Homes Not Hotels

I sent the following letter to the Metro Council this morning as we contemplate the final meeting of our term with several controversial bills before us, including BL2019-1633, which attempts to address 24/7 mini-hotels in residential zoning, but as currently drafted creates as many problems as it purports to solve. I have a compromise, “second substitute” bill that I hope colleagues will consider seriously.

Dear Colleagues,

I cannot believe how swiftly four years have passed. It has been an honor to work with you all to help make Nashville better, safer, healthier, and happier to the best of our abilities. I think we would all acknowledge that strong neighborhoods are the building blocks of our city. In our term, one issue that has affected a wide variety of neighborhoods and constituents from the single-family suburbs of District 34 to the multi-family apartments of District 19 is Not-Owner-Occupied Short Term Rentals. This Council did not enable this annual permitted use–it was the prior Council, but we have certainly struggled with the unintended consequences. I hope together we can achieve a resolution this evening. 

I want to bring your attention to one of two proposed second substitutes in the amendments packet and put the Henderson/Hagar/Johnson substitute (pages 13-17) in context of 1) this term’s broader STRP policy struggles and 2) the various options that are before you for consideration. 

Not-Owner-Occupied STRP-permitted properties have been a mounting problem for neighborhood quality of life and housing affordability in Nashville and numerous cities with thriving tourist economies across the U.S. and the world. Increasingly we have seen that the benefits of the annually permitted not-owner-occupied STRP use to guests, owners, and the tourist economy are outweighed by the damage to neighborhoods, quality of life, and housing affordability. This is acute in neighborhoods closest to downtown and areas near popular tourist destinations. Every city struggles with the appropriate regulatory balance for these low-barrier-to-entry, disruptor business platforms, but the platforms control the narrative and with it the related-policy with millions in lobbying and marketing money. 

I would remind colleagues of the same thing Councilman O’Connell and I said when we voted against the enabling scooter legislation: legislating for disruptive and hyper-evolving business models requires sunset provisions. There is no accountability or reckoning without them. So here we are in the sunset of our term, and we have the opportunity to sunset new Not-Owner-Occupied short term rental in RM zoning. Sunsetting STRP annual permits in residential-only zoning, whether that’s R, RS or RM, will not diminish the underlying appreciating real estate asset. The primary use of the property as zoned has always been and remains residential. Taking thousands of homes off the market and turning them into 24/7 mini-hotels via an annual permitted use is something that we can and should fix.

The onus is not on us to make sure that a speculative real estate investment garners it’s maximum return. The onus is on the buyer to perform due diligence before making their purchase. Basing an investment on a one-year permit in a hyper-evolving and contentious business model has risks. This would be clearly evident to any investor with a quick Google search.

Subsequent to the passage of 608, which addressed Not-Owner-Occupied STRPs in R and RS zoning, we have seen and heard from numerous Nashvillians distraught that their RM apartment community is being converted into an STRP hotel. As we close out this term, let’s start closing the door on this practice. Our Council securing places for people to live is more fundamental to our success as a city than our securing commercial hotel investments in residentially zoned neighborhoods. Real estate investors will tell you that markets like certainty, and they are correct about that. So let’s provide that certainty. Let’s substitute and thus simplify this legislation.

The Henderson/Hagar substitute, which is supported by the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods does the following:

•                     Returns the bill essentially to the form it was in when it unanimously passed the Planning Commission (before it was subsequently amended and substituted.)

•                     Eliminates exemptions and transfers for RM zoned properties. This is key. Passage of 1633 in its current form will effectively make an annual permit a property right.

•                     Extends the window to acquire a new permit from May 31, 2020 to January 1, 2022 to address the concerns of in-progress investors and balance the removal of the exemptions and transfers.

•                     Keeps all necessary state law changes and includes the language to deal with lawsuits pending against Metro for HPRs who were issued STRP permits before July 1, 2019

I know that Councilwoman Allen’s heart was in the right place with 1633, and it was a bill initially supported by neighborhood leaders albeit with some skepticism, but you have heard the email furor from neighborhood advocates about this bill as currently substituted and amended. That’s not just because it reflects concessions primarily for speculative builder/investors, but because the exception and transfer provisions could have very real negative consequences for both RM and R & RS zoning districts. It sets a bad precedent and does not provide the clear and definitive policy statement that Nashville’s residents and real estate investors want and need.  

