by Jim Ridley
In this morning's City Paper, Joey Garrison has a must-read piece about the clash brewing between city and state legislators over zoning control — a battle, Garrison reports, that has the mayor's office in conflict with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which is backing the General Assembly on the issue:
A trio of Republican-backed state development bills, pushed as efforts to “restore” property rights, has alarmed Metro Council members who allege the legislation would “gut” Nashville’s community-led zoning overlays that guide growth along corridors and in neighborhoods.
Mayor Karl Dean opposes the state bills, suggesting they threaten local control, a stance that has positioned him opposite of a usual ally: the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which is lobbying for the anti-regulatory land use legislation. Metro government provides the chamber $300,000 annually for economic development services. But on this issue, the chamber is pitted against Metro.
“[The mayor] cannot support anything that limits the power of local governments to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents,” Dean’s spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said.
The bills' sponsor, Rep. Jim Gotto — interestingly, a former Metro councilman — tells Garrison the bills are meant to stimulate "job creation" by stripping away what he says is a prohibitive regulatory tangle. But Garrison says the mayor's office sees it as the GOP-led General Assembly's latest assault on the self-governance of municipalities — specifically those located in Democrat-leaning Davidson County. City officials point to previous legislative salvos such as last year's override of the anti-GLBT workplace discrimination ordinance and a bill this session that would take away local governments' rights to set their own minimum wages.
Have Metro's zoning overlays become a headache for property owners and a block to business growth, as developers and legislators claim? Or is the legislature attempting to assert an unprecedented degree of control over the rights of Tennessee's cities to govern themselves, while punishing Nashville in the bargain? Read Garrison's story and let the debate begin.