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.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

74 Responses to “Nashville Nixes Home Offices”

  1. #1 |  Woog | 

    Sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

  2. #2 |  S. Holmes | 

    I certainly will not be relocating my consulting detective proprietorship to that wretched city.

  3. #3 |  Difster | 

    Now let’s wait for the SWAT teams to invade people who work out their homes because they are a public menace.

  4. #4 |  karl | 

    When exactly did “not in my backyard” become “not in my neighbor’s backyard”? Official opposition to self-determination is not a new problem and its history and possible solutions create problems for both liberals and libertarians — if they are intellectually honest.

  5. #5 |  Jim Collins | 

    I wonder if someone on the Nashville council moved there from Jacksonvill Beach? In 1986 I recieved a $275 fine for changing the oil in my car, in my driveway. It turns out that they had passed a law banning automobile maintaince in locations visable from the street. The main force in passing the law, just happened to own the only Jiffy Lube in the area.

  6. #6 |  Dave | 

    If I were chief of police, I’d send the police out to every home-based piano teacher, glassmaker, etc in the city. When the excrement hits the oscillator, he can just point at city hall and say “It’s what the Mayor and council wants. Sorry.”

    The higher profile the better. If I could find a councilman’s grandma, I’d arrest her first.

    Wanna bet the law changes so fast it’s signed before the ink is dry?

    Check your history – it’s the same method used to legalize gambling in Iowa. The Attorney General told the legislature to fix the law or he would bust a church for bingo. They didn’t, he did. They fixed it.

  7. #7 |  CH | 

    RB, have you sniffed around for any brick & mortar type organizations lobbying against the bill?

  8. #8 |  Difster | 

    Dave, that’s awesome. You’re right, they Sheriff should arrest a couple of little old ladies for giving piano lessons.

  9. #9 |  Aresen | 

    Well, you don’t want deviant piano students next door, do you? Before you know it, they’d be Chopin at your Bach.

    ;P

  10. #10 |  MacK | 

    HEADLINES: Swat protects all tone deaf people.

    Swat raid on illegal music teacher, uncovers several unregistered harmonicas, a kilo bag full of kazoos, and an assaulting sounding xylophone.

    Officer Scarediecat said “I had to shoot two song birds due to being in fear for my life from them things tweeting in an aggressive manner towards me.”

  11. #11 |  Mattocracy | 

    I think it’s time to call IJ in Nashville.

  12. #12 |  Highway | 

    You know, being that it’s Nashville, I wouldn’t be surprised if the history of that law goes back to musicians who did have commercial space lobbying for that anti-home office provision to reduce competition.

  13. #13 |  croaker | 

    @9 This is why some people want to make puns a felony…

  14. #14 |  SJE | 

    If you are in a band and have a recording studio at home, if someone from a local club comes by to sign you up for a gig, then you would be violating the law, I assume.

  15. #15 |  SJE | 

    What about home day-care? Why does Nashville hate the children so much?

  16. #16 |  HostileLogic | 

    People’s Republic of Nashville…

  17. #17 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #10: “Officer Scarediecat said ‘I had to shoot two song birds due to being in fear for my life from them things tweeting in an aggressive manner towards me.’”

    Was one of the birds named Ashton Kutcher?
    http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/action-and-reaction/

  18. #18 |  Irving Washington | 

    Every city I’m familiar with that has home office zoning regs has a limitation on the number of business visitors. It’s always higher than zero.

    So, the real question is whether this is a reasonable time/place/manner restriction on freedom of assembly/association. I bet it’s not.

  19. #19 |  Mario | 

    I suppose the sex offenders will now have to meet their attorneys in the local Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. Talk about unintended consequences!

  20. #20 |  Chris Mallory | 

    It might get repealed/altered sooner if the cops did get involved. But I would guess they are calling these “civil code violations”. Letting them give big fines while bypassing all those troublesome due process requirements. So, instead of Officer Porky the SWAT officer kicking down a door, you have some idiotic code inspector in a shirt and tie (sweaty and stained with lunch) handing out citations.

  21. #21 |  Chris in AL | 

    Hmmmm…seems like this will be hard on the real estate business. You know, not meeting with clients in residential homes.

    And those contractor built subdivisions that have an office and 3 or 4 model homes at the front of the community…filthy lawbreakers.

    And what frickin’ attorney wants the sex offenders he defends to know where he lives? The stupidity of people is overwhelming.

  22. #22 |  overgoverned | 

    “I’m not sure how this is supposed to be enforced.”

    Don’t go on wondering — ask them how many code enforcement citations they’ve written for this violation, and you’ll have your answer. I bet the answer is that it mostly isn’t enforced. Prove from your porch that the person who just walked into your neighbor’s house to spend three minutes signing a contract behind a closed door was engaged in business.

    To the extent it’s enforced, I would bet it’s written as an absolute prohibition, but enforced as a nuisance law: you can meet with clients at home all you want, until you make enough noise or generate enough neighborhood traffic and parking to piss off the nosy old lady who lives next door.

