Council advances land swap and incentives bills, defers studio bill

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 11:24pm

The matter of home recording studios will linger for at least two more weeks after the Metro Council delayed a bill that would effectively legalize them.

Toward the end of the council’s notably quick meeting Tuesday night, At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry asked to defer the bill for one meeting, citing a request from another member who wanted more time to talk about the bill.

While home recording studios are common in Nashville, the typical operation of one — with multiple musicians, and others coming and going in a given day — violates Metro Codes restrictions. Barry’s bill aims to right what many see as a blatant wrong in Music City, by making home recording studios an accessory use, separate from other home occupations. Earlier this month several council members expressed concern about portions of the bill, and Barry told the council Tuesday night that she was happy to allow more time to accommodate discussion.

The council also gave initial approval Tuesday night, without discussion, to a new incentives program for small businesses. The legislation would provide cash grants for small businesses that hire new workers and for those that invest in improvements to blighted properties in certain districts.

At-large council members Jerry Maynard and Charlie Tygard are both sponsors of the bill, which also has the backing of Mayor Karl Dean’s administration. Maynard said the two council members were independently researching the ways other cities were aiding small business growth, and eventually decided to work on the legislation together, before seeking the support of the mayor’s office.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Maynard told The City Paper Tuesday night. “It’s good to provide tax breaks for big companies, however, the majority of our new hires come from small businesses. So we have to do everything we can to help them grow.”

In other council action:

• Things got a little tense after Councilman Bo Mitchell asked to pull from the consent agenda a bill approving a land swap between Metro and the state, which would include the demolition of the old Ben West library downtown. Noting that Metro plans to lease part of the property it would receive in the swap — the former Tennessee Preparatory School site off of Foster Avenue — to a charter school, and that the city would give up valuable property, Mitchell said it wasn’t a “fair trade” and that the plan “makes no fiscal sense for the citizens and taxpayers of Davidson County.” He warned that the proliferation of charter schools would eventually lead to another property tax increase.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told Mitchell that “no one in Metro has a use” for the library anymore and refuted claims from Mitchell that the city had spent a significant amount of money rehabbing the building.

Councilman Jason Holleman asked whether there were any deed restrictions on the library property that might make the deal problematic. Metro Legal Director Saul Solomon responded that while the city and state recognized that there may indeed be some problems related to deed restrictions, they didn’t believe they would derail the deal.

The council eventually passed the measure on first reading with a voice vote, over one loud objection from Mitchell.