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Nashville’s Zoning Bills for Middle-Income Housing Spark Contentious Debate

Nashville’s Zoning Bills for Middle-Income Housing Spark Contentious Debate

Nashvilles Zoning Bills

Nashville Metro Council faces heated discussion over zoning measures. A series of Nashville’s zoning bills aimed at easing barriers to middle-income housing stirred controversy during their introduction to the Metro Council on Tuesday.

The proposed measures, which include bills clarifying the permissible locations for duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, were deferred on their first reading by the council to facilitate community meetings. However, the decision was not without intense disagreement among council members.

Divisions emerged, particularly regarding two bills allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes. While some council members supported deferrals until April for thorough community engagement, others in sharp opposition advocated for an indefinite deferral—a rare occurrence during the first reading, typically seen as a procedural formality.

While the vote on revisiting the bills after community engagement doesn’t reflect support for the bills themselves, the contentious debut indicates a challenging path ahead.

Spirited Debate Surrounding Multi-Family Housing Bills

The most fervent opposition centered around two bills applicable to lots within Nashville’s Urban Services District (USD), covering the city’s highest-density areas:

BL2024-185: Allows attached duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes on single-family lots within the USD.
BL2024-186: Clarifies that duplexes are allowed on residential and single-family zoned lots within the USD.

Lead sponsor Evans Segall emphasized that BL2024-185 aims to provide housing options for diverse demographics, including college graduates, newlyweds, and downsizers. BL2024-186 aims to simplify determining duplex-eligible lots, addressing complexities dating back to a statute from the early 1980s.

Concerns Over Timing, Process, Infrastructure, and Character

Several concerns emerged during the debate:

Rezoning Reform Plan

District 3 Council member Jennifer Gamble advocated waiting for a rezoning reform plan expected to cover land use policy, infrastructure, multimodal transportation, and building codes. She labeled BL2024-185 as a “nuclear approach” without comprehensive strategic planning.

Infrastructure Capacity

Gamble expressed doubts about the Department of Transportation and water department’s capacity to support up-zoning the entire USD, as proposed in BL2024-185.

Tax Districts

Some council members questioned using tax districts, specifically the Urban Services District and the General Services District, to delineate zoning changes.

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Engagement Process

Council members Brandon Taylor and Courtney Johnston objected to the bills’ introduction, stating that public engagement and Metro Planning typically precede zoning change proposals.

Despite differing opinions, Council members agreed to defer further discussions to April, allowing time for public input and consideration of the contentious measures. Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell acknowledged the tension during the Council discussion and emphasized the need for continued development of the city’s “affordable housing toolkit.”

“This did seem to catch a lot of people by surprise,”

O’Connell said during a news conference, highlighting the importance of future engagement with various housing reports and development plans for Nashville.