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A new tool to improve Memphis neighborhoods

sen tate_600As state lawmakers, the issues we talk about at the Capitol in Nashville tend to tackle statewide problems, with ideas for all of Tennessee, from Memphis to Kingsport.
But this year, we passed a different kind of law, one that will lead to some positive changes right in your own neighborhood.

Unfortunately, some of our neighborhoods in Memphis aren't as great as they can be. The Neighborhood Preservation Act gives older, established neighborhoods here in Memphis a way to reinvest and revitalize.

What this law does is adapts an idea that's common in newer neighborhoods but hasn't been available in older and more established areas. If you've ever been in a homeowner's association, you'll know what I'm talking about.

In those newer neighborhoods, homeowner's associations are there to maintain high standards for the look and feel of a place, with an eye toward preservation and protecting from blight and crime.

The new law sets up a way for older neighborhoods to organize a neighborhood preservation nonprofit corporation. The nonprofit corporation would not be limited to just residential homes; churches or other nonprofit entities could be included as part of the joint collaboration.

Those that do set up a nonprofit corporation, by filing their 501-3-c paperwork with the Tennessee Secretary of State, would first register their plat to show which properties are included with the county register of deeds. The entity would then be eligible for other state money for improvements and community resources, because of their nonprofit status. Funding for improvements would also be generated by monthly dues.

Any funds collected from neighborhood members could only be used to fix up property and protect from blight and crime, and uses would need to be approved by a vote of two thirds of neighborhood members. The members could also pool their money to purchase vacant properties within their plat – residential or commercial, and in turn sell or lease the property to generate more funds with which to further improve their neighborhood.

Now is an especially good time to look for ways to improve our neighborhoods, given the direction of our city and state.

In the past, cities have grown by annexation, when the city expands out into unincorporated parts of the county. Just recently the cities of Lakeland and Southwind-Windyke have considered annexing nearby rural areas for new tax revenue to pay for the services those cities provide.

Memphis has annexed before in similar fashion, but recently our mayor announced a new approach to growth that focuses on revitalizing established parts of the city rather than continuing to grow outward into the county.

In the past, that outward growth has swallowed up city resources, but today we see a movement back to improving the established areas that made our city great.

That means the success of our established neighborhoods is more important than ever. When our neighborhoods succeed, so does our city.

If you're interested in working in your own neighborhood to set up a neighborhood preservation nonprofit corporation under the new law, please don't hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions.

(State Sen. Reginald Tate represents part of Shelby County in the General Assembly.)

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