Mayor Austin McMullen

Projects protect residential zoning, establish firm legal, financial foundation

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 5:06 PM

The City has recently made significant progress on several long-term projects. These improvements will preserve the residential nature of our neighborhoods and put our municipal government on a firm legal and financial foundation.

In July, the Board of Commissioners adopted a new zoning ordinance and official zoning map, the first major revision to the City’s zoning ordinance since 1991. However, several significant zoning ordinances were added around 2006.

Work on the new ordinance and map began more than a year ago. A great amount of public input helped to shape the zoning ordinance into a document that will project the character of our community for years to come.

Last month the Planning Commission updated the subdivision regulations and adopted a street classification plan. These documents, like the new zoning ordinance, serve to ensure that future development in Oak Hill is consistent with the neighborhood characteristics that make our City so unique.

This month the City’s Financial Advisory Committee is considering a comprehensive policy that will guide investment and use of reserve funds, our primary financial resource. The challenges of the last three years have included diminished revenues, low interest rates and new financial risks. The new investment policy should address how the City can maximize the benefits of its financial assets. 

In July, the Board of Commissioners adopted a new codification of the City’s ordinances, last codified in 1991. Residents can use the new code to easily find all the City’s laws on any particular subject.

These projects are a policy wonk’s dream. Yet, they are critical to protecting our City, residents and resources. We are indebted to those whose important work on these policies will ensure the residential, financial and legal integrity of Oak Hill well into the future.

Your recycling saves resources:
Trees, energy, money

Friday, May 27, 2011 5:37 PM

We have wanted to begin recycling in our home, but like most folks, haven’t taken the initiative. We are thankful to the City for providing the opportunity, and for making it so easy with at-your-door service.
Hal and Tiffany Garrett
4213 Morriswood Drive

Congratulations, Oak Hill—you saved 773 trees! And you diverted 27 large garbage trucks from landfills!

How did you do it? Recycling!

By recycling you also saved energy equivalent to the annual electriCity usage of 45 homes and prevented the release of CO2 greenhouse gases equal to taking eight cars off the road.

Recycling Results

In March and April, residents recycled nearly 134,000 pounds of material. That’s more than 22% diverted from the landfill. More than half of all Oak Hill households are participating in the program.

We are thrilled to have back door recycling. Not only can we recycle more items—glass and styrofoam, we no longer have to take our recyclables to the Hillsboro High School parking lot, saving both time and fuel. Oak Hill is providing a REAL service to its residents and the environment.
Margaret Zibart
1121 Stonewall Drive

This is the equivalent environmental impact of material recycled by Oak Hill residents in March and April using the City’s new backdoor recycling program.

Since we added backdoor recycling in March, I have heard from many of you who appreciate this program. The combination of convenience and environmental responsibility is what I hear residents praise most often.

“Why tie bags?”

Some residents have also had questions about the new program. The most frequent question I hear is: “Why do I have to tie the bags?”

Tying bags prevents litter. It also prevents commingling waste with recyclable materials.

The backdoor recycling program is made possible because of EarthSavers’ dual-use trucks. These trucks allow EarthSavers to pick up trash and recyclables in one trip, saving resources. However, loose materials can fly out of these trucks onto the roads or from the trash compartment to the recycling compartment.

The recycling service has allowed our family to save so much time and is such a wonderful benefit that the City offers to its residents.
Andrew and Kayla Jackson
709 Sills Court

The next time you get one of those little yellow tags saying your trash or recycling wasn’t picked up, remember this phrase from Happy Days’ Tom Bosley, “Don’t get mad—Get Glad!” Be glad because when you take a few seconds to tie your trash or recycling bag, you are making it possible for Oak Hill to continue providing twice weekly backdoor trash and recycling pick up at no additional cost to you. In fact, the City of Oak Hill receives none of the property tax payments you make, all of which go to Metro Nashville.

Even the Mayor gets those pesky yellow tags—I’ve gotten two for not tying bags! If you get a yellow tag you are not being picked on. It happens to everyone!

We hear your feedback

Based on your input we recently worked with EarthSavers to change the cardboard pick-up policy. You no longer have to put large cardboard boxes into a trash bag.

Instead, break down any cardboard boxes bigger than two feet by two feet along the seams, removing other packing material and wraps. Then bind the cardboard together with string or packing tape in bundles not to exceed four feet by four feet and 30 pounds. Put the bundle beside your blue “Oak Hill Recycles” bin.

