Knoxville Chamber & Knoxville Area Association of REALTORS
Recode Knoxville Policy Recommendations & Considerations
Members of the Knoxville Chamber and Knoxville Area Association of REALTORS have been extensively involved throughout the Recode Knoxville process, hosting multiple forums and workshops, submitting hundreds of draft and map comments, serving on the Stakeholder Committee, and working collaboratively to address the priorities and concerns of the business and development communities.
Our major policy concerns and recommendations have been based on protecting private property rights and values and ensuring that Recode will encourage, commercial, office, and industrial development through reasonable regulations and design standards.
The two organizations offer these final comments regarding Recode’s impact on non-residential development as Council’s first vote on May 14 approaches.
Continue and Codify Stakeholder Advisory Committee and its Duties and Powers
There is widespread support for this in the Mayor’s office, City Council, and interested stakeholders. Our hope is that this will be codified in a separate ordinance at the same meetings as the Recode votes.
The voting members of the committee, and the public interest groups each represents, should remain unchanged, and its meetings should be staffed by the city’s Chief Building Official, Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission and the city’s Law Department. Meetings should be open to the public and scheduled quarterly. Its duties, powers and what data will be supplied to the committee should be decided at is first organizational meeting. The public comment option on www.RecodeKnoxville.com should continue for two years following adoption, as well. The Stakeholder Advisory Committee should report at least annually to Council.
The Stakeholders Advisory Committee, with public input at meetings and through the online comment process, can help ensure that economic progress is not impeded by recommending needed changes following Recode’s adoption and that the public investment required to make the new zoning successful is clearly understood. There will be cases where property owners are seeking accommodations or uses of their property but they are unable to due to some unintended consequence of Recode. It is impossible to make a changes of this scale without unintended consequences so there must be some avenue, besides the variance process, for relief for property owners.
Increase maximum height in I-G & I-H zones.
Knoxville-Knox County Planning Director has indicated not changing this height requirement was inadvertent before the release of the final draft, and he agrees with this recommendation.
Recode allows for a maximum height of 90 feet for Industrial-Research & Development zones, recognizing the trend in industrial design to building vertically. Many manufacturers conduct R&D activities at their current location. Allowing this maximum height in industrial zones ensures the city’s manufacturers remain viable in the future.
Incorporate Parking & Sign Ordinances, Landscaping Regulations, and Hillside Protection Overlay without Changes (Articles 8.9, 11, 12, 13)
The final draft of Recode rightly incorporates these regulations without changes, and Chamber and KAAR have operated under this assumption for more than a year.
Both the parking and sign ordinances were vetted in public processes with compromises made by development, neighborhood and other interests. One group has repeatedly argued to remove the graduated landscaping requirements for lots less than 20,000 square feet and to require a landscape bond be posted by owners. The graduated landscaping requirements were created after planners examined numerous parcels within the city that will not be viable for redevelopment if not for the graduated requirements. In addition, the city already has an effective mechanism to cure landscaping issues: Notice of Violation, which includes remedies and fines if the property owner doesn’t cooperate. Notice of Violation is available in perpetuity on all existing and new development, while the landscape bond is only applicable to new development and expires after two years. The Notice of Violation properly address real problem areas, without placing the further burden of a landscape bond on all redevelopment.
Like the parking and sign ordinances, the Hillside Protection Overlay was vetted, on its own merit, through a lengthy public process, and has been rightly incorporated into the final draft without changes. Applying the HP Overlay to non-residential zones did not have the support to be adopted at the time it went through the public vetting process. The HP Overlay only applied to residential property in the first draft and was changed to apply to all property in later drafts, against city staff recommendation: “Applying the maximum land disturbance areas across the board to any property with the HP overlay is a significant change to the previous draft and has not been vetted publicly.” An analysis of parts of the current Recode map shows that it would make large stretches of property – some with existing blighted structures – undevelopable along the I-275 corridor. We have concerns about the accuracy of the HP Overlay topographical map and how density or disturbance regulations would be applied to non-residential lots.
Draft and Release a Commercial, Office, and Industrial Use Matrix Comparison Chart (Table 9.1)
City staff should draft and release a comparison chart for commercial, office, and industrial districts that shows which currently permitted and special uses have been eliminated from or added to those districts in the final draft of Recode, and which ones have changed from/to permitted and special use. The Chamber and KAAR have made requests for this throughout the process but the current Commercial, Office, and Industrial Comparison Chart does not address this concern.
While this issue should not result in a delay in the vote, the Chamber and KAAR believe that such a matrix would aid the Stakeholders Advisory Committee in its continuing evaluation of Recode, and establish trust that the ordinance itself is not impeding redevelopment.