As we conclude our term and our deliberation on this policy, let’s please think more about the parents living next to not-owner-occupied short-term-rentals and have empathy for the anxiety they feel every Thursday waiting to see who is going to show up and be hanging out across the back fence or on the deck above their children’s playset. Let’s think more about the young couples, who are going to have to move out of their downtown apartment close to their work to the periphery of the county to find an affordable place to live, compounding our traffic problem, because their residential apartment community is being turned into a hotel.

Nashvillians are watching. They are no longer fooled by the false and self-serving narratives proffered by this industry. Please show the majority of Nashvillians who you represent by supporting and voting in favor of the Hagar/Henderson/Johnson substitute.

Our substitute is solid and thoughtful bill that meets the needs and concerns of a wide variety of districts and stakeholders. We did not file it rashly. We co-sponsors have followed this issue very closely our entire term, and our substitute reflects four years of listening and researching a broad variety of cities and stakeholder perspectives.

Hard though it may seem, if Councilwoman Allen were to simply let go of her much-maligned bill, which it does not appear she has the votes to pass, moving the Henderson/Hagar/Johnson substitute would honor her legislative intent and achieve the majority of her policy goals. Complicated though this seems, it’s really quite simple. Let’s not give up on Nashville’s neighborhoods at the finish line.

With thanks for your consideration,

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  • Written by angie henderson

Walkable Neighborhoods

Almost all neighborhoods are “walkable” to a certain degree, but in Nashville most are NOT safely or enjoyably walkable. If you live in District 34, can you safely walk to Radnor Lake or the Warner Parks? Probably not. Can you safely walk to the major artery where a transit line runs? Probably not. And if you can make it there, are you “rewarded” for your effort by standing in a ditch to wait for the bus? Probably.

Nashville has an inappropriately low level of infrastructure investment in neighborhoods. We already have many neighborhoods that are sufficiently dense, that have been pleading (for many years) for sidewalks on their walk green hills“collector” streets to safely connect them to adjacent commercial areas, parks, schools, and transit. Those neighborhoods should be served whether or not they choose to become more dense. In District 34, neighbors with .45 acres or less are our “denser neighborhoods.” My neighborhood has 300+ households within a half mile of restaurants, shops, a major park, a major community/tourist destination, and a transit line, but ZERO walkable infrastructure except around one townhouse infill project built 8+ years ago. It is completely illogical. Saying that more density will bring more walkability is a backwards conversation. Let’s improve the Sidewalk Priority Index and direct more funding to sidewalks. Let’s make smart, targeted sidewalk investments improving what we already have, and filling in gaps, both large and small, in the sidewalk network. We can and should build mixed-use walkable areas and transit-oriented development in strategic locations all over Nashville. There are opportunities for strategic infill, where neighbors support it, closer to major arteries and commercial areas, but “Density” should look different for every neighborhood.

To view my comprehensive answers from the Walk/Bike Nashville candidate survey, click here.

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  • Written by angie henderson

Nashville Needs a Comprehensive & Actionable Transportation Plan (Yesterday).

In every other major city in which I have lived, I have been a daily transit rider. In San Francisco, I rode the bus (or the cable car!) to and from work 5 days a week. In New York, I rode the subway everywhere. In Philadelphia, I rode the train from the suburbs to downtown. When I was a child and lived on West End for a few years, I rode the bus with my mom and dad to 1975 Bus stopthe downtown library on Saturdays to attend the Tom Tichenor puppet shows and check out our weekly books. I remember those outings so fondly and vividly, and not just the library part, but also the awesome taking-the-bus part. I wish I could ride the bus more often in Nashville, but with infrequent service, too few crosstown routes, and no sidewalk to get me safely to the closest bus line (at the intersection of Highways 100 and 70), it doesn’t make sense for me. I drive my mini-van almost everywhere I go, and as the infamous bumper sticker reminds us: you’re not in traffic, you are traffic. The best solution to Nashville’s traffic problem is a truly multi-modal transit system.

