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Clarksville City Council Regular Session Report for July 1st, 2014

 

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – Due to the upcoming 4th of July weekend, the city council moved its regular voting session to July 1st. It was an interesting evening.

Ordinance 7 – 2014-15 (Homeless Shelter Distance)

This ordinance proposed to shrink the distance that a homeless shelter could be located from residential properties. Currently, the distance requirement is 1000 feet. According to map inquiries by the Planning Commission, there are only four locations left in Clarksville that would allow a shelter to be at this separation requirement.

There is no empirical data to say that this distance is the correct amount to maintain shelters from other residential properties.

Two other shelters, Salvation Army and Safe Harbor, are less than 1000 feet but were grandfathered because they were established prior to this distance requirement being approved several years ago.

The new requested distance is 500 feet. This ordinance was deferred until the next council session, based on a request by the Two Rivers Company. They had not been briefed on the concept and possible ramifications affecting the downtown area.

Ordinance 8 – 2014-15 (To Bee or not to Bee, that was the question)

I am not sure I have ever seen more distorted reporting and inaccurate allegations on an issue during my almost eight years on the council. I don’t know of any council member that was looking to outlaw bees in Clarksville. As with most zoning issues, certain steps have to be taking between the council and planning commission to change/adjust zoning requirements.

The basic facts are the state has few limitations on bee keeping and that is due to a variety of reasons. However, cities can manage beekeeping in relation to their zoning codes. Current city code had not provided any guidance on bees and an issue had come up that needed addressing.

An interpretation of bees as an agricultural process was used and by that method a 200-foot requirement from property lines was required. Of course bees are not animals and it became clear that a more defined process related to bees was needed. So from the 200-feet analysis, the declaration was the city wanted to outlaw bees, which was not the case.

Beekeeping has “Best Practices” in the state of Tennessee. In the “Best Practices” hives have to have some shielding or separation from any property line that is within 50 feet of the hive. Hives also cannot be placed with 50 feet of an established animal kennel/pen. Also, there are limitations on the number of hives based on lot size.

The folks that had contacted me were in favor of bees, but some did not want them on the property line for personal safety reasons. “Best Practices” allow for this separation, but they are voluntary guidelines. I know several beekeepers and they felt that no reputable beekeeper would do anything less than follow “Best Practices”.

However, again being on the council and having worked many issues for the public, I know that not everyone follows the law and local authority has to take action. With voluntary requirements, local authority has NO ability to take action against those who disrupt the lives of other citizens.

I met with some beekeepers and proposed that the city adopt the state’s “Best Practices” as guidance to handle bee complaints. Some beekeepers still maintained that there would not be any problems, but citizens that wanted to support the beekeepers wanted some assurance that “rogue” beekeepers could be addressed and corrected.

Some council members such as Burkhart and Wallace did not support any conditions basically saying the state could handle it and, if not, the parties that were having problems could take each other to court. We have few bee complaints, so why not be proactive with guidance to address those few complaints versus citizens potentially going to battle with each other.

The proposed ordinance from the Planning Commission basically called for having local jurisdiction to have no authority or requirements on beekeeping. I sat in on the Planning Commission meeting where there was little discussion or rationale provided by most commission members on this topic. The intent looked as if it was the city’s problem to address and the recommendation basically reflected that.

I amended the Planning Commission’s recommendation with the city using best practices as the code to follow. Reputable beekeepers would not be affected in the least and the occasional questionable beekeeper could be reviewed and corrected in terms of compliance with best practices.

The amended ordinance passed in a solid 9-yes & 3-no vote. I voted yes. I want to personally thank Mr. Jason Groppel, a local beekeeper and friend, for working with me on this effort.

Ordinance 1 -2014-15 (Funeral Police Escorts)

The council considered this ordinance a year ago. The policy put in place, at that time, limits the number of vehicles that a city police car will escort to seven. It did not limit the total number of cars in a procession, but they would follow all traffic laws and stoplight requirements. The police could add additional officers, if available, to provide coverage for longer processions.

This ordinance would require the police to provide the personnel and vehicles to cover any size procession, unless there was a dire emergency elsewhere that called for law enforcement resources.

The discussion went on for a while, both pro and con. In the end, the vote was 6-yes, 4-no, 2-abstain. It was determined that 7-yes votes were needed for the ordinance to proceed to a second vote, so it failed.

I abstained for the same reason I did the last time when this concern came before the council. I do not want to add a mandatory workload to the police department when the city has failed to maintain the staffing needs of the department. Current policy is the department will provide coverage if personnel are available. Our department has established a 2 officer per 1000 resident ratio to maintain adequate law enforcement coverage.

For the last 3-4 years the city has not maintained that ratio as our population has grown. In addition, on any given day officers may be off the street to appear in court cases, on vacation, sick, and in training. Additional officer positions may be vacant due to retirements or dismissals. I believe such escorts are an honor we should give, but only the chief of police and the mayor’s office know what the availability of police resources are on any given date.

Thus, this is a managerial decision that should be made by those in charge of the daily situation, until such time that officer resources have been increased to meet the full requirements of our city.

