Written by Brian Zacharias
Clarksville City Council – Ward 1
Clarksville, TN – I hope this newsletter finds everyone well. Please read below for some information about the recent executive session of the Clarksville City Council and upcoming events.
The Clarksville City Council held its monthly executive session to learn about and discuss the ordinances and resolutions that will appear before the council for a vote during the regular session on February 3rd.
I included a section below that explains some of the terminology that I use in these newsletters. If anyone has any other questions about how the city council works, or why things happen the way they do, please get in touch with me!
One of my goals, both as a U.S. Government and Civics teacher and as a member of the city council, is to educate and get people to participate in the political process, especially in local government!
The executive meeting is held on the last Thursday of the month. During this meeting, any ordinances and resolutions that the Council is going to have to vote on are presented to the council, along with any background information that may be helpful for the council members as they decide how they are going to vote.
During this meeting, it is common for the director of the Regional Planning Commission to present a list of zoning applications that they have received and require a decision by the city council. The chairpersons from each of the city’s standing committees also present any ordinances or resolutions that have originated in their committees and require a vote from the full council.
This meeting is more informal than the regular session and is meant to be informational. No votes are cast during this meeting, but that does not mean this isn’t an important meeting. This meeting marks the start of the time the council members have to research the issues and solicit feedback from the people we represent.
This is the reason I try to get out a newsletter after the executive session. If there is an issue that the people of Ward 1 feel strongly about, I need to know so I can speak on your behalf at the following week’s regular session.
The regular meeting is held on the first Thursday of the month. This is a more formal meeting, where votes are cast by the members of the city council, which includes the mayor. During the regular meeting, there is an “open session” where residents are allowed to speak for up to five minutes, either for or against, about a zoning application that appears on the agenda for that meeting.
Once the open session is complete, the meeting moves into a closed session and members of the council have the opportunity to speak in favor or in opposition of a zoning application before votes are cast. The city council will also cast a single vote for or against the consent agenda. The consent agenda includes all ordinances that have already passed the first reading and may include some resolutions.
All items on the consent agenda are considered non-controversial, routine business, and voting on them at once is generally more efficient than taking individual votes for each. In order for an ordinance to appear on the consent agenda, it must have already passed on first reading. Likewise, any council member can pull an item from the consent agenda if they feel it warrants additional discussion or debate.
Ordinance vs. Resolution
The terms ordinance and resolution have distinct meanings. An ordinance is a permanent local law that is adopted by the city. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated (often abbreviated TCA), tax levies, special assessments, regulatory measures, and anything meant to be permanent in nature must be passed via an ordinance, though not all ordinances are new laws.
Oftentimes, especially when it comes to zoning issues, the ordinance is merely amending an existing law. The Clarksville City Charter says that all ordinances must pass twice, during two separate votes.
A resolution is a “mere expression of the opinion of the mind of the City Council concerning some matter of administration” and is temporary in nature. Resolutions are appropriate when making appointments to committees or commissions, requesting action by another governmental organization, or when the council wants to give its position on a specific issue. A resolution only needs to pass a single vote in order to be adopted.
There is an elephant in the room, and its name is Ross Farms. To all the concerned residents who have emailed me in opposition of the proposed 903-home subdivision, I want you all to know that I hear you.
Unfortunately, this project has progressed beyond the point where the city council has a vote. I recognize that the Exit 8 area and Rossview Road are developing rapidly and I have consistently voted and will continue to vote against rezoning applications that would bring increased population density to this area until we know the current infrastructure can handle it.
I have said many times before, I don’t think any part of Clarksville should be considered off-limits for development forever, but I do think there are parts of Clarksville that we should hold off on further development for now. Needmore Road, Tiny Town Road, and Rossview Road all fall into that category. All three of these high-traffic areas already have multiple development projects in various stages of progress.
I believe it would be wise to wait until we see the effects of those projects before we approve more. I know there are people who receive this newsletter that does not live in Ward 1, and I am asking you all to reach out to your representatives on the city council. A single email to your elected official is worth ten comments on social media!
Short Term Rentals in Clarksville
The item on this month’s agenda that generated the most discussion was an ordinance to amend the portion of the city code that regulates short-term rentals in Clarksville. Short-term rentals have become a popular alternative to hotels and are an attractive option for traveling families who would prefer to have individual rooms for kids or for solo travelers who are happy to spend the night in someone’s spare bedroom.
This is one of those issues that is more complicated than it appeared to me at first glance. After listening to the discussion on Thursday, I have a better understanding of why these prohibitions were initially included in the short-term rental ordinance. At the same time, I believe that property owners should retain certain rights when it comes to what happens on their property.
In this situation, I think the best answer is a compromise between the sides. A total ban on all commercial and food-service activities in short-term rentals seems overly restrictive, while a free pass to conduct any of these types of activities seems unwise as well. I think the answer lies in allowing commercial and foodservice activities that would normally be allowed on the property, in accordance with applicable zoning and health department regulations.
I hope to be able to offer an amendment to the proposed ordinance at next Thursday’s meeting that satisfies both sides of this debate.
Local Tax Rebates for Eligible Residents
At this month’s executive meeting, Montgomery County Trustee Kimberly Wiggins explained several tax relief programs for residents of Clarksville and Montgomery County. Seniors, disabled veterans, and those receiving SSA or SSI benefits may be eligible for tax relief or rebates from real estate and wheel taxes.
Please click the buttons below for more information!
Past and Future Votes
Transparency in government, especially local government, is extremely important to me. At any time, anyone can click the ‘Votes’ button to see my complete voting history as well as ordinances and resolutions on the City Council’s agenda for consideration in upcoming meetings.
What Has Your Councilman Been Doing?
January 18th, 2022 – Elected Officials Academy
January 20th, 2022 – Elected Officials Academy
January 25th, 2022 – Finance Committee Meeting. Elected Officials Academy
January 26th, 2022 – Airport Authority Meeting
January 27th, 2022 – City Council Executive Session, Elected Officials Academy
What Is Your Councilman Going To Be Doing?
February 3rd, 2022 – City Council Regular Session
February 7th, 2022 – Neighborhood & Community Services Committee Meeting
February 22nd, 2022 – Finance Committee Meeting
February 24th, 2022 – City Council Executive Session