    What laws say isn’t usually related to how they work.

  23. #23 |  awp | 

    “the sanctity of neighborhoods”????????????????????????

  24. #24 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    And the problem is…allowing too much local power. As usual.

  25. #25 |  Garrett J | 

    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.

    Because as you all well know, criminal defense attorneys are typically in the business of inviting their clients into their homes with their children and families.

  26. #26 |  Radley Balko | 

    And the problem is…allowing too much local power. As usual.

    I don’t know that Congress, with all its wisdom and restraint, should be entrusted with local zoning laws.

  27. #27 |  yonemoto | 

    I don’t know that we should Congress, with all its wisdom and restraint, should be entrusted with local zoning laws.

    Of course not. the only way for this to be determined fairly is to let the citizens of the world democratically decide zoning laws via the UN.

  28. #28 |  Aresen | 

    @ Radley Balko | July 7th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t know that we should Congress, with all its wisdom and restraint, should be entrusted with local zoning laws.

    Radley, you just overloaded my sarcasm meter again.

  29. #29 |  Stephen | 

    Can we please now start hanging the people who come up with this shit?

  30. #30 |  EH | 

    The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness are going to be pissed.

  31. #31 |  JS | 

    21st century Americans hate freedom.

  32. #32 |  James J.B. | 

    Hey Croaker

    Seems to me have to get a “Handel” on the private music lessons.

    These bureaucrats are (Maurice) “Ravel”-ing in their power.

    Maybe the residents fear a “Wolfe” in sheep’s clothing

    I fear that the council may be “Scriabin” the bottom of the barrel with this ordinance. -

  33. #33 |  SJE | 

    Radley is right. Unlike Fed regulations, with an out-of-control Nashville City Govt, you can always move to the nearest suburb or town. In fact, they would probably appreciate your business.

    Nashville: why do you hate small business?

  34. #34 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Radley;

    So you want to give control of zoning laws to small local authorities, over which there is considerably LESS democratic oversight? That’s the problem with localism, policies can be enacted which would be laughed out at a national level, and rightly so.

    What zones mean, and what they allow, should be set centrally. Local governments should then be free to set the zone areas, of course, but it stops most shenanigans, and means you don’t need lawyer-time researching the zoning meanings in every little area.

  35. #35 |  Aresen | 

    @ James J.B. | July 7th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Let me Teleman you to be careful with those puns, you might piss someone Orff.

  36. #36 |  Radley Balko | 

    Leon —

    I would dispute the notion that there’s less democratic oversight at the local level. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get a local policy changed than to get a federal law changed. It’s easier to run for local office than for federal office. And your vote has more power at the local level than at the federal level. This was an attempt to revise an old law. I don’t agree with the result, but it was voted down after considerable input from the community. When was the last time that happened in Congress? And as SJE noted, the more local the law, the easier it is to move to another jurisdiction if you can’t change it.

    Local government should be forced to obey the constitutional rights of their citizens. But after that, I’m all for localism.

  37. #37 |  Paulus | 

    James JB: Comedy Gould.

    Can anyone explain to me what the ‘sanctity’ of neighbourhoods entails? No gay couples, I would assume.

  38. #38 |  yonemoto | 

    Leon – the reason why there is less oversight at the local level? Because we have given so much power to the federal gov’t that no one pays attention to the local gov’ts anymore. who is your councilperson? Who is your state legislator? Do you even know?

    The irony is that to get elected to federal offices, we seem to insist that people have “political experience”, so our elected officials cut their teeth in a regime where there is very little oversight. Of course, the more power we give to the federal government, the less incentive there is to pay attention to local politics – the system works!

  39. #39 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    yonemoto – And I strongly disagree. It’s far harder to set up proper auditing and oversight (and often prohibitive, in cost terms) of hundreds of little localities, each with very different laws, than one central government.

    It also feeds heavily into people needing lawyers to navigate the little locality laws, and to people who would be minor players in a national system being able to abuse local laws – the making of which they heavily influence – to bully and abuse people.

    I live in the UK, and we wouldn’t dream of giving localities the sort of powers they routinely cause in America, and we have far, far less of these issues. Giving too much power to people who are elected by small groups of people is ripe for special interests and abuse.

    (And I can certainly name the local council party leaders, my MP and my MEP…it’s just I have nothing to say to Tories)

  40. #40 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Radley – Sure, it’s easier to change local laws. Which means they’re more vulnerable to special interests, and to outside pressure, than national laws. It’s better to get things right at a national level, and to not allow areas to tinker with the laws to favour certain groups!

    Moreover, a proper auditing and oversight structure is something which is hard enough (especially since special interests fight it!) at national level, let alone local level.

    You constantly report on issues which are caused by local abuse of power…for things which are simply outside the power of local officials here. This is only magnified by “localism” like….oh… elected prosecutors who will “enforce local priorities”.