Here is where I stand on transit:

Without a comprehensive, actionable, multi-modal transportation plan, including sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and greenways, Nashville’s economy and quality of life will be significantly diminished by our growing traffic problem. Addressing this issue will have to be done both locally and regionally. Building more highway lanes and widening major streets doesn’t solve the problem, rather it induces demand and makes the problem worse. It is encouraging to see that TDOT and Metro Public Works are increasingly focused on the multi-modal picture of transportation rather than exclusively on road building.

The Regional Transit Authority in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Organization provides the frame work for regional transportation planning and funding. 54% of the people in the Nashville/Clarksville MSA are working in a county different than the one in which they live, so we must address regional transit by expanding coach-style buses and rail services. Partnering with surrounding counties to encourage mixed-use, transit-oriented development (to include housing) along the Music City Star rail line, for example, and doing the same in certain corridors in Nashville will keep communities connected and more cars off the road.

A strategic plan for MTA is long overdue, but I am optimistic about the new leadership of Stephen Bland and the nMotion planning process that is finally underway, which will build on the land-use planning work of NashvilleNEXT, as land-use planning and transit success are inextricably linked. I hope that all riders as well as non-riders (or would-be riders) and local employers and property owners will be actively engaged in the nMotion process. Take the next nMotion “trade offs” survey here.

MTA ridership is climbing consistently with 24% of current riders having started using the system in the last year. That’s good news, and we need to support and enhance that trend with the real-time transit app, better marketing and improved access and connectivity. Currently, MTA ridership is made up of 68% dependent riders and 32% choice riders. To address traffic issues, we must focus on increasing the choice rider percentage.

Transit is an important service for seniors and young people, but only 3% of MTA riders are over 65 and only 6% are under age 18. In a city of our size with our demographics, those percentages should be much higher, and this speaks to the fact that seniors and young people cannot not safely reach transit stops because of lacking sidewalk and crosswalk infrastructure.

With the current bus system still operating far below capacity, we must make more sidewalk connections to transit, and we must dignify the transit rider with clean shelters and safe crossings—people should not have to stand and wait in ditches inches from speeding cars and dash across 5 lanes of traffic to be able to ride the bus.

Near term initiatives/partnerships could include:

1) increasing and marketing transit service for special events (Predators games, 4th of July Fireworks, etc);

2) increasing park-and-ride options within suburban areas by partnering with local churches and shopping areas for parking; and

3) expanding the MNPS/MTA partnership to include free rides for middle schoolers in addition to high schoolers.


These are just a few of the small gains/improvements that should be considered as part of the larger county-wide and regional puzzle. In the end, the funding is the biggest piece and will be the most difficult part of the conversation, but I think Council can look to the successes of peer cities like Salt Lake City to see how they have communicated that increasing transit funding is crucial to maintaining and enhancing a city’s economy, health, affordability, and quality of life.

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  • Written by angie henderson

Angie in the Green Hills News


Neighborhood Leader Angie Henderson Running for Metro Council District 34

Angie Emery Henderson has formalized her campaign for Nashville Metro Council’s District 34.  A leader in neighborhood, non-profit, and civic organizations throughout the city, Henderson currently serves as the president of the Belle Meade Highlands Neighborhood Association. A native Nashvillian and former resident of Forest Hills, Henderson has lived in a variety of District 34 neighborhoods.

“I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to apply my neighborhood leadership experience and skills to work on the Metro Council,” said Henderson at her campaign kick-off event. “Strong neighborhoods are the foundation of a great city, and I will work diligently to preserve the residential character and natural beauty that make District 34 so special. I will be a clear and consistent voice for the people of District 34 and help to thoughtfully and intelligently guide decisions that affect Nashville’s future.”

Henderson is a respected civic volunteer and long-time advocate for more safely walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. She was the founder and organizer of the annual “Walk! Green Hills” awareness event (formerly The Green Hills Walk at Lunch) that was a part of Walk Nashville Week (now Month) for twelve years, and chaired the inaugural Green Hills Historic Homecoming festival in partnership with Metro Archives, Hillsboro High School, and the Green Hills Library. Over the years, she has served as a chair and vice-chair of The Green Hills Action Partners (TGHAP), which was founded in 1999 by members of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Green Hills Urban Village Plan, as well as chair for the group’s Transportation & Sidewalks Committee. Most recently, Henderson served on the Resource Team for the Green Hills Area Transportation Plan and on the planning committee for Walk/Bike Nashville’s Mayoral Candidates Forum on Walkability. She continues to serve on the Community Engagement Committee for the NashvilleNEXT 2040 planning process.

