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‘Clean hands’ ordinance draws concern

City Attorney urges Council to be cautious

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 12/2/21

The Shelbyville City Council held a study session Tuesday night to discuss agenda items for next week’s council meeting on Thursday.

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‘Clean hands’ ordinance draws concern

City Attorney urges Council to be cautious


The Shelbyville City Council held a study session Tuesday night to discuss agenda items for next week’s council meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Shelbyville Rec Center, 220 Tulip Tree Road.  

Several discussion items about new possible ordinances were presented to Council.  

Clean hands ordinance  

A “Clean Hands Ordinance” was discussed before council and brought up unfavorable recommendations from the city attorney. 

Clean Hands Ordinances would require any individual to be free of all debts with the City before conducting business with the City, Shelbyville City Manager Joshua Ray explained during the study session.  

For example, someone coming in with a permit to build a house would be required to be free of all debts and obligations with the City before they can have approval of that permit. This would ensure the ability to satisfy all debt and to make sure fees and taxes are paid, according to Ray.  

However, City Attorney Ginger Shofner advised caution with such an ordinance. She said she had two main concerns: that the Council does not have statutory authority to enact such a requirement and that there would be Constitutional issues.  

“Clean hands doctrine is a very well-established, legal doctrine but it has nothing to do at all with an ordinance.”  

Shofner said that she was unfamiliar with the Clean Hands Ordinance previously. So she contacted the Municipal Technical Advisory Service legal department, who said they had never heard of such an ordinance. 

 According to the legal department, Shofner said, “We would doubt there’s any authority in Tennessee that a government could deny services to its citizens based on the fact they had not paid something else.”  

After looking into it further, Shofner said the District of Colombia was one of the few cities that had Clean Hands Ordinance in use. And in some instances, there are problems with the ordinance.  

For example, residents in D.C. who owe the City debts amounting to over $100 cannot get their driver’s licenses. But their ordinance is very broad while D.C. does not operate like the average government entity.  

“Whatever someone is accused of doing it has to be related to that. It can’t be because you’ve done anything wrong, related to what you pursue in the court of law,” Shofner explained. “So the way this is drafted, what you’re trying to do is connect two very different things. The variance of whether they’ve paid the property taxes has absolutely nothing to do with one another.”  

Airport hangars  

Disagreements also arose over a resolution stating the desire for future direction of the Shelbyville Municipal Airport.  

Councilmember Henry Feldhaus said the airport is looking for specifics in future plans. Feldhaus has suggested installing a $2 million hangar that could house four jets. Since the airport makes $100,000 dollars a year per jet to house them in hangars and provide fuel, the airport could begin subsidizing itself instead of having the City continue to pay its yearly $200,000 dollars.  

“It’s a smart business move...The airport could subsidize itself and save taxpayer money,” said Feldhaus. Councilmember Rick Overcast disagreed with the idea of building a new hangar. Instead, the airport  

needs to drop those who are just renting space and not flying jets.  

“You’ve got too many hangars out there...It’s not a storage facility,” said Overcast. Airport Director Paul Perry said of the people in the Tee hangars who the airport looks to buy fuel, about a third do not fly.  


There was confusion from both councilmembers and citizens during the study session about a possible rezoning ordinance for 22.5 acres located on the west side of U.S. 231 North.  

The planning commission, according to City Planner Waleed Albakry, submitted a favorable recommendation for annexation but an unfavorable recommendation for the rezoning from agriculture/ low residency to commercial/high residency.  

However, there was confusion about whether the land in question was part of the City or not.  

According to Albakry, the portion that is already zoned R-2 was in the city.  

“That’s not in the city either,” said Mayor Wallace Cartwright, who said he was raised in a portion of property that was adjacent to the area zoned R-2. “But the rest of that property was all one piece. And when the city limits went out to industrial, where Walmart is, we took in just the state highway rights-of-way.”  

Albakry said he was seeing in the zoning ordinance that the portion zoned R-2 was in City limits. Ray said they would have to confirm later.  

Stacey Roach, from Curl Construction—the applicants for the land—commented during the citizens comments that she did not understand why the planning commission submitted an unfavorable recommendation for Council for this property when an identical property on the east side of 231 was approved a year ago. It is zoned four lots on the front as commercial and the rest for high density residential (about 90 units), the same layout land in question.  

“I think for us, it’s a little confusing because there has not been a rule change in a year,” said Roach. “So as a developer it does make it hard for us to know where to invest our real estate when it’s without a set precedent.”  

The zoning department said the zoning was not part of “future land use plans.” 


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