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VOL. 127 | NO. 139 | Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Council Sends Sales Tax Hike To November Ballot

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members added a half percent local option sales tax hike proposal to the Nov. 6 ballot in Memphis at their Tuesday, July 17, meeting.

The council approved the referendum ordinance on third and final reading.

And a proposed one-cent gasoline tax with revenue going to the Memphis Area Transit Authority was approved on the second of three readings. If approved on third reading next month, that proposal would also go to Memphis voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In other action, the council approved third and final reading of the amended Unified Development Code that covers Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County. However, there were some last minute amendments that might call for another vote at the council meeting in August.

The amendments include requiring the consent of all surrounding property owners or a seven-vote majority of the city council should local government propose a comprehensive rezoning of an area.

Gas pumps must be at least 125 feet from single family residential development and the distance requirement applies to any gas station vacant for a year or more.

A companion item given final approval by the council permits microbreweries in Memphis by granting an exception for them to the long-standing rule that places serving alcoholic beverages must do at least 40 percent of their business in serving food.

The council delayed for three weeks a planned development for multi-family at Tournament Drive west of Hacks Cross Road and a mixed-use planned development of commercial office uses at U.S. 64 and Collierville-Arlington Road.

A long delayed five year contract between city Park Services and the Memphis City Schools system in which MCS would manage and operate Halle Football Stadium was dropped by the administration.

The council approved a resolution urging the countywide school board to participate in an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to collaborate on the development of charter schools. The resolution urging action by the school board was sought by former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton who is working on a set of charter schools in collaboration with Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court.

In committee sessions, council member Jim Strickland caused a stir when he talked of exploring the idea of de-annexing the area of South Cordova the city annexed earlier this month.

Strickland’s comment was in response to preliminary city estimates that showed the city would lose money on the annexation. Later figures showed the city would come out slightly ahead.

The city’s finance division estimates the city would bring in $4.4 million of city revenue from the area with expenses to provide city services in the area pegged at $3.7 million.

The council approved the annexation of South Cordova in 2001. Two lawsuits followed delaying the annexation until this past May when the last of the two was dismissed.

The short notice of the annexation which became effective July 1 led to a stormy meeting at Bert Ferguson Community Center last week between upset residents and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and City Council member Bill Boyd.

Wharton said later he is exploring state legislation that would give residents of the area some relief from paying city property taxes due in approximately two months. Officials with the state board of equalization have already told Wharton the city cannot set a different due date for property taxes for the area. The legislation would involve some kind of grace period.

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