The Metro Council signed off Tuesday night on a plan to move more than $7 million in federal flood relief money to riverfront development on the west bank downtown.
The plan, which was approved by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency’s Board of Commissioners a week ago, reallocates a total of $8.3 million from a $33 million grant the city received from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development after the May 2010 flood. It will require final approval from HUD.
Metro officials have said the $7 million designated for riverfront development will go toward flood mitigation, which could include a promenade and a flood wall. The remaining $1.3 million will be spent as part of the construction of a new 35-unit affordable housing development on Jefferson Street.
The council rejected an amendment proposed by Councilman Robert Duvall that would have diverted $1 million of the funds designated for riverfront development to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, to repair damage sustained on the grounds during the flood.
Duvall, a council member rarely deterred by long odds, explained that at the time of the flood, Metro’s Department of General Services was instructed to assess the damage and only make repairs necessary to continue the operation of the fairgrounds through December 2010, after which the property was to be closed. As a result, Duvall said a number of things remain unrepaired, a situation which he urged council members to address.
“This past weekend, we had 11,000 people at the fairgrounds,” he told members. “Nowhere else in this city were 11,000 people gathered for an event. Seventy-two percent of the people voted, on the referendum, to keep the fairgrounds — remember that. Remember that they want to keep the fairgrounds. This is a way for us to take the federal flood money and invest it in something that the people of Nashville want to keep.”
Duvall’s amendment did attract some supporters, as well as other members who expressed support for the idea, but noted that a separate proposal for funds for repairs at the fairgrounds might be a better route. Ultimately, it failed on a voice vote.
In other council action:
• The council gave final approval to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, the affordable housing trust fund announced by Mayor Karl Dean in his State of Metro address. Named for Edgehill Methodist Church founding pastor and longtime affordable housing advocate Rev. Bill Barnes, will be established with about $3 million from existing grants.
It will be overseen by a newly created seven-member Metro Housing Trust Fund Commission, which will award grants to fund “renovation or construction of affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, project-based rental assistance, and other supportive efforts to encourage affordability” according to the mayor’s office. Specific criteria for awarding the grants will be developed by the commission and approved by the council.
The Dean administration has said it expects the fund to create 300 affordable housing units each year, and that it will be ongoing. In an interview with The City Paper last month, Dean said his “plan would be for upcoming years would be to put money in the capital budget to fund it.”