Henderson attended the Harpeth Hall School and was graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1995 with a degree in Growth & Structure of Cities, having defended her thesis on the architecture of public schools with Nashville as a case study.  Henderson is an active volunteer for her college, where she currently serves on the President’s Advisory Council and the Alumnae Regional Scholars Selection Committee. After college, Henderson worked in marketing for the architecture, engineering and planning firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill LLC and in fundraising for Dartmouth College where she was a Stewardship Writer and at Belmont University where she was Director of Foundation Relations.

Under Henderson’s leadership, membership in the Belle Meade Highlands Neighborhood Association (BMHNA) has increased over 40%. Henderson says, “prompt, helpful communication and thorough research are crucial when serving my neighbors, addressing their concerns, and advocating around matters of crime & safety, traffic, speeding, zoning, and needed infrastructure. And I intend to bring that same skill set to service on the Council”  Fellow neighbors are very complimentary of Henderson’s dedication and attention to detail. Former BMHNA Board Member and current Beautification Committee Chair Rob Harrington says, “Angie’s management style, leadership skills, and work ethic are exemplary. I’ve seen firsthand how she solicits input from all viewpoints, thoroughly considers all options, and makes thoughtful decisions that balance the interests of all constituents. I can’t imagine anyone more qualified than Angie to serve as a Metro Council member.”

In the first campaign finance report of January 15, Henderson’s treasurer Richard Dickerson reported that Friends for Angie Henderson had reported over $17,000 total raised, with just over $11,000 cash on hand. The next fundraiser for the campaign is coming up on March 3.

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  • Written by angie henderson

Why I’m Running

Over the last few months and weeks, when I tell people that I am running to serve the 34th District on Metro Council, I’ve received very positive reactions—and after the initial “That’s great!” I usually get two types of questions:

First : “Where is District 34?” or “Am I in District 34?” If you are still wondering the same, we have maps of 34 here tonight. If you don’t live in 34, you can’t vote for me, but you can ADVOCATE for me. If elected, I will serve residents of 34 and all of Nashville. Please also find friends and family on the District 34 map, and be in touch with them, forward them my newsletter, and share my Facebook page. Your support in that way is invaluable.

Now the second type question I sometimes receive after telling people I’m running is: “Are you sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?”

The answer to that is, yes, I absolutely know what I am getting into, and I am approaching this job with much optimism and enthusiasm. This job requires the ability to happily address the little things like a missed trash pick-up, a leaning stop sign, or a needed pot hole repair and the ability to tackle larger, and seemingly intractable, countywide issues. This job requires patience and a proactive and intentional attitude, and I have that in abundance.

I am well-suited to the job of a Metro Councilperson because I am a friendly, collaborative, consensus builder, and I’m also a tenacious problem solver. I don’t mind putting in long hours to get things done right. I have been an active civic volunteer in Nashville for 15 years, and I have learned volumes in my interaction with Metro Government. and its dauntingly numerous Departments and Boards—Public Works, Planning Department, the Water Department, the Parks Department, Metro Public Schools, the BZA, the MTA—you name it, I have met with them, emailed with them, and worked with them along with area non-profits, businesses, property owners and fellow neighborhood leaders. I want to bring that significant volunteer experience—those successes, frustrations, and challenges, and those hard-earned skills, to the service of our city.

This is an exciting and vibrant time to live in Nashville as more and more people are witnessing and testifying to our City’s many strengths. We are growing rapidly, and growth is good, but it comes with sizable challenges. We need smart growth. Growth that respects neighborhoods. We need legislators that can keep their eye on the ball and be proactive, rather than reactive, to be intentional rather than scattershot. It’s time for Metro Council to get serious.

In August, Nashville will be electing a new mayor, and over 60% percent of the Metro Council will be first time representatives. Every citizen in every district needs to pay close attention during this campaign season, ask the tough questions, and tell those running for office your concerns and your ideas. The work your elected city representatives do, or don’t do, affects you daily and deeply.

