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VOL. 127 | NO. 130 | Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Council Tests Auto Inspection Rules

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members have approved a financial hardship waiver that allows Memphis motorists who flunk the emissions part of their auto inspection to claim the repairs will cost them too much and get a one-year one-time-only waiver on the inspection.

The council approved the ordinance on third and final reading Tuesday, July 3, after amending it to allow citizens seeking the waiver to check a box that makes a general statement of financial hardship. The amendment replaces a section of the ordinance that would have required verifiable financial information.

The council also approved a temporary either/or requirement that allows cars to pass emissions tests if they either pass a test using an emissions wand or a test of on board diagnostics that is used on newer car models from 1996 to the present. But the council action wouldn’t take effect for two more weeks when the minutes of Tuesday’s council meeting are approved.

Before the July 17 council session, council members will get an update from the Wharton administration on its discussions with federal and state officials about what testing is required to meet emissions standards.

Fueling both actions was frustration by council members about inspection standards the city is now using that can result in someone passing the emissions test by either method but then failing because the “check engine” light in their car is on for some other reason.

General Services Division Deputy Director Antonio Anthony estimated 15 percent of the vehicles going through inspection are failing.

Council members argued the repairs to fix the light can cost a motorist thousands of dollars and the result is many Memphians are not getting their cars re-inspected.

City Chief Administrative Officer George Little warned the council it was putting at risk federal funding with the either/or measure designed to last for a two week period.

In other action, the council approved the resolution key to the construction of an Overton Square parking garage and a new Hattiloo Theater on what is now an open parking lot for the Midtown entertainment district.

The city will acquire and lease the land to Loeb Properties through several LLCs.

Two ballot questions for the Nov. 6 elections were advanced by the council.

A proposed one-cent gas tax city charter amendment was approved Tuesday on the first of three readings.

And a proposed half-percent local option sales tax hike charter amendment was approved on the second of three readings.

Meanwhile, a third ballot question won’t be going to the November ballot. Council member Kemp Conrad amended his call for a vote on a charter amendment to require the city go to a six year consolidated budget process. The city will move to the process by agreement of the Wharton administration without a referendum vote.

The council also started the count for buildings with barriers on streets and/or sidewalks. The ordinance that provides for $200 a day fines for every day after 14 days that the owners of a building have such barriers up takes effect with the approval of the minutes including that item at Tuesday’s meeting. The item was approved last month on final reading.

But its approval in the minutes of the last meeting in June was delayed for a review by City Council attorney Allan Wade.

It applies to buildings with no construction or renovation underway.

The council also resurrected a zoning item it rejected at the last meeting in June that would have allowed for the commercial development of a building at Bellevue and Smith in North Memphis that includes a billboard atop the building near a residential area. The council approved the zoning change on the reconsideration vote.

The council rejected a zoning change for a retail strip center at S. Perkins Road and Knight Arnold Road that would have included a pawn shop. The council rejected the zoning change and special use permit specifically for the pawn shop after council member Wanda Halbert said the area already has seven other pawn shops.

The council approved the conversion of the Kingsway Green mobile home park in Frayser to a RV and travel trailer park as well as a Frankie’s used car lot on Poplar Avenue near Merton Street.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 74 74 17,458
MORTGAGES 93 93 20,128
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 2,645
BUILDING PERMITS 126 126 36,072
BANKRUPTCIES 63 63 11,227
BUSINESS LICENSES 32 32 5,741
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 6,715
MARRIAGE LICENSES 51 51 3,967