The left wing of the Metro Council flexed its muscle Monday by filing three noteworthy ordinances for the Oct. 7 meeting, including one piece of legislation that has already rankled Nashville’s development community.
The three separate ordinances aim to increase tree density throughout Davidson County, reduce noise from bars and clubs downtown and prevent cars from parking in bike lanes.
It’s the tree density ordinance, which figures to face the most opposition.
Sponsored by At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson, the resolution would require builders to include a required number of trees in their residential developments.
Metro already has a tree ordinance pertaining to commercial development, dating back to the 1990s. Residential areas were excluded from that resolution, but a study by the Metro Tree Advisory Committee, completed in May, said Davidson County’s tree canopy was too low.
The proposed resolution would require new residential developments to plant or maintain a certain number of trees.
“What makes it important is, if you look at the reduction of the tree canopy over the last 20 years, especially where they’re building huge new developments, they don’t replace trees,” Barry said. “And the reason why trees are important is in this town we have serious water runoff issues and air quality issues. It makes us a better community.”
However, the ordinance is receiving opposition from the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee, which finds the legislation unnecessary and costly.
“We don’t like it, we are not in favor of it and we don’t think it’s necessary,” association president Mike Arnold said. “Homeowners already plant trees.
“Any regulation is an annoyance. We don’t feel it’s necessary,” he added. “Homeowners plant trees and we restore the canopy. We don’t go out and just bulldoze trees at will.”
Downtown noise addressed
Jameson was also the co-signor of an ordinance aimed at placing noise restrictions on businesses in the downtown area — particularly bars and nightclubs.
The ordinance, co-sponsored by District 33 Councilman Robert Duvall, would place an 85-decibel level restriction (about the level of a typical floor vacuum cleaner) on sound heard outside of bars and clubs downtown. The current noise ordinance covers the rest of the county, but excludes the downtown area.
At its Sept. 16 meeting, Council amended the noise ordinance to state that “plainly audible” noise merited a fine. The new resolution specifies a specific level.
Chris Wage has lived downtown for 10 years. He said the bars and honky-tonks downtown needed to strike a balance with the new residents moving into the city’s urban core.
“For me, I figured it was a given that it was going to be noisy,” Wage said. “There are a lot of issues downtown that people seem completely oblivious to like noise and panhandling. You don’t want to be totally callous to that, because you want people to move downtown.”
Ordinance to clear paths for cyclists
Finally, District 7 Councilman Erik Cole co-sponsored an ordinance with Jameson and District 19 Councilwoman Erica Gilmore to prohibit cars from parking in bike lanes.
The issue has been a hot topic in bike-friendly neighborhoods like East Nashville. The ordinance would make parking in a bike lane a $50 fine.