Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Guidelines or rules?

Tonight the Metro Council will hear from neighbors regarding the retroactive spot zoning of an illegal quadplex at 837 Cleveland Street in CM Pam Murray's District 5 in East Nashville. A few councilmen will be afraid to vote against the sponsoring councilwoman's bill because she's black and many who will speak on behalf of the white landlord will also be black. Many of those speaking against the illegal actions of the white landlord will be white. The Council must not let councilmatic courtesy or racial fears keep them from focusing on the fact that if BL2009-429 passes it will invite every non-compliant property owner to demand that their property, that's been illegally modified, also be retroactively zoned to fit whatever they've created. The Council must see this issue for what it is--a complete thumbing of the nose at the rule of law in this county. No one, black or white, should get away with that.

The Planning Commission failed to hold Charles R. (Friday) Blackwood accountable for creating an illegal quadplex out of this property despite his own confession that he broke the law. He owns over a dozen pieces of property in this county. He's not unaware of his responsibilities. Despite that they voted to give him a pass and let the Council do the Planning Commission's job. It took Environmental Court to close the quadplex down and likely save the lives of the tenants.

Even after being told by the Environmental Court's Judge Jim Todd to shutter the building, and long before tonight's Council vote, signs indicating that the spaces would be for rent again appeared on the building. First in Spanish and then later an English version was added. Obviously, Blackwood felt confident about the outcome of tonight's Council vote.

Why bother having a permit system for building and health codes when the county won't enforce them? Why bother having an Environmental Court?

Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8, Blackwood is scheduled to appear again before Environmental Court on this matter. I'd like to see that he has to appear hat in hand before Judge Todd and assure him that the building will no longer be a quadplex and that he will never again, upon pain of jail, willfully violate the health, safety and building codes of this county.

Here's the Council's feedback form. Whether you can attend the meeting tonight or not, let the Council know that you expect landlords across this county to respect the laws enacted for the safety of citizens. "The code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules" may be a great line in a movie but when the life and health of citizens is at stake...they need to be actual rules with consequences.

UPDATE: If you do attend the meeting opponents of BL2009-429 ask that you wear red to indicate your opposition. The meeting starts at 6:00 and this bill is early on the agenda.

See also:
Firetrap shuttered
She Needs to Resign and Stay in Detroit
Pam's Loss Neighborhood's Gain

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