VOL. 133 | NO. 146 | Wednesday, July 25, 2018
De-Annexation Plan Encounters Council Resistance
By Bill Dries
The Strickland administration’s proposal to de-annex two more parts of the city – Southwind-Windyke and Rocky Point – got bad reviews Tuesday, July 24, in city council committee sessions on their way to the first of three council votes in August.
The five-member council committee reviewing the two de-annexation ordinances recommended against full council approval at the Aug. 14 council session.
The committee vote is not binding on the full council but does indicate the administration has some work to do in convincing council members of a plan that involves supplemental tax payments by property owners in the areas starting in 2020 and including a second payment in 2022 to pay for the city’s investment in the areas.
“I am conflicted whether I am going to support communities that want all of the amenities of the city of Memphis but don’t want to participate in giving their fair share,” said council member Patrice Robinson.
Council member Martavius Jones said homeowners should have known the area would one day be annexed by the city of Memphis.
“If you want to blame someone, blame the real estate agent who pulled the wool over your eyes,” he argued. “Let’s de-annex Orange Mound, the people that are least able to pay. We’re talking about a community that is probably one of the most affluent communities. … This is like saying, ‘I want to sell my best performing stock.’”
Council member Frank Colvett, whose district includes the areas in both proposals, said the committee discussion and vote was an “early” reaction.
“Cordova and Southwind being where they are and let’s face it the tax revenue being what it is for the services we provide, I think there are a lot of questions we need to work our way through,” he said. “I think it’s time to have a good conversation.”
Colvett described sentiment for de-annexation in the areas as “by overwhelming numbers.”
“My goal is to look at what is the impact on Memphis, what is fair to the Memphis taxpayers, what is fair to those in Memphis?” he said. “This further goes to right sizing our city, going vertical with all of the land that we do have, collapsing our area a little bit to make our area more serviceable.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has said the city hopes the de-annexation decisions will at least exempt the city from still-pending legislation in the Tennessee Legislature that if it becomes law would allow residents to petition for de-annexation through referendum in areas annexed as far back as 1998.
The council approved two earlier de-annexation ordinances for the part of Eads in Memphis and a section of uninhabited flood plain land in southwest Memphis.
The southwest Memphis de-annexation drew minor opposition in the general area that prompted council member Edmund Ford Jr., whose district includes the area, to amend the minutes of the meeting where final approval was given to change his yes vote to a no vote. Such a change is permitted under council rules as long as it does not change the outcome of the decision.
Meanwhile, the council approved up to $15 million from city reserves Tuesday to move toward an every-other-week system of curbside yard waste pickup across the city starting in October.
The funding, requested by the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, also covers the $8 million additional cost to the city for private garbage pickup in about 20 percent of the city handled by Inland Waste, the company Strickland announced he was firing last week. Inland has the contract for a month before Waste Pro takes over.
City chief operating officer Doug McGowen told council members that the $8 million extra for Waste Pro is because Inland “seriously underbid” for the four-year contract that has about a year left in it. The rest of the $15 million will be to fill positions in the city’s solid waste section and buy new equipment to meet the demand of going to every-other-week pick up of yard waste. Memphians currently call the city’s 3-1-1 phone line to schedule a pick up that is supposed to take place within the 21 days following the call.
Still to come is an ordinance that would make the solid waste department a division of city government separate from the city public works division.
The council also approved an economic impact plan for the Parkside at Shelby Farms development on the northern border of Shelby Farms Park. Approval of the plan, which was approved by the Shelby County Commission earlier this month, is a requirement by the state for the creation of a tax increment financing – or TIF – district for public improvements in the larger area around Parkside. The TIF district uses an increment of the increase in city and county property taxes to finance the improvements.
The move drew opposition from former council member John Vergos, who was involved in the creation of Shelby Farms Park in the 1970s.
“I think it’s not a good use of a TIF,” Vergos told the council. “I think it places other developers in an area where they cannot compete because they are not being subsidized. … It’s also a project that will generate an enormous amount of traffic.”
Among the public improvements to be financed with the TIF revenue is a Shelby Farms Parkway.
“This same road project came before the council four or five years ago and was voted down,” Vergos said. “It’s not necessary and this project (Parkside) is causing it by the traffic generation.”
Jones voted no on the economic impact plan saying the TIF use should at least be delayed.
“Nashville has 168 TIFs on the books right now and if we approve just those before us we would be over $100 million on three TIFs,” he said of the property tax revenue to be used on the public improvements connected to those three projects.
Jones also said the use of TIFs is supposed to be aimed at blighted areas and that the Shelby Farms area isn’t blighted.
“I’m not against development. I just want to do so in a reasonable manner,” he said. “I think we need to have some rhyme or reason. I think we need to step back and reassess what our TIF strategy will be going forward.”
With no debate the council approved the administration’s plan for Fairgrounds redevelopment that sets the stage for the city to seek approval in the fall of a Tourism Development Zone from the state building commission to finance public improvements on the site. The TDZ would use an increment of city and county sales tax generated in a three-mile area around and including the Fairgrounds.
The council also delayed a vote Tuesday on the sale of a city fire station at the intersection of Lamar Avenue, Kimball and Pendleton for $307,000 to a developer who wants to build a convenience store-gas station at the site.
Council member Jamita Swearengen, whose district includes the area, said she was concerned about another convenience store with gas pumps at the intersection as well as the safety of a busy multi-street intersection.
The council approved the sale of two other pieces of surplus city property including a former police horse stable on Barksdale near Union Avenue for $406,000 to Lexington Asset Management. The Memphis company plans to renovate the circa 1910 two-story building and use it as the company’s executive officers. The second property is the former offices of the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development at 701 N. Main bought by Wolf River Harbor Holdings LLC for $452,500 as part of a larger multi-family development along the eastern side of the harbor.