Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods Endorsement

I am honored to receive the 2019 endorsement by the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund (NNFD) and the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods (C4NN). With members from 65 groups across Nashville, C4NN is the largest advocacy group for Nashville’s neighborhoods. The organization’s mission is to ensure residents have the tools they need to shape the future of their communities.

Below are my responses to the C4NN endorsement questions. Our communities deserve to be heard and to have a say in the future of our neighborhoods. The next District 3 Councilperson will shape major changes in the coming years – a review of Nashville Next and the Bordeaux-Whites Creek-Haynes Trinity Community Character Manual, Nashville council redistricting, and future developments in the 2nd largest district in Davidson County. District 3 deserves to have representation that will not only listen, but will show up to fight for our neighborhoods – not just the special interests of developers. I have been fighting alongside our residents for over 6 years at Planning, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and Council meetings. I know the system, and I have heard what residents want and don’t want. This is just the beginning of taking back our communities and shaping a future we all want to be a part of.

  1. When there is a conflict between what the developer wants and what the neighborhood is willing to accept, how will you resolve the conflict?

I fully support the efforts and input our neighbors put into the Nashville Next process a few years ago. Whites Creek had the highest number of neighbor participants of any community in Nashville, and I was one of those participants. For over 5 years, I have been working with neighbors from across District 3 (Whites Creek, Bellshire, Grande Villa and other areas) to keep developments within the character of the surrounding community. If a developer requests a change in zoning that is above and beyond the existing density and usage, then it is my responsibility to exhibit leadership and listen to the community. If through communication and transparency, an informed community accepts the proposal, then I will support it. If the proposal is not welcome, does not address the concerns of the community enough for them to support it, then I will not support it. I will always be open to discussion of any proposal, but I believe in the process that established the Nashville Next Community Character Manuals, and I support the preservation of the existing character in our neighborhoods.

2. Short-term rentals continue to be a major issue in many neighborhoods. Will you support the enactment of stronger enforcement ordinances and provide the resources necessary to make enforcement meaningful? Please explain your position.

Having spent decades in the field of IT, I appreciate the role of disruptive technologies and their potential beneficial impacts on markets that were not serving their customers to the best of their abilities. Having said that, enriched communities are bound in a civic fabric that requires participation, connection, and accountability. Often absentee or investor-owned STRs siphoned off homes in our neighborhoods that could have housed workforce households, or community stakeholders, leaving holes in that fabric. There may have been economic benefits for some, but short term rentals have caused issues in our communities that our city was not prepared to address. Owner-occupied short term rentals often cause fewer issues for neighborhoods, and when the owner is invested in ensuring that renters are quiet, clean, and do not disrupt the character of the existing neighborhoods, everyone wins. I support common sense ordinances with the resources for them to be enforced (funding for Codes Inspectors, fines for violations, fees for permits, etc). Nashville as a city has underfunded a wide variety of inspectors and enforcement positions – and I support budget or policy solutions to address STRs as a problem born of innovation that now requires more innovation to resolve.

3. Do you believe that members of the Metro Council should be able to accept campaign contributions from proponents of a rezoning or proposed project while that issue is pending before the Council?

Campaign finance in Nashville is due for serious reform in general. There is little accountability for not filing financial disclosures of donors as it is. I would support a limit on campaign donations from proponents of zoning changes, but they must come with the ability to enforce any new regulations.

4. Would you support a “blackout” period, similar to the General Assembly, on such contributions?

Maybe, but it would depend on the details of the regulation. Since many councilmembers fund their own communications costs (websites, email lists, robocalls) and outreach from their campaign donations and the council has a continuous legislative cycle throughout the year (different from the state General Assembly), any regulation that addressed donations would need to creatively target inappropriate transactional behavior. I believe that if we had more accountability in financial reporting throughout the legislative cycle, additional transparency through timely posting of reports, and stricter fines on not reporting, that some of the intent of a “blackout” would be met through other means. In the past, appointments to the Metro Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals have been dominated by people working in the development community.

5. Will you commit to advocating for more balance in appointees to the BZA and MPC with more members who are advocates for neighborhoods?

Absolutely. Nashville must have adequate representation in planning related governing bodies from neighborhood and community-based groups who do not stand to financially profit from aggressive development nor are beholden to the development community. We also need to provide more opportunities for non-developers to learn and understand planning and zoning codes, policy, and regulations in a meaningful way so that they are qualified to serve on such boards when appointees are being considered. (I have already done several education sessions with multiple neighborhood groups over the years to help people understand the zoning and SP processes, but we need more access to resources that help teach communities how they can impact development and hold developers accountable. I am willing to assist in any efforts to create a program to do these trainings city wide.)

