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VOL. 133 | NO. 160 | Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Memphis City Council Could Take Final Vote On Historic Districts Oversight

By Bill Dries

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After a two-and-a-half-month delay, Memphis City Council members may be ready Tuesday, Aug. 14, to take a final vote on new rules for historic districts including more oversight by the council.

A vote on third and final reading of the ordinance was delayed in June so the sponsor, council member Kemp Conrad, could meet with all sides of the issue to come up with a compromise. The ordinance follows council votes to grant historic district status, with guidelines enforced by the Landmarks Commission, for the Cooper-Young and Speedway Terrace neighborhoods.

Homeowners in both neighborhoods sought the status, which provides specific guidelines for new home construction and renovations, in part because of concerns over infill development.

Historically there has been tension between past councils and past Landmarks Commissions over the balance between historic standards and modern living standards, such as fences and the positioning of garages.

In this case, the tension is over the balance between historic standards and new development in a robust economy, as lots for building new homes are in short supply.

The City Council would have the power, under the substitute version on Tuesday’s agenda, to “alter, amend or revise the boundaries of any historic district or zone it has approved or may terminate the district’s historic designation at any time.” That is if the City Council “determines that the purposes of the district have been substantially accomplished or that the operation, administration or existence of the district has unduly restricted growth and development of existing and compatible residential housing in the District.”

The proposal also provides for “periodic review” of historic districts by the council along the same lines.

The ordinance sets out “non-exclusive factors” the council can use to grant or deny an application for historic districts or zones.

Those factors include “the level of population growth in the proposed district over the preceding five years” and the racial demographics of the district as well as the number of building permits for new construction issued for each of the previous three calendar years.

The factors also allow for “any other factor that would justify the council exercising its extraordinary authority to impress rules and restrictions on the free and unfettered exercise of property ownership by property owners in the proposed district.”

Any application for a historic district that draws written opposition from at least half of the property owners in the proposed district “shall be declared null and void.” And the signature on a petition opposing the status from a homeowner who owns multiple pieces of property in the area is counted multiple times depending on how many pieces of property that person owns in the area.

Council members review and discuss the proposal at a 1:45 p.m. committee session.

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 council committee sessions earlier in the council day.

At the 2:15 p.m. executive session, council members hear recommendations for crowd control and security in the Beale Street entertainment district recommended by the Beale Street Task Force and the security consultant firm Event Risk Management Solutions hired by the task force.

The recommendations include new queuing and entries for crowds coming to the district during the spring and summer peak season that were tested in June and more discussion of possibly bringing back the cover charge after 10 p.m. on Saturdays.

The council first voted to cut the $10 cover charge in half and then abolished it altogether while taking control of the money collected over several summers by the Beale Street Merchants Association. Some of the money was used to hire the consulting firm.

In planning and development items, the council votes Tuesday on a construction landfill proposed by Blaylock & Brown Construction Inc. on Shelby Oaks Drive east of Summer Avenue. It also votes on a day care center for 45 children at 2538 James Road, west of Range Line Road.

The council takes first reading votes on two de-annexation ordinances for the Rocky Point and Southwind-Windyke areas. The ordinances could be the first serious challenge of the de-annexation moves by Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration.

The council approved the de-annexation of unpopulated river bottom land in southwest Memphis and the part of Eads that is within the city of Memphis. Both of those de-annexations take effect New Year’s Day 2020.

The Rocky Point and Southwind-Windyke proposals encountered opposition in council committee, which voted last month to recommend against passage of the two ordinances. The committee consisted of five members of the 13-member body and its vote is not binding on the full council.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751