Metro impact fees floated to draw Republican National Convention votes

By: - July 27, 2022 3:35 pm
Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Metro Nashville Council will consider a proposal next week to create development impact fees, part of an apparent effort to sweeten the pot for a vote to bring the 2024 Republican National Convention to Nashville. 

Though the move is considered a stretch after the council declined to take up an RNC vote in early July, Metro Councilman Robert Swope confirmed Wednesday he is reviving his ordinance as well as a resolution of support to hold the convention in Nashville. 

Swope is also supporting a resolution sponsored by Councilman Jonathan Hall to set up impact fees, a measure that would have to be approved by the state Legislature. Hall could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The items are to be considered Aug. 2.

I think this is a figment of Councilmember Swope's imagination.

– Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes, on a renewed effort to bring the 2024 Republican National Convention to Nashville.

A Republican site selection committee has voted already to hold the convention in Milwaukee. But Swope and state Republican leaders are holding out hope they can persuade the Metro Council to enter the running with a final vote pending.

Swope, the lone Republican on the council — which is officially a nonpartisan body — is also the sole sponsor of the RNC ordinance, which would set an agreement for security and bring in about $50 million in federal funding to pay police overtime and related costs. Other expenses are to be covered by a host committee, which is trying to raise up to $65 million, including $25 million the Legislature approved for the event.

Swope said he had no idea whether the mayor’s office supports a move for impact fees. He also declined to discuss whether council members are being lobbied, though he did say no “paid individuals” are involved in pushing council members to vote for the RNC ordinance.

Councilman Bob Mendes predicted any measures backed by Swope would fail. 

“I think this is a figment of Councilmember Swope’s imagination,” Mendes said Wednesday.

He cast doubt on whether the Mayor’s Office has negotiated any move for impact fees and questioned whether anyone at the state level has offered such legislation. He noted the council has never seriously discussed impact fees, which would place higher costs on developers and customers at a time the council is trying to increase supply and reduce costs.

 Axios Nashville quoted House Majority Leader William Lamberth as saying impact fee legislation would not be connected to the RNC issue.

A spokesman for House Speaker Cameron Sexton said he isn’t “negotiating, increasing taxes or providing money to Metro Council members for pork projects in return for a positive vote.”

“They can support or not support the resolution backing the RNC’s desire to have Nashville as the host site for the convention. It is still not too late for Metro to do the right thing. If they want to raise taxes on their residents, that is a vote the Council needs to take. Additionally, they have a team of lobbyists in the General Assembly who represent their interests,” spokesman Doug Kufner said on behalf of Sexton.

A spokesman for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Wednesday he has heard the subjects discussed but hasn’t seen either of the Metro resolutions.

State Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
State Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

“A bill allowing Metro to assess an impact fee would be a local bill. If and when the Davidson County delegation brings forth such a bill, he would consider it just as he would any other local bill,” spokesman Adam Kleinheider said.

In contraststate Rep. Darren Jernigan, a former Metro Nashville Council member, called the matter “a sweet deal.”

He tried to pass impact fee legislation in 2020 but ran into opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House State and Local Government Committee, including some who have impact fees in their home counties. Under his bill, impact fees would have generated $110 million annually to cover infrastructure costs such as sidewalks in Metro Nashville.

“It’s for smart growth,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan’s legislation exempted affordable housing and nonprofit agencies from impact fees.

The Old Hickory Democrat said he spoke to some council members Wednesday and told them he thought the Republican National Convention could be a “huge game changer” for Nashville. Jernigan noted he understands opposition to holding the RNC here, since the Legislature drew new congressional districts to make it difficult to elect a Democrat, forced private school vouchers into law and changed the state’s K-12 education funding formula, among other attacks on Davidson County.

But he pointed out Metro Nashville stands to gain $200 million.

“The economic impact to our city is really hard to ignore,” he said.

State Rep. Sam Whitson, a Franklin Republican who grew up in Nashville, also is encouraging Metro Council members to support the RNC ordinance.

“It could be a big plus and help heal the divide between Nashville and the General Assembly,” Whitson said Wednesday.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.