Zoning, Zoning, Zoned

DEBATE ABOUT 2014’S MOST-TALKEDabout infill housing ordinance, the “Duplex Bill,” continued right up until the minute when it was finally approved by the Metro Council on September 9, 2014. The sponsor, Council Member Walter Hunt, had deferred the bill to allow time for builders and neighborhood leaders to discuss amendment proposals. The SepDEBATE ABOUT 2014’S MOST-TALKEDabout infill housing ordinance, the “Duplex Bill,” continued right up until the minute when it was finally approved by the Metro Council on September 9, 2014. The sponsor, Council Member Walter Hunt, had deferred the bill to allow time for builders and neighborhood leaders to discuss amendment proposals. The SepDEBATE ABOUT 2014’S MOST-TALKEDabout infill housing ordinance, the “Duplex Bill,” continued right up until the minute when it was finally approved by the Metro Council on September 9, 2014. The sponsor, Council Member Walter Hunt, had deferred the bill to allow time for builders and neighborhood leaders to discuss amendment proposals. The September|October edition of The East Nashvillian includes a description of the status of those amendment proposals as of late August. In the end, the builders and neighborhood leaders were not able to reach a definitive compromise agreement, and so Council Member Hunt brought the original bill back to be voted on by the Metro Council. Once again, a strong grass roots letter-writing campaign launched urging Council support of the bill was instrumental in its passing.
     The final bill, BL2014-770, requires that 20 feet or 80-percent of the building’s length, whichever is greater, starting at the front façade, connect attached duplexes. It requires that detached duplexes have a height that is no more than 1.5 times their width (to reduce the “tall-skinny” aspect) and that the height be measured from the natural grade, not the foundation. The bill took effect immediately upon passage.
     Note that building permits are valid for six months and that duplex building permits that were submitted prior to the date of passage are exempt from this ordinance, even if their permits were placed “on hold” and not issued until after the date of passage. This timeline means that non-conforming duplexes will continue to appear for several months, but construction should finish up by springtime. Duplex building permits applications filed after September, 11 2014 must comply with the new regulations.

Another countywide zoning ordinance pertains to the plethora of “check cashing” businesses that appear along commercial corridors like East Nashville’s own Gallatin Avenue.
     BL2014-908: Alternative Financial Services is a county-wide zoning text change ordinance that seeks to address the tendency of cash advance, check cashing, pawn shop and title loan businesses to locate close to one another on major commercial corridors. Council Members Jacobia Dowell (31), Karen Johnson (29) and Fabian Bedne (31) from Southeast Nashville sponsored the bill. The ordinance would clarify that the zoning code definition of “financial institution” does not include cash advance, check cashing and title loan establishments. Adding this language will help to distinguish between these uses and banks, credit unions and mortgage companies for permitting purposes so that approving zoning for a bank branch does not necessarily open the door to payday lending services, for example. The ordinance will also add a 1,320-foot minimum distance requirement between cash advance, check cashing, title loan and pawnshop businesses for future permitting purposes. While the ordinance would not impact current leases, it would require that new businesses in these categories could not open within a quarter-mile radius of existing ones in zoning areas where they are permitted. This ordinance was approved by the Planning Commission on October 23rd and passed into law during the Metro Council public hearing on November 4th.

Two Council District 5 zone change proposals have sparked discussions about another persistent Gallatin Avenue challenge: traffic at the Gallatin/Eastland intersection.
     The Planning Commission in August, along with the Metro Council in October, approved a mixed-use project that will bring groundfloor commercial space and 65 apartment units to the northeast corner of West Eastland and Bailey Street directly behind the Rite Aid.
     Another proposal across the street at 1034 West Eastland where Sophia’s Heart is currently located would bring another mixeduse project that would include ground-floor commercial space on West Eastland, over 300 apartment units wrapping a parking garage, a 17-unit townhome community lining an extension of Bailey Street from West Eastland to Maxwell Street, and an extended West Eastland turn lane onto Gallatin. Council Member Scott Davis hosted several community meetings and the LIV Development team met with the adjacent neighborhood groups to ensure that the projects represented desirable transitions between the heavy commercial use on Gallatin and the historic single-family homes that comprise the Greenwood and Maxwell Conservation Zoning Overlay districts. The Planning Commission approved the 1034 West Eastland proposal on October 23rd and the Metro Council public hearing is presently scheduled for December.
     Pairing these two large projects so close to the Gallatin/Eastland intersection has fueled speculation about what traffic improvements to that intersection Public Works might recommend. Details of those final recommendations are not available at press time; however, it appears that exercising eminent domain to route a “straightened” Eastland through the Rite Aid property is not feasible. Discussions with affected property owners are in process about widening a portion of Gallatin Avenue near Eastland to permit more turn lanes. The traffic signal at Gallatin and Eastland will also likely be radically reconfigured. Stay tuned!

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