  41. #41 |  EH | 

    Sure, it’s easier to change local laws. Which means they’re more vulnerable to special interests, and to outside pressure, than national laws

    LOL!

  42. #42 |  Big A | 

    If they looked at other large cities and found that none of them have such a law, then this law is not suitable and cannot be passed.

  43. #43 |  Marty | 

    Leon-

    I know it runs counter to what looks logical, but lots of smaller governments are better than a large central government. Read some of Elinor Ostrom’s views on this- she won the Nobel prize in economics a couple years ago.

  44. #44 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Marty;

    I’m not saying implementation shouldn’t be down to local governments. I’m saying that the basic ground rules for things like zoning should be set centrally.

  45. #45 |  Mattocracy | 

    Leon,

    You have much more control over your local pols than at the national level. I don’t see how that isn’t obvious. You go from a municipal election where you are one of 10-20,000 voters to a race where you’re one of several hundred thousand voters.

    How can you possibly argue that it’s easier to control a central zoning commission at the national level. What kind of math are you doing?

    You know what local pols do with the rules at the national level? They ignore them. There are national rules already (constitution, bill of rights) and those central rules don’t seem to keep anyone in line at any level of government.

  46. #46 |  yonemoto | 

    Leon –

    “I live in the UK, and we wouldn’t dream of giving localities the sort of powers they routinely cause in America, and we have far, far less of these issues. Giving too much power to people who are elected by small groups of people is ripe for special interests and abuse.”

    You forget, by virtue of living in the UK, you are *already* living in what would be largely considered a “locality” in the US. How’s that EU stuff working out for you guys?

  47. #47 |  yonemoto | 

    “Moreover, a proper auditing and oversight structure is something which is hard enough (especially since special interests fight it!) at national level, let alone local level.”

    “…Which means they’re more vulnerable to special interests”

    So, how exactly is the special interest going to audit and oversight their political action activities to make sure they’re getting what they think they are getting?

  48. #48 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    yonemoto – The EU is stopping the Tories from doing even MORE shitting on poorer people from a great height. The EU parliament keeps on blocking idiotic things the Government dream up as well. It’s great, thanks for asking!

    Let’s see…only 52 million in England, *totally* comparable to your local areas. Also lool at your silly, silly reading of a very clear sentence.

    Mattocracy – 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. Rather than it being a few people protesting at city level.

    “You know what local pols do with the rules at the national level? They ignore them.”

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

    That’s a slam against codified constitutions, not the ease at which you can keep tabs on one central government, not hundreds of little ones.

  49. #49 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    …er the *definitions* of what zones are centrally.

  50. #50 |  SJE | 

    Leon: Unlike the USA, the local councils in England are, from a political sense, branches of the National Govt, and are answerable to it for a lot of the money etc. Yet the English local councils still come up with all sorts of bat sh*t crazy regulations. So, greater Federal control hasn’t really helped, has it?

  51. #51 |  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…

  52. #52 |  SJE | 

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

  53. #53 |  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 Reason.com’s strange coding would mean several hours of coding.

    No, direct links, thanks.

  54. #54 |  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.

  55. #55 |  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?

  56. #56 |  Stormy Dragon | 

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

  57. #57 |  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?

  58. #58 |  Mattocracy | 

    #55,

    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.”

    True

    “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.

  59. #59 |  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.

  60. #60 |  The Problem with Zoning Laws (and Building Codes): Music City Edition | 

    […] Balko doesn’t like what’s happening, and adds some salient points: A local TV news report on this story said residents who spoke out against the bill were worried […]

  61. #61 |  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.

  62. #62 |  Linkavaganza | Nobody's Business | 

    […] How to kill jobs in Nashville in one easy step. […]

  63. #63 |  Bernard | 

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

  64. #64 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Mattocracy;

    “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!

  65. #65 |  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.

  66. #66 |  When Your Property Is No Longer Your Own – It Is Already Too Late | DRScoundrels | 

    […] Also – theagitator.com had an article you might want to look at pertaining to the Nashville ho… […]

  67. #67 |  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…

  68. #68 |  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).

  69. #69 |  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.

  70. #70 |  Why Are There So Many Intrusive Nazi Busybodies in America Now? » ReasonAndJest.com | 

    […] who are helping a woman’s Nazi neighbors take away her vegetable garden, and a post on Nashville home office Nazis, who don’t want to allow people who work at home to meet clients or customers in their own […]

  71. #71 |  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.

  72. #72 |  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.

  73. #73 |  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.

    http://dailycensored.com/2009/11/03/whats-new-in-the-british-police-state/

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/whats-new-in-the-british-police-state.html

    http://underboss.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/more-police-state-tyranny-from-england/

  74. #74 |  Nashville Nixes Home Offices < | 

    […] It’s just that if you do have a home office, you aren’t allowed to meet with anyone in it. Read The Full Story Comments closed | Trackback […]

Leave a Reply