Legislation to accommodate home-based businesses went down in resounding defeat on second reading at the Metro Council Tuesday night, giving a victory to opponents who argued the bill would threaten the sanctity of neighborhoods.
“This is just a bad bill,” Metro Councilman Carter Todd said before the council voted 21-11, with five abstentions, to defeat it.
At issue was an ordinance introduced by Councilman Mike Jameson that sought to update the city’s antiquated home occupation code to protect those Nashvillians, who unknowingly, are illegally operating businesses from their homes.
Existing Metro law already allows residents to operate businesses from their houses, but it doesn’t permit patrons to visit for business purposes. Thus, home-based piano teachers, architects and others who have clients stop by violate the law.
“We went through the zoning codes of every comparable city in the United States,” Jameson said. “There is not a single city in the United States that flatly prohibits clients and patrons on site.”
Jameson filed a different version of the bill earlier this year but withdrew it to get further input from citizens. But even after 11 community meetings, an updated bill with various safeguards approved by the Metro Planning Commission and promises to make further accommodations, the bill failed to overcome criticism.
“If you put lipstick on a pig, you’ve still got a pig,” Councilman Jim Gotto said.
Chief among the sticking points for council members was the question of whether installing a blanket policy over a city with different types of neighborhoods is wise. East Nashville is different than Donelson, the logic goes. Others questioned the assurance of enforcement of various stipulations within the bill. Some said approving the bill would set a negative trend of business intrusion into residential neighborhoods.
Jameson’s legislation also faced opposition from outside fellow council members, with several citizens speaking against it at a public hearing held prior to the council’s vote. Among those who chastised the bill were former council members J.B. Loring and John Summers.
“I dare say there aren’t but a thousand or so people in this whole county that realize even what we’re discussing here tonight,” Summers said.
“We’re talking about bringing a substantial number of people into the neighborhoods,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of concerns about unintended consequences.”
How they voted:
Ayes (11): Jerry Maynard, Walter Hunt, Michael Craddock, Mike Jameson, Erik Cole, Kristine LaLonde, Edith Langster, Emily Evans, Jason Holleman, Sean McGuire, Duane Dominy
No (21): Tim Garrett, Charlie Tygard, Ronnie Steine, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Frank Harrison, Jim Forkum, Darren Jernigan, Jim Gotto, Bruce Stanley, Phil Claiborne, Anna Page, Buddy Baker, Greg Adkins, Randy Foster, Vivian Wilhoite, Jim Hodge, Parker Toler, Sam Coleman, Robert Duvall, Carter Todd, Bo Mitchell
Abstained (5): Jamie Hollin, Karen Bennett, Sandra Moore, Erica Gilmore, Eric Crafton
Absent (3): Megan Barry, Rip Ryman, Carl Burch
In other business, the council approved on second reading a bill that would apply an historic zoning overlay to Sylvan Park's Elkins and Park avenues.