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Appeals Issue Summary for Aug 22 Vote

Monday, August 22, at 7PM County Commission hold a final vote on a proposed ordinance that would change the process of Appeals of some Planning Commission Decisions. To date, Uses on Review (which also have included Development Plans) have been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The proposed changes would give a Development Plan applicant the choice of venue for where a Development Plan appeal is heard - at BZA, or directly to court. This will make it harder for you to participate and achieve good outcomes for some planning issues.

What is a Development Plan?

The Development Plan is the defining characteristic of Planned Zoning districts. It is the detailed site plan required for shopping centers, planned commercial, business parks, and most commonly, apartments and subdivisions in the Planned Residential Zone. Development Plans are the nitty, gritty details, examining traffic, lighting, landscaping, signage, parking, where uses are and aren’t on the parcel. Development Plans have the details so you can see exactly how the proposal fits in with your community and neighborhood. But, there are also complex, confusing sets of requirements for development plans in different zones.

How are Development Plans reviewed and approved?

An applicant works on a development plan for several months, and then submits an application to Planning at least 45 days before the meeting. The staff meets with the applicant to review and inform them of changes required. Three (3) weeks before the meeting, the Preliminary Agenda is published and the public has its first notice that it will be on the meeting. Twelve days before the meeting, the development plan must be finalized. Six days before the meeting, the Final Agenda is published which includes staff background reports and recommendations. Finally, Planning Commission hears from the opposition, the applicant, discusses and then votes on it.

What are the issues neighbors and the community will have if the appeals process is changed?

For years there’s been a mandatory 1st step - the hearing at Planning Commission, and then an optional 2nd step - an appeal to BZA, where it is heard de novo and BZA can reweigh the evidence. For development plans, that 2nd step appeal has been used 10 times in 15 years. An appeal is by far the exception, not the norm.

Why does this matter to my neighborhood and community?

  1. Sometimes you can’t organize your neighborhood, contact staff, contact the applicant, understand potential issues, deliberate and come to a group consensus, and then contact the applicant, prepare and submit comments for Planning Commission, and organize a representative to speak in just 3 weeks

  2. The details of a Development Plan - the drawings, and conditions, are what Codes uses to measure and enforce compliance with the plan. Details matter.

  3. If court is the option for appeal, there is cost with hiring an attorney, which effectively pus an appeal out of the range of most neighborhoods and community organizations.

  4. The standard of review at court: a court only looks to see if the body acted legally. The BZA hears the case ‘de novo’ - through fresh eyes - and can reweigh the testimony, consider new evidence, and then affirm, modify, or overrule the planning commission’s decision.

What does KCPA propose as an option?

First - KCPA proposes that the appeal of Development Plans to BZA be codified (added) into the county ordinance. Currently there are confusing times when it would, or wouldn’t, but Commission has the authority to make it clear that all appeals of Development Plans would be heard by the BZA.

Second - Commission should consider attendance requirements for all boards, including BZA. Attendance issues (lack of a quorum to conduct business) have occasionally been an issue for the BZA.

What can I do?

  1. Call your county commissioner AND the two At-Large Commissioners - Justin Biggs and Larsen Jay. Be polite, ask where they are leaning. If you’ve been in front of Planning Commission before, tell them what that experience was like. Tell them you hope you’ll never need to file an appeal, but you want the ability to have it heard in front of BZA.

  2. Email to tell them your position and thoughts on the matter.

  3. Attend the Mon, Aug 22, 7PM Zoning Meeting from County Commission at the City-County Building. Bring a friend! Wear Orange!

  4. Share the posts from the KCPA blog and posts from the KCPA Facebook page with Knox County friends.

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