Sunday, May 19, 2019

Want to Rent an Apartment in Germantown? Come on Over!

I welcome all new inhabitants to the City. I was one myself a short five years ago, when we downsized and purchased a condominium in Germantown after many years of living in Memphis. We chose a condo over an apartment because there is not a landlord controlling the rent, but for many people renting is the best option. In fact, one of the reasons that we chose Germantown is that a friend of mine at one time lived at Bridges at Germantown, and I came to love the proximity to the Greenway.

Of course we need apartments in Germantown. News Flash! We have them. Another News Flash! There are plenty of openings! 

That may not be news to you, but it would be news to Tonyaa Weathersbee, who in a Commercial Appeal article used convoluted logic to argue that because a family she knows could not find a three bedroom house they wanted to buy (in Memphis, mind you), the Germantown apartment moratorium should be allowed to end.

There may or may not be a shortage of three bedroom homes in Memphis, but one thing is for sure--there is NO shortage of available apartments in Germantown. In fact, Thornwood is resorting to having open houses, food trucks, and incentives to try to lease brand new apartments in an ideal location in the center of the city!

The City is fortunate that most of the apartment complexes here are nicely kept and attractive. I am going to link their websites here so that it will be a handy guide for anyone who wants to rent an apartment in Germantown. Check out the openings, and then try to make the argument that we need more apartments in the City!  Tonyaa definitely needs to get up to speed on our apartment situation here. Tell your friends and acquaintances to come visit and they can probably move in tomorrow. And this is all with the apartment moratorium firmly in place!

The Vineyards  Great location west of Germantown Road on Wolf River Parkway, you will have a choice of fifteen apartments that are listed as being available.

The Retreat  These attractive apartments are near the corner of Germantown Road and Wolf River Boulevard. Their website says, "Move in TODAY". Nice to know if you need to rent an apartment immediately!

Bridges at
/Germantown  You can use the crosswalk by this complex for access to the Greenway. You can search for available floor plans and you have no shortage of choices.

Farmington Gates. These have the advantage of being right on Poplar, and within walking distance to restaurants and other business establishments. What better way to celebrate Germantown's walkability? Not only that, they are newly renovated!  Please hurry as there is a web coupon you can use for the next 12 days. (note to Tanyaa: web coupons are not generally associated with shortages).

Westminster Townhomes  There are rumors of possible redevelopment of these townhomes at Poplar and Kirby, and something seems to have happened to the website (???).

Thornwood  What can I say? If you want a place where everything is included then this is your spot! I haven't checked if concierge service means they will bring you a toothbrush at 10PM because the airline lost your luggage and your only toothbrush along with it. Does any other apartment complex in the City include this much stuff--internet, cable, phone, etc.?  At best, about half of this brand new complex is leased, and some apartments are still being finished. I predict more food trucks and open houses in the future. Please visit!

Come one, come all. Come rent an apartment in Germantown, and WELCOME TO THE CITY! When we fill these, hey, we might need to add another complex.

Friday, May 17, 2019

No Fiscal Impact Analysis in Apartment Moratorium Report

I attended the work session last night on the apartment moratorium, and was greeted with an impressive and detailed list of statistics, none of which addressed the fiscal impact of residential development.  Here is the 300+ page study.  

Apartment Moratorium Study

The original moratorium, put into effect in December of last year stated,  

WHEREAS, the purpose of the temporary moratorium is to allow the City an opportunity to study, research, analyze and/or assess the likely impacts and nature of any future apartment and apartment building development in the Smart Code Zoning Districts, including, without limitation and as the City deems appropriate, development and demographic trends, aesthetic qualities, burdens upon and access to City services, resources, schools, infrastructure, utilities, parks, public areas/facilities, and emergency and police services, traffic congestion, public safety, and neighborhood characteristics;

I guess I was naive to think that the City would actually look at the fiscal impact.  That didn't happen.

Q: How does this affect the Germantown taxpayer?  

A: ?????????  Who knows?????

There were assumptions made about the number of apartments and single family homes that would be built in the next ten years, based on current zoning, and how various departments were affected-- e.g. how many more police calls, fire calls, students in GMSD, etc. This can be useful information, but the failure to take this analysis further was surprising, and not in a good way. The obvious and most glaring error was the failure to put dollar figures to the analysis.   

Obviously I challenge many of the assumptions made in the forecasts, and would certainly do so if I felt this study merited that detailed level of analysis. 
I am sorry, but the number of ambulance calls expected in ten years may help the City plan for the number of EMTs and vehicles needed, but failure to take into account both the costs associated with those, and mainly the revenue generated from EMT calls really doesn't remotely answer the basic question that Germantown taxpayers want answered: How does residential growth affect the fiscal health of the City?

If you are wondering why I singled out EMT calls, it is because when Rocky Janda was asked about the study, he concluded that it was senior citizens and not apartments that disproportionately used City services-- 

"Peel down the numbers and see how it affects.. but as far as I'm concerned, as far as the impact on our ambulances and stuff like that... we're seeing it's the retirement community and not the apartments,” said Janda.    

