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VOL. 128 | NO. 35 | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

City Council Approves Fairgrounds TDZ Request

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members approved Tuesday, Feb. 19, plans for a tourism development zone to capture sales tax revenue in a large area for a renovation of the Fairgrounds property at first.

The boundaries of the zone go to the state for approval and city Community and Housing Development division director Robert Lipscomb said such a proposal could be at the state building commission in Nashville in April.

The council acted after the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. outlined its plan for Fairgrounds development and a TDZ that includes the Union Avenue business corridor and Cooper-Young as well as Overton Square.

Wharton said later that the sales tax revenue from the area would be used at first to finance the Fairgrounds improvements, but later for infrastructure improvements and to leverage private investment in other parts of the zone.

Wharton and Lipscomb also confirmed that their plan includes the demolition of the Mid-South Coliseum with the land it is on being used as part of a larger sports complex on the south end of the property. There would be retail, commercial and residential uses on the northern border of the Fairgrounds along Central Avenue near Early Maxwell Boulevard.

Both promised a more detailed development plan to the council soon with state approval of the Fairgrounds TDZ expected to take about three months.

In other action, the council approved on the first of three readings an ordinance that directs Police Director Toney Armstrong to consider charging protest and demonstration groups that get a city permit to gather for police services as well as whether protesters should be searched by police and whether such groups should be allowed to hold their protest at the hour and place they specify on their permit request.

The action is a response to Ku Klux Klan leaders filing a permit to demonstrate March 30 at the Shelby County Courthouse.

The ordinance by council member Harold Collins came after a day of consultations with city attorneys about whether the council should directly put in place such standards or leave that as a duty of the police director.

The council also approved on the second of three readings, ordinances to add the name of Ida B. Wells to Forrest Park and change permanently the names of Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park.

Two weeks ago the council passed a resolution giving each of the park temporary names until the council settles on permanent names.

The council also announced the formation of a seven-member committee to recommend new permanent names for the parks.

Council members Bill Boyd and Harold Collins will co-chair the committee which includes Memphis branch NAACP president Keith Norman, Shelby County Historical Commission president Jimmy Ogle, city Deputy Parks and Neighborhoods director Larry Smith, Michael Robinson, chairman of the African and African American Studies Department at LeMoyne Owen College and Dr. Douglas Cupples, history professor at the University of Memphis.

Meanwhile, the council delayed a final vote on a “property registration requirement” ordinance for six weeks after several council member tried unsuccessfully to table it indefinitely.

The ordinance which sets up a system of registering property owners for a fee in order to help the city better track down owners of neglected property, has encountered resistance from Realtors as well as the banking community.

Wharton said he has been meeting with the groups and has had the proposal redrafted.

But some on the council said they are hearing from business owners and property owners whom the city has not contacted.

“It creates a new bureaucracy,” said council member Jim Strickland. “It invites a lawsuit. We need to end it.”

After a motion to table failed, Collins amended the six-week delay to include a provision that if the administration doesn’t have a redrafted proposal ready in six weeks the item is considered dropped immediately without debate.

The council approved the delay with Collins’ amendment.

The council also approved the opening of the Whitehaven Golf Course along with other courses when the golf season opens at city operated golf courses next month. Whitehaven was one of four city golf courses the council considered closing. The other three will reopen in March as well.

For the second time in as many weeks, the council again delayed a $10,000 addition to Memphis Light Gas and Water Division’s Smart Meter demonstration program.

Council member Janis Fullilove moved for the second delay saying she had questions about reports of meter fires in other cities using the technology. MLGW president Jerry Collins said the reports of fires are the result of wiring and not the meters.

Council member Myron Lowery said the move to delay is part of an objection to the meters by others on the council as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local that represents utility employees including meter readers.

The Smart Meters allow utility meters to be read remotely instead of a meter reader going to a property to look at a meter attached to a structure.

The council also approved $2.8 million in general obligation bonds for infrastructure improvements connected to the expansion of the Nike plant in Frayser.

The council approved an intermodal container yard in Hickory Hill for the storage of the containers by The Marino Group which is working with Chism-Hardy Enterprises LLC on the new facility that will employ 94 people.

The planned development drew opposition from several homeowners in an area that includes some residential subdivisions as well as warehouse and distribution centers and other intermodal facilities including a BNSF rail yard.

And the council gave city engineers the green light to designate some on-street parking spaces to be selected by the Downtown Memphis Commission for car-sharing vehicles in a three-year pilot project. The DMC has no agreement with a car-sharing vehicle company yet and no specific parking places picked.

Council member Lee Harris questioned why the DMC wouldn’t charge a company for the use of the spaces.

Council member Joe Brown complained that there should be more free on-street parking for Memphis City Council members and other elected officials. Brown complained of not being able to find a free parking place recently at the Greater Memphis Chamber offices.

City Council members have free parking at City Hall. City Hall is three blocks from the chamber offices on Front Street.

PROPERTY SALES 61 262 16,169
MORTGAGES 28 132 10,054
BUILDING PERMITS 88 424 38,360
BANKRUPTCIES 36 92 7,564