If your trash or recycling pick-up is missed, please email EarthSavers directly or by calling 481-9640. This is the quickest way for EarthSavers to correct a missed pick-up or answer questions about trash and recycling policies.

Please also check EarthSavers’ dedicated Oak Hill website here. The detailed information on this website will answer many of your questions.

Conserve resources

When you recycle, you help the City of Oak Hill conserve one of the most important resources—money. As we recycle more, Earth¬≠Savers rebates a portion of the saved landfill charges to Oak Hill. The City can then use these funds for other important projects to make our community even better.

Please partner with Oak Hill and EarthSavers by recycling. Thank you to the many Oak Hill households who are recycling. The 22% diversion rate we have achieved is much higher than the 4% to 5% rate achieved by Metro Nashville and the City of Franklin.

We can do more to benefit the environment and our community! If you are not recycling, please start. If you are recycling, use your imagination to recycle even more material. It is good for our community and our world!

Write in 'Oak Hill' on tax return

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 10:54 AM

When you file your state income tax return, please write "Oak Hill" in the appropriate box regardless of your official mailing address. A portion of state taxes that residents pay is returned to the City. Writing "Oak Hill" on your return helps to ensure that the City receives these state-shared funds.

Oak Hill has no property tax. All property taxes are paid to Metro Nashville, and none of these funds are shared with Oak Hill. Almost all City funds are derived from state-shared revenue such as dedicated percentages of the Hall tax and sales tax. Oak Hill depends heavily on this state-shared revenue to fund important services, including trash, recycling, and chipper pick-up, street repair, zoning and clearing ice and snow.

You can help Oak Hill continue without a property tax by writing "Oak Hill" on your tax return. Please also keep abreast of bills currently pending in the legislature that would change the structure of state-shared taxes. Some of these bills, if passed, would dramatically impact the finances of the City of Oak Hill, necessitating severe cuts in City services or the imposition of new City taxes. Obviously, these alternatives are not preferable. We are monitoring the pending bills and discussing them with legislators, working to maintain stability in City revenues and services for residents.

Stay safe during this holiday season

Thursday, December 2, 2010 6:11 PM

Visiting with family and friends makes this time of year so special. Oak Hill is particularly beautiful with so many neighbors decorating for Christmas. As you enjoy the holidays, please use common sense and be alert for crimes that may occur.

With the coming of the holiday season, some criminals become more active. For example, several home break-ins have occurred over the past couple of months. Take extra precautions during the holidays

Oak Hill rarely has violent crimes that grab the headlines. Home and car break-ins, however, are serious crimes. Victims deal with loss and damage as well as the feeling of their personal space being violated. These crimes also impact our community's sense of safety and have the potential to diminish property values. Oak Hill cannot be complacent as these events occur.

Metro Nashville has responsibility for police protection in the City of Oak Hill. In fact, Metro's position is the Charter does not allow Oak Hill to have its own police force. Even though Oak Hill has no police officers of its own, we are fortunate that crimes are relatively infrequent here. The result of this low level of crime, however, is that Metro focuses police resources in other areas of the county with higher crime rates.

Despite the limitations we face, the City of Oak Hill is working to prevent crime. We have worked with Metro Nashville so that Oak Hill now hires off-duty Metro police officers to supplement Metro's police presence here. The City of Oak Hill spends approximately $50,000 per year hiring off-duty Metro officers. City officials also communicate crime and patrol information through a central point of contact with the Metro Police.

As Oak Hill residents, we should all be vigilant in guarding against crime. If a crime is in progress, please immediately call 911. If a crime has already occurred, please call Metro Police at 862-8600. By reporting crimes to Metro, the police presence in Oak Hill should increase. After informing Metro of a crime, please contact the City office at 371-8291 so that we can coordinate with Metro Police to further reduce crime in our area.

I hope everyone in Oak Hill experiences a wonderful and safe holiday season. Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011!

From the Vice Mayor • June 24, 2009

Sound wall construction raised concerns about cost, benefits

Several people have asked me questions about the recent unanimous decision of all three members of the Board of Commissioners not to move forward with construction of a sound wall in the northern portion of Oak Hill. Although I can speak only for myself and not the other Commissioners, I want to share some of the concerns expressed in hopes this will answer these questions.

