VOL. 132 | NO. 102 | Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Council Faces Railgarten, Beale Bucks, Police Overtime
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members have a rare evidentiary hearing Tuesday, May 23, at the top of their agenda on an unusual development case the council approved several months ago.
The council holds an evidentiary hearing on the Railgarten bar and restaurant on Central Avenue east of Cooper Street that the council granted a special use permit for. The council moved to possibly revoke that permit after Railgarten added some intermodal containers and an outside area to the development.
Owners of the project are expected to tell the council they have now secured parking agreements on neighboring property and are using a valet parking service to reduce a problem that has drawn the ire of some neighbors.
Among many agenda items Tuesday, May 23, the Memphis City Council will vote on whether to retain the Beale Street Bucks program for crowd control. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
The hearing will determine whether council members accept that remedy or continue to have questions about whether Railgarten was trying to get around council approval for the entire project.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day.
In committee sessions, much of Tuesday morning will again be taken up with city budget hearings. The council votes Tuesday afternoon on the second of three readings for a set of five ordinances that set the property tax rate, various fees and the city budgets – operating and capital – for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The council also votes Tuesday on recommendations by six separate impasse committees that seek to reconcile contract disputes between the city administration and six unions.
The council could approve 1 percent pay raises for all employee groups in an amended city operating budget. The council’s recent decision to cut $2.7 million from the Memphis Police Department’s overtime line item was done with the intent of using that money to fund such a pay raise.
The council discusses police overtime Tuesday at an 11:20 a.m. committee session.
Up for third and final reading Tuesday is an ordinance that moves inspection responsibilities in the city’s anti-neglect ordinance from the Memphis Fire Department to the Public Works Division. Also up for final reading is a three-year trial anti-blight grant program and the Pinch District Concept Study that sets guidelines for what would be a dramatic change in the nine-block area between the Pyramid and the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The council also votes on a resolution that would suspend the Beale Street Bucks program – the $10 cover charge Beale Street merchants charge on some spring and summer Saturday nights as a crowd control measure. For the charge, patrons get $7 in coupons to use at Beale Street businesses. Council members will discuss the proposal by council members Martavius Jones and Jamita Swearengen in an 11:45 a.m. council committee session.
The cover charge is the subject of a pending federal lawsuit that claims it is aimed at limiting the number of black citizens in the district. Downtown Memphis Commission director Terence Patterson has denied any racial discrimination and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has defended the Bucks program as a necessary measure.
“Simply put, it’s a proven program that has made Beale Street safer,” Strickland wrote in his weekly newsletter May 12. “Why would we want to take that away?”
The council delayed a vote on the matter two weeks ago.
The council voted earlier this year to abolish the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority that a previous council approved in late 2015.
The council also discusses $700,000 in capital funding at a 1:20 p.m. committee session that could signal a start to work on the long-delayed Cobblestone Landing project by the Riverfront Development Corp.
The capital funding already in the current city budget is the local match for work on the railroad crossing at Court Avenue and Riverside Drive, specifically to make it compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The plans are in Nashville going through final review,” said Riverfront Development Corp. president Benny Lendermon. “We don’t think there are any issues at all.”
Still being worked out is when the project can go to bid. That could be as soon as early summer.