My opponent does not have the civic, non-profit, and neighborhood experience that I do, and EXPERIENCE MATTERS. I have the experience and the education to read, listen, question, analyze and address the complex issues our City faces related to population growth and zoning, education and workforce development, traffic and transit, budget and infrastructure—from Google Fiber to sewer pipes to sidewalks.

Nashville is doing a lot of things right. For example, if you call them, Metro Public Works will very promptly fill your pot hole or fix a leaning stop sign—but that’s the easy stuff. What Public Works does NOT do well is sidewalk infrastructure and bicycle infrastructure, because those are harder, and fraAEH_081nkly, when things get complex in this city, or involve multiple departments coordinating, too often they just don’t get done.

If your child cannot safely bike to their friend’s house without you worrying that they will be struck by a car, our city is not on the right track. If our seniors cannot safely cross the street when they are walking to the YMCA or the grocery store, our city is not on the right track. You need to elect someone who will not accept these failures and who is committed to making our city a safer and more enjoyable place for all children and families to live, learn, walk, bike, work and play.

Our City has kicked the can down the road on infrastructure, transit, and capital improvements to our schools for far too long, but the future has arrived, and by 2040 there will likely be a million more people living in our region. That’s just 25 years from now. Looking 25 years in reverse, 1990 doesn’t seem like very long ago. The time is now to prepare for that growth, and the person you need representing you in Council should not be someone who just got interested in these issues a few years ago. I’ve been tirelessly devoting the majority of my “free” time to reading and meeting, and understanding Nashville’s challenges and working to solve problems and create opportunities for 15 years.

I am asking for your support and your vote so that I can bring my experience and my skills inside the process of Metro Government and start getting things done. No one will work harder for you and your family than I will. No one will work harder for your neighborhood and your Nashville than I will.

With your help as a donor, a volunteer, an advocate or a voter, we’ll all be back together again on August 6th celebrating our VICTORY!

I hope you will make sure to chat with me before you leave. I am happy to answer any and all questions about where I stand on particular issues. I value being accessible, so you are welcome to email or call me anytime.

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Safe Streets for Everyone

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

As I prepare for my Campaign Kick-Off event this week, I am energized and grateful for the opportunity to put the knowledge and experience I’ve gained as an active civic volunteer to work for my District 34 neighbors and my city. In the coming months on this blog, I look forward to sharing reasons why I am running for Metro Council, additional information about my qualifications and background, and my views on issues affecting our district and Nashville at large.

As this is my first step into “blogging,” it seems fitting to share a goal that highlights walking and moving forward on a journey towards achieving a vision or goal. The vision that has motivated me to serve as a walkable neighborhoods advocate for 15 years and continues to motivate me as I begin my journey to serve in Metro Government is: a Nashville in which ALL children can safely and enjoyably walk and bike to their friends’ homes, in which ALL seniors are safe to walk for health and fitness on their neighborhood streets, and where EVERYONE who lives near a store, restaurant, park, school, or house of worship can truly enjoy walking or biking there.

In my own neighborhood, the practical reality of achieving that vision means addressing lacking and decaying infrastructure, chronic speeding, and traffic concerns. It requires the engagement of our councilperson, Public Works, Storm Water, the Planning Department, the Parks Department, non-profit organizations, and Metro Police. Perhaps a daunting and disconcerting web of agencies to most people, I relish the challenge to get everyone on the same page to achieve our neighborhood vision and goals. I have no illusions that this is easily done.

For 15 years, I have been engaged in this kind of work in my neighborhood and in the Green Hills Business District. It can be a long and often frustrating path with two steps forward and three steps back, over and over again. But I am still here, still moving forward, still pushing to enhance our city’s safety and quality of life.

There is much we can and should do to make Metro Government more responsive and efficient in its service to the citizens of Davidson County, so that all neighborhoods can realize their own goals for the public realm. A great city is a diverse community of active and engaged neighborhoods. A great city has streets that are safe for EVERYONE, whether they are walking, biking, or driving.

There is no more beautiful place to walk than in District 34, and I hope to cross paths with you soon! Join me on this journey by signing up for my campaign newsletter, attending a campaign event, and following this blog. Please also share your own vision and goals for your neighborhood with me. I am listening.


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