The issue before the Board of Commissioners at our April meeting was whether to approve an engineering contract to design a sound wall only for the area north of Harding Place along I-65. The engineering cost for both north and south sound walls was estimated to be approximately $100,000. The ultimate cost to build a sound wall north of Harding Place was estimated to be $4 million.

I had a number of concerns. First, the sound wall would only be built north of Harding Place. There are almost as many residents of Oak Hill living south of Harding Place who face the same noise issues. This proposal would have done nothing to help them, and fairness would require that we help all residents who are dealing with this issue.

Second, the cost of the project was too high given the limited resources available to the City of Oak Hill and the lack of other funding sources for the project. This sound wall, only for the northern section of the City, would have cost approximately two-thirds of the City's savings. There was discussion of funding the project by borrowing the money. Oak Hill currently has no debt. Borrowing this money would have cost the City 20% to 30% of its projected budget over each of the next 30 years. I could not agree to spend such a large percentage of Oak Hill's savings or strap Oak Hill with such a significant debt burden on a project that would benefit a relatively small portion of the entire City.

This concern is heightened by the fact that Oak Hill relies on unpredictable state-shared revenue for the lion's share of its budget. Bills are introduced almost every year in the legislature to eliminate or reduce the revenue that is shared with cities. If such a bill were enacted after we built the proposed sound wall, we would not have savings to continue the functions performed by Oak Hill or the revenue to service the debt incurred building the sound wall.

I also have concerns with the limited benefit a sound wall will actually provide. One study indicated that almost all of the benefit from a sound wall is for the first row of houses closest to the wall. Another study indicated that more than 200 feet from a sound wall, wind (instead of the wall itself) is the greatest factor in determining the sound level. Sound walls are not effective to prevent sound from reaching houses at a higher elevations—certainly an issue in Oak Hill—and may actually amplify the sound going in the direction of those houses. Reviewing these studies, it is apparent that sound walls are not a panacea for the noise problems near I-65.

These noise problems were created by the state and federal governments that built and expanded I-65, which is actually located outside Oak Hill. Although Oak Hill did not create these noise problems, Oak Hill was being asked to pay approximately 85% of the cost to build the proposed northern sound wall. We would like to help all of our residents who live along I-65 and suffer from noise problems, but this did not strike me as a fair proposal.

Right-of-way problem

Additionally, TDOT indicated the sound walls could not be built on TDOT's right-of-way. As a result, this sound wall would have to be built on private property through easements given by homeowners. There are some areas, however, in which there is no private homeowner abutting I-65, such as the area south of the Oak Hill Assembly of God. Sound walls could not be built in these areas. Moreover, one or two homeowners who did not want the sound wall built or who demand an exorbitant amount for an easement along their property could destroy the entire project.

Finally, concerns were expressed as to whether awarding the contract might involve a conflict of interest.

Resources should benefit all

If we had significantly more funds and greater financial backing from the state and federal governments, we would have been more receptive to this proposal. However, given the limited funds available to the City, I believe our resources are better used in a way that benefits more of our citizens, such as through increased police patrols, twice-weekly backdoor trash pick-up, monthly brush and limb pick-up, and continued local control over planning and zoning decisions.

Following the April vote, at the suggestion of Commissioner Throckmorton, City Manager Kevin Helms has investigated using vegetation to reduce I-65 noise. A study of this "greenwall" concept found that 200 feet of dense vegetation would be necessary for a significant reduction in sound. "It is often impractical to plant enough vegetation along a road to achieve such reductions," the study stated, "however, if dense vegetation already exists, it could be saved." According to the study, planting vegetation of insufficient density or with a width of less than 200 feet would only provide "psychological relief."

Oak Hill will continue to work for sound walls to benefit our residents, but it will require more cooperation from the state and federal government. If you are concerned about this issue, you can help by contacting your state and federal representatives to ask that they provide funding for sound walls along I-65.

Mayor Austin McMullen

Austin McMullen

Austin McMullen is a lawyer with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.

He has undergraduate degrees in business administration and economics from Millsaps College and a law degree from Vanderbilt.

Austin serves as a volunteer with several community and professional organizations and am an active Deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Presbyterian Church. Austin and his wife Kelly live at 955 Greerland Drive with their three children.

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