Council to consider tree density, noise, bike lane ordinances

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 1:03am
An ordinance aimed to increase tree density is taking heat from the development community. File

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.

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By: pandabear on 12/31/69 at 7:00

So Nate,why is someone 'left wing' because they want more trees and less noise ?If a bike lane is for bikes, then why shouldn't there be a fine for cars parking there ?What do you do for a living ?

By: ardillicphos on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I'm starting to realize that one of the City Paper's preferred tactics to get hits on their site is to cause some sort of controversy in the opinion section. The articles are starting to take on a slant based on political lines-- "left wing," "wingnut," so that those who comment can start a fight. By doing this, readers will come to this site in order to read the foolish drama that ensues in these comment sections. Why else would someone put a political spin on someone enforcing bike law lanes? I mean, come on. We have a huge mess in this country and you're putting a political spin on bike lanes?

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Mike Arnold: "We don't go out and bulldoze trees at will." That's a laugh. Compared to cities like Atlanta and Cincinnati, Nashville's tree canopy is deficient. It is most striking when viewed from the air-Nashville almost looks like a desert compared to other area mid-size cities.The bicycle lane ordinance is a no-brainer. The noise ordinance makes sense too. Perhaps even more sense in downtown where the sounds from different clubs come together. The tree ordinance will face opposition from people like Eric "Look at ME!" Crafton and Michael Craddock but it makes sense too.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 7:00

On the tree ordinance, which I have not read, I would hope that existing trees would count towards the total if they were viable trees (ie not dead already or killed by construction). This would discourage clearcutting, be less of a burden on developers and help preserve mature trees.

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Yeah the tree ordinance IS needed. They DO bulldoze down the trees and IF they replace them they replace with the Tree of Brentwood, the ever popular overgrown bush known as a Bradford Pear.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 7:00

...Which has a short lifespan due to 'overengineering' aimed at making it grow faster.

By: grapa on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I've tried not responding to this article but it rubs me the wrong way the more I think about it. I agree and have for some time with, ardillicphos, these staff writers must have quotas to spit out articles to fill space. The issue dealing with our environment and it's care deserves discussion but to add it with bikes and noise is questioning the intelligent of readers. Does it take inagination to understand why builders are against this ordinance. Parking violations should be set or enforced. And the floor vacuum cleaner? !!!!!!!!