5. Many residents believe Nashville’s development is out of control. Whole neighborhoods are being drastically changed, affordable housing stock replaced with larger expensive single homes or two residential units. Please explain your answers below. a. Will you support zoning policies that protect our established neighborhoods?

I fully support the intent of Nashville Next and the preservation of the communities and neighborhoods that have made Nashville such a desirable place to live. Nashville planning policies, codes, ordinance, and regulations have many gaps and sometimes conflict one another. We need to re-evaluate existing rules regarding the clustering of lots, the lack of transition parcels when adding density to a neighborhood, additional setbacks in areas of transition, and the green space and landscape buffer minimums or standards. There is room for more tools for contextual sensitivity, more conservation of our tree canopy and heritage trees, and preserving rural character or open lands. We also need to find ways to give neighbors more of a voice in the Planning/Zoning process. Two minutes is not enough time to express concerns about complex issues such as gentrification, community character, and many other topics. Notice requirements do not include a large enough area of those to be notified, and notification policies are dated. Nashville commits constant EPA violations, lags in infrastructure to address flooding, negatively impacts community character, and there are a plethora of other very valid issues that never seem to be addressed when approving new developments. More citizen education sessions on how Planning laws and regulations work should be available for neighbors and neighborhood groups to not only fight irresponsible development, but to help them attract the type of development they want. Creative ways to incorporate citizen feedback into meetings and staff reports can be added so that the community’s input is not just limited to email or a two-minute public hearing statement. Additionally, efforts to create affordable housing across Nashville should ensure that affordable housing is meaningfully dispersed into economically vibrant and diverse communities, in any district and any neighborhood. Finally, issues such as public transportation, traffic, and infrastructure all play a key role in making housing truly affordable for everyone.

5b. Will you ask your Planning Commission to review and revise current zoning regulations to protect our current housing stock?

Not only will I ask the Planning Commission to review/revise, but I will push them to do so. My family has already taken the Planning Department to court over following illegal processes by ignoring policy (CCM) when approving new developments with no zoning changes (Hudson, et al. v. Metro Planning, 2019 & 2019). We continue to fight for Planning to adhere to the intent of Nashville Next that states parcels without approved development concept plans should change the existing zoning to match the policy. It should be mandatory to review any zoning that is out of compliance with the existing policy before any new development concept plans are approved. In addition, Metro Council needs to be more informed/trained of the tools that they can use to protect existing communities from aggressive and dangerous developments. Requesting charettes, building community benefits agreements, using tools like urban design overlays, and ensuring zoning updates match policy – especially in areas that have not been updated since the 1950s – are just a handful of the ways councilmembers can help protect existing neighborhoods.

6. What are your goals/priorities as a District Council member?

My top priority is increasing communication and transparency. Neighbors need to be informed of issues/proposals early in the process and be given an opportunity to provide feedback before decisions are finalized. Most council candidates do not understand that 70-75% of their work will be to deal with planning issues, especially in the larger districts where undeveloped land is still available. There are such diverse communities in District 3 – rural, suburban, and even urban. Each has its own unique challenges and needs. I will work with neighborhood organizations, homeowners associations, and groups like Friends of Whites Creek to assess the existing policy and zoning in District 3 and work to preserve the areas that need preservation while working to revitalize other areas that have been neglected. Neighbors have already been identifying areas that need to be addressed – such as certain properties in the rural areas of Whites Creek that are marked as T3NE (because Planning did away with the Rural NE designation prior to the approval of Nashville Next – all rural evolving properties were listed as T3NE – and any property in a NE designation does not have the same rules/protections with boundary/transition parcels needing to be 70-90% of the size of surrounding parcels or have lots on existing streets continue the same general lot size as the established neighborhoods).

We need to address the major issue of gentrification in our communities. The people who live and work in Nashville – who make it the “it” city – should not be forced from their homes. I will work with affordable housing advocates to find creative ways to establish affordable housing across Nashville. Much of the infrastructure in District 3 is long overdue for repairs and upgrades. Many of our neighborhoods are in the General Services District and have long been passed over for capital improvements. Nashville needs to do better, and District 3 deserves our fair share of the prosperity that the tourist areas have been receiving for years.