Mar 9, 2023 - Politics

Tennessee bill targets community benefits agreements

Illustration of the Tennessee State Capitol building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

State Rep. John Crawford, a Kingsport Republican, is pushing a plan to diminish the use of community benefits agreements as part of a rezoning proposal.

Why it matters: This is of particular interest in Nashville, where CBAs are frequently discussed and favored by some advocacy groups as a tool to ensure surrounding neighborhoods benefit from major developments.

Details: Under a community benefits agreement, developers make financial donations or back other causes in order to garner support for their project.

  • Crawford's bill would make it illegal for Metro Council members to base zoning proposal votes on whether a property owner has entered into a CBA.

Flashback: Over the last five years, CBAs have become more influential in Nashville.

  • The fairgrounds soccer stadium and surrounding mixed-use developments included a landmark CBA negotiated by the pro-union nonprofit group Stand Up Nashville.
  • That CBA included higher minimum wages for laborers, affordable housing investments and a construction contracting process favored by labor unions.
  • More recently, the developer of the Riverchase apartment complex agreed to a CBA with the Urban League.

What he's saying: During a hearing this week, Crawford said there's been an "explosion in attempts" to "extort the landowners into supporting causes and organizations as a condition of exercising their property rights."

The other side: Michael Callahan-Kapoor, deputy director of Stand Up Nashville, tells Axios the soccer stadium CBA is a "shining example" of using public resources to benefit everyone, not just developers.

  • "The anti-worker, pro-oppression state legislature crafting this bill is just further proof and validation that CBAs, when done correctly, are absolutely a critical tool in harnessing Nashville's economic power to protect itself from bad actors," he says.
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