VOL. 133 | NO. 124 | Thursday, June 21, 2018
Council Approves 13-Year Contract with MRPP
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members gave the Memphis River Parks Partnership a 13-year contract to manage and operate the city’s riverside parks Tuesday, June 19, with a 10-year renewal option.
The MRPP, which until earlier this year was the Riverfront Development Corp., sought a 10-year contract with the city in order to promote the stability of the organization in drawing private and philanthropic funding for the city’s riverfront plan.
“I’m conveying what funders are telling me,” said MRPP president Carol Coletta. “‘Are we in full partnership with you to do this project?’ It’s a big project and we are asking them to invest big dollars.”
She said the donors and philanthropies are specifically mentioning the 50-year contract Shelby County government has with the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy to manage and operate the East Memphis park.
The council changed the proposed 10-year term to 13 years because that’s when the term ends for the Tourism Development Zone for the Downtown area. The TDZ produces most of the public money involved in the plan from sales-tax revenue generated Downtown.
Council chairman Berlin Boyd said he didn’t want to make it more difficult for future council members to change course if they felt they had to.
“For the sake of opportunities, I just want to make certain we have the wherewithal to make a decision and determination if we see fit,” he said.
Council attorney Allan Wade said the council still approves funding on an annual basis for the MRPP.
“Most contracts that we have are subject to funding and without funding, they don’t do anything,” he said.
The MRPP contract was one of more than a dozen items added to Tuesday’s agenda as city government worked to close the books on the fiscal year that ends June 30. Tuesday’s meeting was the last of the fiscal year.
The contract with the MRPP takes effect July 1.
The council also approved:
• $246,605 to fund renovations at the Orange Mound Community Service Center.
• $360,000 in funding for a loan to help a new grocery store open in the old Kroger location at Southgate shopping center that closed in February. The loan is for point-of-sale equipment only including cash registers and is part of a plan by Belz Enterprises, the owners of Southgate, to recruit a grocer to the location. Belz also is seeking a 15-year tax break that the board of the Economic Development Growth Engine was to vote on Wednesday.
• $909,402 to Memphis Housing Authority for “critical issues.” The MHA is running a deficit in its operations.
City chief financial officer Shirley Ford said the funding comes from various surpluses as the fiscal year nears its end.
The council also approved on the first of three readings Tuesday an ordinance that sets ground rules for “shared mobility” businesses like Bird scooters and Explore Bike Share. The council amended the first-reading version to include “trikes,” a kind of three-wheeled bicycle for adults.
It also gave formal permission for the administration to enact temporary rules until the ordinance is approved on third and final reading next month.
After an hourlong debate and discussion, the council delayed a decision on an appeal of a two-lot development on East Erwin Street south of the intersection with Princeton Avenue until its first meeting in July.
Some nearby homeowners are appealing the decision by the Land Use Control Board, which approved the infill development.
It is the latest dispute over infill development the council has fielded, including the approval of two historic districts in Cooper-Young and Speedway Terrace earlier this year.
Boyd said he was “on the fence,” adding that the controversy is part of a larger discussion about growth in development in Memphis. Boyd is a partner in a Midtown multi-family development on Madison Avenue west of Avalon.
“When your city starts to grow these are the heartaches that we have to deal with. The one thing that we need is more infill development opportunities throughout the city of Memphis,” he said. “We’re dealing with these historic districts. But if you look at the history of what happens to the areas beyond historic districts – property values increase, neighborhoods become more vibrant and successful and it creates more opportunity.”
Council member Patrice Robinson said she had questions about the balance between existing communities and new development.
“It’s so important for us to preserve the value of our homes, the communities in which we live,” she said. “But we don’t want to give up on those projects. What we heard the community say is they are afraid their community is about to change.”
Council member Kemp Conrad attempted to find a compromise in council chambers between developers and the homeowners opposed to the project. But the compromise got sidetracked when some neighbors said they were opposed to two homes on the lot while others appeared open to a setback for both houses similar to what exists in the neighborhood.
“I thought there was compromise going on,” Conrad said of earlier talks and then the turn to whether there should be two houses or one on the site. “I don’t know how you compromise on that.”