City Council Approves Amended Property Registry

By Bill Dries

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. won a partial victory in his emphasis on fighting blight with final Memphis City Council approval Tuesday, April 2, of a property registration ordinance.

But the council amended out a provision in the ordinance that would have required the registration of all property. What is left is a registry of vacant and abandoned property where property taxes are delinquent and code enforcement finds violations.

Most on the council agreed such a registry was too onerous and not effective in and of itself in fighting blight, which Wharton has made a major initiative of his administration.

The council and administration each delayed votes on the ordinance since last year as Wharton met with bankers and property owners opposed to the provisions. In some cases there was compromise, but the council heard from a group of 15 citizens on both sides of the issue.

Those citizens represented the divide between community and neighborhood redevelopment groups who say the city should take a first step toward a registry at least and property owners and bank executives who argued the registry has no real effect other than to create a bureaucracy.

The registry specifically for vacant properties not being kept up was still the subject of vigorous council debate Tuesday, April 2, with the administration getting just the seven votes needed for passage.

In other action, the council delayed until its first meeting in July final votes on an ordinance setting a late summer or fall referendum on a citywide sales tax hike and a resolution designating what the revenue will be used for. The latest delay for both measures means the city will be into the new fiscal year that begins July 1 before the sales tax hike would take effect if it is approved for the ballot and if city voters approve it on the ballot.

The council also delayed Tuesday a final vote on an ordinance that would establish a local preference in the awarding of city contracts that includes a preference for those local companies that have workforce training programs.

Meanwhile, the council approved a special use permit for converting the old Memphis Slim house at 1130 College Street at McLemore Avenue in Soulsville into a neighborhood arts center. Eric Robertson of Community Lift, the group undertaking the center, said the next step is to assess how much renovation the structure will need.

The council approved a planned development for the Casablanca restaurant in Midtown at 2250 Central Avenue at New York Street. The building on the current site will be demolished for a new structure.

The council gave the greenlight to a Budget Rent-A-Car business at Poplar Avenue and Racine Drive in East Memphis as well as a used car lot and car wash at 1674 Delano Road in Frayser at the northwest corner of Delano and North Watkins Street.