One of last night's council votes that passed under the mainstream media's radar was on the resolution that would exempt car washes from a previous bill that required certain businesses to get neighborhood approval. The council voted to approve the resolution on 2nd reading after a public hearing. One proponent, a vendor, spoke in favor of the bill; three opponents, including the White Bridge President, spoke against the bill.
Some White Bridge neighborhood leaders interpreted last night's exemption bill to be a means of sneaking previously denied businesses "in the back door." Council Member John Summers charged during the debate that that was exactly what was happening in one of his neighborhoods, which had rejected a car wash proposal. According to Summers that proposal came from the friend of exemption bill co-sponsor, Charlie Tygard.
For his part, Tygard argued that the businesses that could go into these commercial properties could be worse than a car wash (he mentioned over-21 video stores and halfway houses). And he argued that the car washes that were going in were going to be "upscale." He failed completely, along with co-sponsor Diane Neighbors or any other proponent of the bill, to address opponents' concerns about huge increases in traffic congestion. Summers stated during the debate that Metro Traffic and Parking would not commit to do anything to limit traffic overflow from the arterial streets into the neighborhoods.
At-large member Diane Neighbors apparently has her own public relations problems on this issue. Reportedly, she made earlier promises to neighborhood leaders about deferring this bill indefinitely. I have heard from a Nashville Neighborhood Alliance source that once again Diane Neighbors promised to defer this bill during last night's council meeting. However, after the public hearing closed she moved for approval (the bill will need to be voted on a third time at a future meeting in order to become law). Diane Neighbors gave no indication of motivation in her remarks, other than ex-council member and original bill co-sponsor Amanda McClendon never intended for car washes to be included in the original resolution providing for neighborhood support.
In my judgment, the absence of neighborhood leaders beyond the White Bridge Association allowed bill proponents to minimize and to marginalize the opponents of the bill. The council has shown itself to patronize business leaders at the expense of neighborhood associations. Yet, how many neighborhoods would welcome the congestion that car washes bring if they are given a choice? They had a choice--and probably their last opportunity--last night, and either the political will in the public is lacking or the larger inter-neighborhood alliances failed to mobilize their affiliates.
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