Oh, my gosh, Alderman Janda, don't you know that senior 
citizens PAY for EMT services? Obviously not. But how much? We don't know, because it was not within the scope of this study to consider that. 

Image result for copy and paste emojis roll eyes

Remember the fiscal impact study that the City originally commissioned back in 2015?  (please see the Tischler Bice study analysis discussed in my March 24 2018 post). The City at one time was curious enough about the fiscal impact of development in the City to spend over $85,000 for the analysis. However, when the results were in, the City did not present the results, obviously because the conclusions were not what it expected or wanted. All new residential growth, whether single family or multi-family, negatively affected the fiscal health of the City. Although the net fiscal cost per unit of multi-family growth was less than per traditional housing unit, I demonstrated in my post about development in the Forest Hill Heights area that the per acre cost of multi-family development had a larger negative fiscal impact on the City than that of traditional housing.  Can we please have the data in that format? When we consider whether to entertain costly residential development, the question should be, "If we develop X plot of land, which density that we approve will have the most desirable (or least undesirable) fiscal impact?"

We still have time before the apartment moratorium ends, and we deserve more. The Mayor's main platform when he ran for re-election was his instituting the apartment moratorium, a moratorium that would not have been necessary but for his policies, and his stacking the citizen commissions with friends of developers and land owners who were also hefty donors to his campaign. Let's do the gold standard of studies-- cost-benefit analysis, and not just collect statistics which alone are useless in trying to project future fiscal impact of residential growth.  If that is done, then we can dig down deeper into the assumptions made in coming up with the projections.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Tennessee Education Voucher Bill--Were Germantown taxpayers sold down the river by Brian Kelsey and others?

I don't have a copy of the school voucher bill that has been passed by the state legislature, but as explained to me, the bill has the ultimate potential to cost the award winning Germantown Municipal School District millions of dollars--dollars that will likely have to be made up by City taxpayers in the future. And that apparently could happen without a single student opting to leave the system in favor of using a voucher for a private school!

While Sam Stockard of the Daily Memphian asked the right questions of Brian Kelsey and other Republicans, he may not have asked all the right people. From the Daily Memphian   

Asked if funding for the Germantown Performing Arts Center amphitheater, known as the Grove at GPAC, was a reward for his vote in support of the governor’s education savings account bill on Thursday, Kelsey said, “I find that to be a highly offensive question. We don’t operate that way.”

Furthermore, according to the paper, "Republican leaders" reported that such trade-offs do not go on with important bills.

Oh, really? Sometimes all we need to do is look at some different reporting. According to 
Pork or politics? Behind the scenes as Tennessee voucher-backers lobbied House members to pass bill  in the Nashville Tennessean, both David Hawk-R of Greeneville and Bob Ramsey-R of Maryville, who voted against the voucher bill, reported being approached and asked what they wanted in exchange for their votes.   

Do we believe the anonymous "Republican leaders" sources reported in the Daily Memphian, or do we believe the named Republican sources in the Tennessean who voted against the voucher bills? 

And, if Brian Kelsey did not get a little something (such as a $2.5 million dollar grant for GPAC) in return for his vote, wasn't he being remiss in his representation of Germantown?

Brian Kelsey's largest campaign contributions can be found here. One thing I noticed is that the largest contribution, $11,000, was from BOW-PAC, a PAC started by Bo Watson, a state senator from Chattanooga. Is this pot of money just another way of keeping Republican legislators in line? Reading between the lines, it appears so from this article.  Oh, and guess what? Yet another Republican state senator, Yager, R-Kingston, has his own PAC, KEYPAC, which contributed $5,500 to Kelsey. Apparently it is a "thing" now for Republican Senators to have their own PACs.  Where is all this money coming from? In 2011, Bill Haslam signed a bill allowing corporate contributions to PACs.

Kelsey also received $5,450 from "The American Federation for Children", a pro-voucher organization.  StudentsFirst PAC contributed $5000 to Kelsey. StudentsFirst was begun by Michelle Rhee, the controversial ex-leader of Washington DC schools, and an advocate for school vouchers. Tennessee First, a PAC started by two lobbyists, gave him $3000.

In a post on Twitter, Gabby Salinas, who lost a close election to Brian Kelsey, reported that the only votes that Kelsey made against school vouchers was in an election year.

Now it is up to the citizens to decide: Was our award winning GMSD sold down the river 
by Brian Kelsey in favor of a single grant to GPAC? 

There are plenty other characters to blame in this mess, mainly Governor Bill Lee, who it seems forced this bill on only two counties, Shelby and Davidson. Guess what? The rural counties know better than to starve their school systems of funding. 

Gabby Salinas in her Twitter account pointed out that a clause was added to the bill which disallows lawsuits against the state by Boards of Education over this bill. That clause likely will be tested in court if this passes.

House votes (from Salinas Twitter account)

The bill goes to a conference committee now, as different versions were passed by the House and Senate.