Council committees approve restricting new building construction
Two City Council committees approved legislation this week to prohibit construction of new buildings when vacant public buildings exist and are deemed suitable for an intended use.
"To continue to build new buildings – I don't think is the best way to spend taxpayer dollars," Council member Reggie Brown, the bill's sponsor, told the Rules Committee on Monday.
"It appears we have more space than required right now," he said.
Brown also attended Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting to explain his rationale behind proposing the bill.
Both committees approved the legislation with 5-0 votes.
Brown introduced the legislation in December, around the time Council member Clay Yarborough introduced legislation to support construction of a new building in La Villa to support a consolidated Supervisor of Elections office. Yarborough's initial legislation had a cost of about $8 million, which was later reduced to $6 million in a substitute bill.
Each meeting sparked questions.
Council member Lori Boyer asked if the issue needed to be handled legislatively, which Brown said Tuesday he thought was necessary because "we are not doing it, we haven't done it."
"If we are serious about it, let's put it in writing," he told finance committee members.
Rules member John Crescimbeni on Monday said he viewed it is a policy statement from a policymaking body.
As an added measure, rules amended the legislation requiring a supermajority vote — three-fourths of present members instead of a simple majority — to have any allocation for new building construction approved.
Council and finance committee member Greg Anderson said the legislation is "no doubt best practice" but questioned whether there were unintended consequences, such as a building not being in the right location. He also questioned the definition of the term "vacant" in the legislation — whether a building not full is considered vacant or just one that sits completely empty. Crescimbeni asked Brown to create a floor amendment for Tuesday's full Council meeting regarding what constitutes a vacancy.
Members of Mayor Alvin Brown's administration during the finance committee meeting talked of legislation to allocate $150,000 for a Request for Proposal for a firm to calculate and analyze the City's vacant real estate to determine its value and best potential uses, but several Council members wanted a look at the City's vacant real estate sooner.
John Jones of the City Real Estate Department said there are about 5,000 individual property records and Council Vice President Bill Gulliford requested a list.
Brown's legislation is scheduled to be voted on by Council during its Tuesday meeting.