How a Land Use Bill Becomes Law

Following in the footsteps of Schoolhouse Rock, we present to you…

The process through which a land use bill becomes law in Nashville:

  1. THE BILL IS INTRODUCED AT A METRO COUNCIL MEETING: FIRST READING.Proposed legislation must be introduced by one or more Council members (considered the bill’s sponsor/co-sponsors). At first reading, the sponsor introduces the bill and a vote is taken for the bill to continue in the process.
  2. THE BILL IS REFERRED TO PLANNING COMMISSION: FIRST PUBLIC HEARING. One the hearing date is scheduled and listed on the agenda, Planning Commission staff review the bill and make a recommendation regarding its passage and/or any changes to be made. At the Planning Commission hearing, the public is invited to attend to voice their support for or opposition to the bill. Each person has two minutes to speak. Anyone speaking on behalf of an organization may request five minutes. Following the public comments, Planning Commission discusses the bill and votes on its passage. A bill requires a majority vote for passage. (Their final vote, in either the affirmative or the negative, is their recommendation to Council.) Alternatively, the bill may be deferred to allow more time for review, research, and deliberation and/or to allow for the sponsor to amend the bill. If deferred, when the bill returns to Planning Commission it will again be a public hearing.
  3. ONCE PLANNING COMMISSION MAKES A RECOMMENDATION ON THE BILL, PENDING LEGISLATION DOCTRINE IS INITIATED. Pending Legislation Doctrine, also known as Pending Ordinance Doctrine, means that permits will no longer be issued in instances where the pending bill would restrict the use of land for which the permit is sought. The rules in the pending bill would apply to any new STR permits starting the morning following Planning Commission’s recommendation, and would also apply to any permits that are in-process and not yet issued. Pending Legislation Doctrine is not initiated only in instances of a pending bill having a specific future effective date.
  4. THE BILL RETURNS TO METRO COUNCIL: SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING.The second reading and public hearing at Metro Council can take place after a recommendation by Planning Commission or if at least 30 days has passed since the bill’s first reading. Constituents are invited to attend the public hearing to voice their support for or opposition to the bill. Each person has two minutes to speak. Anyone speaking on behalf of an organization may request five minutes.
  5. THE BILL HAS ITS THIRD AND FINAL READING AT METRO COUNCIL.The bill can still be amended up until its third and final reading, at the conclusion of which the bill will be voted on. A bill requires a majority vote of all Council members (21 votes) for passage, except for a bill disapproved by Planning Commission which requires a two-thirds affirmative vote (27 votes) for passage. If it passes, the bill is now a law.

How will new laws affect me if I already have a permit?

Existing permits are grandfathered under the laws that were in place at the time the permit was obtained, thanks to the Tennessee Short Term Rental Unit Act. However, there have been instances where the Codes Department has revoked existing permits (like when they revoked more than 100 owner-occupied permits last year), so it is unclear how enforcement will work. You may need to legally defend the right afforded to you by the state law.

Also make note that the grandfather status applies only to the property owner and not to the property itself. Should the property be sold, transferred, or inherited, future owners would no longer be grandfathered in.

Share this article