Nashville Nixes Home Offices

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Well, not entirely. It’s just that if you do have a home office, you aren’t allowed to meet with anyone in it.

Legislation to accommodate home-based businesses went down in resounding defeat on second reading at the Metro Council Tuesday night, giving a victory to opponents who argued the bill would threaten the sanctity of neighborhoods.

“This is just a bad bill,” Metro Councilman Carter Todd said before the council voted 21-11, with five abstentions, to defeat it.

At issue was an ordinance introduced by Councilman Mike Jameson that sought to update the city’s antiquated home occupation code to protect those Nashvillians, who unknowingly, are illegally operating businesses from their homes.

Existing Metro law already allows residents to operate businesses from their houses, but it doesn’t permit patrons to visit for business purposes. Thus, home-based piano teachers, architects and others who have clients stop by violate the law.

“We went through the zoning codes of every comparable city in the United States,” Jameson said. “There is not a single city in the United States that flatly prohibits clients and patrons on site.”

Jameson filed a different version of the bill earlier this year but withdrew it to get further input from citizens. But even after 11 community meetings, an updated bill with various safeguards approved by the Metro Planning Commission and promises to make further accommodations, the bill failed to overcome criticism.

“If you put lipstick on a pig, you’ve still got a pig,” Councilman Jim Gotto said.

A local TV news report on this story said residents who spoke out against the bill were worried that their attorney neighbors might try to meet with criminal clients, including . . . wait for it . . . accused sex offenders. (Is there nothing they don’t ruin?)

I’m not sure how this is supposed to be enforced. Let’s say you’re an attorney or an architect who doesn’t have a home office, but you’re running late and can’t get in to your office downtown. So you ask a client to drop by your home to sign some papers. Are you in violation of the law?

All of this means that if you’d like to give some piano or guitar lessons on the side here in Music City, and you’d like to do so without fear of getting fined, you’ll have to shell out for space in an area zoned for commercial use. (That comes with a piano!) Which really kinda’ defeats the purpose of giving lessons on the side.

It also pretty much strangles the dream of running a shoestring start-up out of your home until you start making enough money to afford office space.

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74 Responses to “Nashville Nixes Home Offices”

  1. #1 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Councils don’t get to do that much, since they’re working with a central scheme of definitions. Most of their “batshit crazy” stuff gets rescinded post-haste.

    Did you have any examples in mind? Because they certainly can’t throw people in jail for three months for growing veg…

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    Examples: Look at’s BRICKBATS section. English Councils are regularly featured.

  3. #3 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    I don’t have the time or the inclination to sort through badly organised websites – I invariably use greasemonkey scripts to actually let me find the news on news sites, and’s strange coding would mean several hours of coding.

    No, direct links, thanks.

  4. #4 |  SJE | 

    Lets just say that the English Councils feature on Reason as examples of petty nanny state beauracracy as much as stories about Texas feature in the English media as examples of crazy Americans and their guns.

  5. #5 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Nanny state? You mean minor stuff which gets thrown out? Yea, hear about that all the time, and it’s roundly condemned in the major papers.

    Which of the major US papers is condemning *points at the home office law* again?

  6. #6 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Someone should trying fining the Nashville city government for breaking it’s own ordinance by doing business in Two Rivers Mansion

  7. #7 |  DPirate | 

    I wonder how this affects baby-sitting, lawn services, home repairs and the like? Why is one business not allowed to operate in a neighborhood zoned for residence, while other types of businesses are?

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 


    Not true. British papers support their nanny just as much as America’s papers do.

    “It’s far easier to track the actions of one board setting up the *definitions* of what boards are centrally.”


    “And if they do anything which is manifestly unfair to a deacent percentage of the population, that WILL get objections.”

    So what? If it’s unfair, what power to people have to stop it? I’m sure the majority of American’s think the Kelo case was bullshit but it didn’t stop the verdict nor is it stopping local municipalities from abusing imminent domain. And you still can’t stop a large buerocracy any easier at the national level. People are voting based on a whole range of issues and those voters with concerns about their private property will be drooned out by those who have other priorities. The whole reason why it’s done at the local level is because these ordinances are more likely to remain a priority at that level rather than at the national level.

    “Funny, they get stopped when they do that here.”

    No they don’t. Not a true statement in the least.

    “And yes, you have a problem in your codified constitution, which lets people read their own interpretations into it and get away with nearly anything, sure.”

    And that doesn’t happen in in the UK? Horseshit. You’re government has been doing anything and everything it wants to your citizenry without any regard to natural rights. The UK police state is well known throughout the globe. Just google “British Police State” and you can get all the examples you want showing how much control British Subjects don’t have over their political body.

