Portland’s Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 to defer a proposal allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the city to its first February meeting.

Portland Vice Mayor Drew Jennings asked for the deferment to allow the city to examine what surrounding jurisdictions have in place regarding ADUs.

“We can see what immediate surrounding jurisdictions are doing — White House, Springfield, Gallatin, Hendersonville — and then come back and take action on it then,” Jennings said.

If approved, the proposal would change Portland’s zoning ordinance to allow ADUs, such as converted garages or basements on current residential properties.

The proposed ordinance would limit the size of an ADU to 800 square feet or 80% of the primary structure, whichever is smaller, and would not allow manufactured homes or recreational vehicles to be used as an ADU.

The Portland Planning Commission voted 9-0 at its Nov. 10 meeting to recommend rejection of the proposal. The measure came before the City Council earlier this year, which voted to send it back for further clarification on the details.

“The planning commission has defeated it twice, and we’re still not listening,” said Mike Hall, who has opposed ADUs and voted against deferring the measure, along with Brian Woodall. “We spend a lot of time doing codes and regulations to make sure everything is accountable. Now, we’re going to give a loophole. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I don’t know of any area that’s overran with additional units on people’s properties,” alderman Jody McDowell said. “It’s probably a unique situation that’s come up, and I don’t see it as the monster you think it will be. If other cities are allowing it, I don’t see an issue.”

Also, during the planning portion of the meeting, the council approved a measure allowing the mayor to enter into a site-development agreement when no city funds are contributed to a project, as allowed by the city’s zoning ordinances.

The board also approved on first reading a pair of re-zonings. One takes property on Briley Lane to RS-40 (low-density residential) and the other on Gateview Drive to RS-40.

Also approved was a change in the definition of a semi-detached dwelling that was recommended by the planning commission. The change cleans up a discrepancy between the draft proposal and the original adopted language, according to Portland City Planner Kealan Millies-Lucke.

The council also approved on first reading an updated schedule of authorized positions in city government.

“A lot of these are consolidating jobs … we’re hoping to present about a possible wage study,” Portland Mayor Mike Callis said. “One of the goals is to raise the starting wage of our employees. It’s hard for us to compete on some of that. The wage study will go a long way.”

Callis said that job descriptions would be worked out with the city’s human resources department and department heads before the measure comes back for a second reading, but that it might not be at the first January council meeting. The city last did a wage study in 2015, the mayor said.

“This is something we’ve needed for our city employees for a long time,” alderman Thomas Dillardn said. “But we’ve done these studies before and not done anything.”

Also approved was up to $30,000 in pay range and wage adjustments for the Portland Fire Department. The move is designed to put Portland on par with other communities in the area.

“This is similar to what you did for police last year,” Callis told the council.

Portland Fire Chief Sam Thornton said that he was excited about the plan, saying, “It will give clarity on when raises can take effect, what certifications you need to move up and give long-range goals. It makes us very competitive with our neighboring departments.”

The council approved $100,000 in emergency repairs to the sludge press at the wastewater treatment plant. The plant has been unable to dewater sludge since the press broke last month, and the permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requires it.

“We can only be down so long … if we have any delays, we will have to mobilize the press plant, which can be pretty expensive,” Callis said. “We’re going to get to that point. We have to maintain our permit.”

Aldermen also approved funding on first reading for three railroad crossings in the downtown area that require updating. The city will put up 10% of the required amount, with the remaining 90% to come from federal funding.

The city will put up $47,782.30 for the crossing at East Market Street, $53,235.20 for the Main Street crossing and $37,648.80 for the East McGlothlin Street crossing.

The board also approved expenditures of $49,800 for a track loader and $59,900 for an excavator to be used by the stormwater department, and $9,100.12 for a planer milling machine to be shared by the stormwater and street departments.

The council approved the appointments of Gail Gentry to the Portland Municipal Regional Planning Commission, Chirag Patel to the industrial development board, Hall to the Portland Airport Authority and Megann Thompson to the Portland Regional Planning Commission.

The city will also petition the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly for high mast lighting at the new Exit 121 on Interstate 65.

Callis said that lighting the exit could cost as much as $1.2 million based on estimates and that the city could not afford such an expense.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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