-951 addressed the Metro Codes safety criteria and the permitting process.
     These businesses had been operating in Nashville residential areas for some time and were becoming increasingly popular, particularly in East Nashville. At the same time, past efforts to pass ordinances permitting businesses to operate in residentially zoned areas — including recording studios — had never passed Metro Council. Therefore, many in Nashville remained skeptical about whether this effort would be successful.
     In East Nashville, Lockeland Springs Neighborhood Association president Elizabeth Smith helped to coordinate participation from neighbors and hosts in CM Allen’s process of drafting and passing these ordinances. As a result of Elizabeth Smiths efforts, East Nashville’s embrace of STRPs was communicated to the Planning Commission and Metro Council and those expressions of support helped to convince many Metro Council members to support the ordinance — many of whom represent other parts of the county where STRPs are not as popular or where there is much stronger opposition to businesses of any kind operating in residential neighborhoods.
     The fact that Nashville embraced the legal codification of STRPs made national news, as several other major cities across the country have passed laws to ban or limit their uses. CM Allen’s outreach efforts to obtain feedback and to research questions about the legislation earned high praise from other Metro Council members. Expressions of support from many East Nashvillians convinced skeptics that it is possible for communities and civic leaders to achieve an equitable consensus as new zoning issues and guidelines emerge during this period of explosive growth in our city.
     Another example of East Nashvillians working to pass legislation to meet our community’s needs occurred when District 5 Council Member Scott Davis passed a Specific Plan (SP) zone change that permitted Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs, also often called mother-in-law apartments) in single-family zoning areas in Cleveland Park and parts of McFerrin Park.
     Last years DADU infill housing ordinance (BL2014-769) that legalized DADUs outside of historic districts had encountered opposition from several Metro Council members whose constituents expressed concerns about increasing density in single-family residential neighborhoods. As a result of that Council opposition, CM Walter Hunt (3) amended the ordinance to limit DADUs to R-zoned areas, which allow single- or two-family homes on one lot, and specifically to exclude them from RS-zoned areas, which permit only single-family zoning. That exclusion of DADUs from RS-zoned areas was a condition of support from many Metro Council members in order to obtain the votes necessary to pass the ordinance.
     In East Nashville, McFerrin Park neighborhood leader Dane Forlines championed DADUs as a means of providing small, relatively affordable apartments in the rear yards of houses without changing his neighborhoods character. While changing an area from RS (single-family) zoning to R (singleor two-family) zoning would have permitted DADUs in the McFerrin and Cleveland Park area, that zone change would also have opened the area to the increased demolition and duplex construction R-zoned East Nashville neighborhoods are experiencing. In searching for a strategy to permit DADUs without also permitting duplexes, District 5 Council Member Scott Davis proposed a Specific Plan (SP) zoning area for Cleveland Park and parts of McFerrin Park that permits DADUs as defined in last years DADU ordinance (BL2014-769) while leaving the single-family base zoning in tact. This ordinance received mostly positive commentary at the Planning Commission and Metro Council public hearings and was finalized on February 3.

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