  9. #9 |  SJE | 

    Leon: the 3mo in jail for veggies is the other thread.
    The craziness there is not just the municipality, but US judicial and police practice that gets people beated and jailed for merely standing up to a person of power. That is one thing that I agree the UK is better at than the USA.

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  11. #11 |  poetry | 

    Shorter Leon:

    The larger the jurisdiction of the government, the smaller the influence of lobbyists, special interests, corporations, etc.


    Even Shorter:

    I’m a moron.

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  13. #13 |  Bernard | 

    I think this is perfectly reasonable. Any number of those piano students could be accused sex offenders.

  14. #14 |  Leon Wolfeson | 


    “The UK police state is well known throughout the globe”

    For stuff which doesn’t make it’s citizens blink, like, oh, cameras in PUBLIC spaces. ANOTHER example – harassment for photographing cops made the news here, and the police have had to back the fuck down.

    But you’re not paying attention to the examples, you’re quite frankly playing the stereotype which looks, to most British people, as quite literally insane. For everything you accuse us of, you let your government do far worse under other covers, and most of your people smile and ask for more!

  15. #15 |  Bernard | 

    ‘The UK police state is well known throughout the globe’

    Have to agree with Leon on this one. The fact that things like CCTV are taken as read here is irritating, and British people aren’t as keen on individual rights on some issues, but there are a good few issues where the craziness of the American system is at least as scary.

    Violent behaviour by cops happens a good deal here, but there are fewer egregious examples of it being totally ignored by the authorities.

    Military style raids for minor drug deals may happen, but they certainly don’t happen very often and the key step of military hardware being doled out to the police en masse hasn’t happened here which means that they don’t feel the need to find uses for it.

    And public prosecutors are less likely here to be on a career path to high office, which means that we have fewer of the crazy ‘I’m going to nail him up to show that I’m tough on crime’ type issues. The system is adversarial and injustices occur all too frequently, but the system doesn’t feel as polarised.

    This seems to be one of those things where Americans who are almightily annoyed about their own system still automatically assume that everywhere else is worse.

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  17. #17 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Bernard – Quite.

    Actually, I think (apart from the press blow-up) one of the issues, which I know I’ve talked about before (on left-leaning sites, to no real response) is abuse of bail, which came out quite nicely with the issues surrounding the (quite correct) ruling on it, and the Government’s emergency legislation response…

  18. #18 |  JOR | 

    The main explanatory difference I see between the UK and US isn’t systemic, it’s cultural. The US glorifies the military and violence in general. And it LOVES rebels, as long as said rebels are preferably in some kind of position of official authority and (more importantly) are rebelling against “red tape” that keeps them from abusing or killing “bad” people. Even a fair portion of cop-hating libertarian anarchists think there’s something admirable about killing foreigners for the federal government (because all Real Americans have to find some group of authoritarian professional thugs to worship, or else they’re dirty hippie communists or something).

  19. #19 |  John David Galt | 

    “Sanctity of neighborhoods” my backside. How about the sanctity of an individual’s own home, paid for with his own money?

    If neighbors want to restrict what you do in your home, let them sue and prove a nuisance under common law. *That* is the only legitimate restraint on an owner’s use of his property.

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  21. #21 |  Test Case Needed | 

    What’s needed is a good test case like a writer (blogger, journalist, etc.) who works from their home and meets with someone they are interviewing for a book, article, etc. That would violate the city ordinance.

    The problem is that enforcement of the ordinance would blatantly violate the writer’s First Amendment rights.

  22. #22 |  Don Cordell | 

    In Vista, CA it’s against the law to hold Bible study gatherings in your home, and a simular law in an Arizona town. I’m sure this probably comes up in other communities. In Vista you must apply for an Environmental Study for $15,000, to prove the visitors cars do not cause a problem.
    In Palmdale, CA it’s against the law to hold any religious service in a business location. What happened to our Constitution and Bill of Rights? Shreaded? And you keep electing Democrats and Republicans, shame.

  23. #23 |  Mattocracy | 

    I know it’s a bit late to jump back into this, but here’s a short list of abuses unrelated to CCTV cameras. Topics range from background checks to watch yours kids at the park to having cameras in the homes of problem families. The last link even has a police raid on a home.

    Is Britain worse than America? I suppose that’s a subject question. But after a certain point, you’re just splitting hairs trying to argue that Britain is less of a police state than the US, or vice versa. Please don’t pretend like any form of gov’t from local to national is anymore responsible than they other. It’s just not so.

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