In a quiet meeting of the City Council, one Councilor’s motion to deny new parking was overridden by a vote of the suburban council members. Meanwhile, Mayor Holt’s redrafting of the controversial Greenwell Ordinance was passed by a 6-3 vote.
An item allowing a developer to create new parallel parking spots on NW 11th between Walker and Dewey in Ward 6 came on for consideration.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon* moved to deny the new parking.
Hamon cited the protest of Streetcar representatives at the Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting where this item was first heard.
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Along the route of the streetcar are several places with parallel parking between the curb and the tracks. If a vehicle is not far enough inside the parking spot the streetcar is unable to pass and has to wait for the driver to move the vehicle or for the police to send a tow truck. This is the kind of parking spot proposed on 11th Street.
When Hamon moved to deny the parking, Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher asked if she would prefer to push the item to the next meeting in order to hear from property owners.
Hamon said she wouldn’t since the developer is already building a private parking lot on the site. She went on to say, “We’re being asked to change public space. That’s our purview as the Council, we don’t need to hear from an individual developer to make that decision.”
Stonecipher asked the mayor if he could move to defer the item and Holt responded that there was already a motion and second on the floor. Holt called a vote on the motion to deny the parking which failed 5-4.
Stonecipher then made a motion to defer the item in order to talk with the private developer and property owner. That motion was approved by a vote of all white, male voters on the council.
The rift in voting blocs between urban core Councilors and suburban Councilors has become de rigueur at City Council meetings over the last few months, and it was again on display later in the meeting.
It has been before the Council and the Planning Commission twice. On its most recent review, the Planning Commission failed to vote to recommend the ordinance and it was returned to Council as “without recommendation.”
Since returning to the Council for review, the ordinance has been rewritten to clarify the language several times.
Last week Mayor Holt, who has some experience in drafting legislation, inserted himself into the process.
Holt wrote an amendment to the ordinance that stipulates that for a property to have a temporary designation for historic preservation when the majority of owners of the property do not consent, the item must come before the City Council and receive a positive vote of a simple majority in order to set aside the property from further molestation for a term of 180 days while further action may be taken to protect the site.
Mayor Holt begged comment from Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper. In a beleaguered tone, Cooper thanked the mayor for writing an amendment that compromised between protecting history and giving Greenwell and Stonecipher what they asked for.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice said that she still didn’t like the ordinance. It has been pushed forward by two Councilmen who have no historic preservation sites in their wards, she noted.
Nice pointed out that residents in wards like hers were the ones most at risk of being displaced by gentrification.
Cooper asked for comments from people in the gallery and nobody immediately stepped forward.
At that point Greenwell said, “Can we just vote on this? Haven’t we talked enough?”
Cooper raised his palm toward the Councilman and said, “I’m trying to hear the concerns of the public. I’m trying to listen.”
Greenwell replied, “And no one has come forward to speak.”
The three Councilors representing wards with Historic Preservation overlays – Cooper, Hamon, and Nice – each voted no against both the amendment and the ordinance in a move that was largely political, as the ordinance already had all the necessary votes to pass with the support of the 5 suburban Councilmen and the Mayor.
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*Disclosure: Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon and this reporter are married.