Resolution 2-2014-15 (Signage recognizing Heath Calhoun – 2014 Paralympic Silver Medalist)

Last Tuesday night I had the privilege to meet and shake the hand of Heath Calhoun at our council session. He is one of many heroes in our community who fought in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He lost both legs above the knees when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee. He spent nine months recuperating at Walter Reed. He has been an advocate for the needs of the wounded solider and helped with the passage of the Wounded Warrior Bill in Congress in 2005.

He became involved with many other activities to include cycling and skiing. He won a number of awards in sit-ski competitions and made the U.S. Alpine Skiing Team for the 2010 Winter Paralympics. He made the team again in 2014 and won the silver medal in Sochi Russia Paralympic Games in the Super-G Sitting Slalom. He lives in Clarksville with his family.

Starting about two months ago Councilmember Deanna McLaughlin contacted Mayor McMillan about placing signage at the entrances to Clarksville that would read “Home of Health Calhoun, 2014 Paralympic Silver Medalist”.

This was a fitting, short, but effective way to recognize a member of our community involved with so many things…from the 101st, surviving and adapting as a wounded warrior, working for wounded warrior needs, and showing that nothing can stop the desire to overcome and achieve and that champions come from all backgrounds.

What should have been about a ten-second evaluation of McLaughlin’s proposal for approval, followed by a 60-second phone call to get it done by City Hall turned into one of the biggest political sideshows I have had the misfortune to witness…at least locally.

For two months this administration ignored and/or delayed responding to McLaughlin’s repeated requests on the status and action to her proposal. With no indications of action by the mayor, McLaughlin brought the proposal to the council at the executive session for consideration and action at our voting session.

During the executive session discussions, the mayor stated she could not come up any guidance on how to do such signs, or how you rename a street (which was not the purpose of this request). She could not find any documentation on how the Rachel Smith signs had been accomplished or that TDOT had given permission. Then there could be issues with the state and the mayor did not know if all entrances were city streets or state roads.

Supposedly she had been talking with the Street Department on how the city could do this in a logical approach. After more excuses she stated wanted to establish a COMMITTEE to develop procedures on how this should be done. She also stated her delay in doing anything for two months had been due to the budget process…that we finished a month ago.

Councilmember McLaughlin stated that the Rachel Smith signs were accomplished because Mayor Piper instructed the Street Department to do it (What a concept!). She continued that the council has the authority to approve the signage and if TDOT’s approval is a concern, she (McLaughlin) would call them for guidance and approval (she did call TDOT later and they said if it was inside the city limits it was the city’s call to do what they wanted). McLaughlin stated Heath had been home three months and we did not need a whole new committee process to get this accomplished.

That was the end of discussions at the executive session on this topic.

After Thursday’s executive session and as news of the Mayor’s statements got around, emails, calls and Facebook accounts showed support for McLaughlin’s effort. There was considerable frustration mentioned in some accounts with Mayor McMillan’s usual bureaucratic excuses and delay over something that could and should have been done easily two months ago. Evidently, such displeasure must have been burning the mayor’s ears.

Fast forward to a Tuesday, July 1st, 4:36pm email from Mayor McMillan to council members – less than three hours before the council is to meet and vote on McLaughlin’s resolution. After two months of delay and stating only five days earlier that she has no guidance, no committee to tell her what to do, and is concerned over TDOT disapproval, Mayor McMillan has decided she will “one-up” Councilmember McLaughlin with a bigger and better resolution change.

The mayor will now have a bigger sign that states “Home of Heath Calhoun – Wounded Warrior from the 101st Airborne Division and 2014 Paralympic Silver Medalist” and have them placed at or near the interstate ramps. In ADDITION, she will have a portion or all of the 101st Parkway renamed in a manner that honors all Wounded Warriors.

The Mayor states she has now personally spoken to the commissioner of Veterans Affairs about the possibility of coming to Clarksville during the redesignation of the 101st Parkway (can you say another mayoral “photo-op” and news story based on someone else’s idea/work….again).

The council supported the mayor’s sign proposal for finally getting something done and to show support for Heath. However, in her zeal to outdo McLaughlin, she raised questions among some council members and several in the audience who quietly voiced displeasure over the mayor’s political theatrical antics and in wanting to change the name of the 101st Parkway.

However, this was a debate that could wait until later as the mayor had already made Heath wait until the end of the council meeting to address the resolution.

Some said that the section of State Route 374 named 101st Parkway is in honor of the soldiers and the decorated history of the division. Why would she mess with that? Several then went on to say what does she think the section of State Route 374 called the Purple Heart Parkway stands for? Does she not understand that the Purple Heart Parkway designation already honors our wounded warriors and those who died in combat? Good question.

Since the mayor made no mention of the Purple Heart Parkway, perhaps she does not know it already exists. Then again the mayor is talented in claiming other’s work as her own and just because there is documentation that a road named in honor of our wounded warriors already exists does not mean she won’t tell you it was her idea.


About Bill Summers

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