Here's what you can do.
If you want to take action on a land use issue, you will want to organize your neighborhood so that everyone is aware of what is going on and can help and support your efforts. You may already have a HOA or neighborhood group that is aware of the issue, or you may need to contact your neighbors to have a meeting to discuss what to do.
There are a variety of ways to do this. We recommend that you try to collect email addresses as well as phone numbers for your neighbors so you can organize meetings and help people understand the issue and what action you want them to take. You can use apps such as NextDoor or Facebook to reach out as well as contacting people directly. The City of Knoxville has a list of neighborhood organizations and homeowners associations that may help you reach people who will be affected. Knox County is in the process of creating a list of county organizations, and we will post a link when it's ready.
Once you understand the process and what the status of the issue is, you should try to gain a consensus on what action to take as a united group. Depending on the nature of the issue and how strongly you and your group feel about it, you may want to raise funds to hire a land-use attorney. KCPA maintains a list of neighborhood-friendly land use attorneys you may wish to consult.
The official rezoning process is detailed by the Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission and can be found here: https://knoxmpc.org/commission/rezoning-process
What you need to understand is that from the time that you receive a public notification, either by mail or signage, the process happens quickly and you will need to act accordingly. The Applicant has had months, maybe years, to prepare for their request. Citizens have weeks to prepare their response, so time is critically important.
After you have a plan in place, you will want to lobby the appropriate body and/or individual members to let them know your position. There are a number of ways you can do this: in person, by phone and by email.
Here are some rules for effective lobbying we have learned over the years. Much of this is common sense, but it is easy to become emotional over land use issues. Remember that you are dealing with a PERSON who has feelings too and you will get a lot further if you remember that. Some people feel it is okay to be angry and abusive to people who are acting in a public capacity. This will not help you achieve your goals.
1. Be respectful of the person you are lobbying, both of their time and their feelings. It is very helpful to try and establish a relationship or identify people/issues you have in common BEFORE you ask for their vote.
2. Do your best to ensure that everyone in your group is on the same page and has the same messaging.
3. It is important to know background information before you approach them. Do your research. Where do they go to church? Where did they grow up? What have they voted for or against in the past? Check their social media. Like them whether you “like” them or not so you can see what they are posting. Do you know people in common? Is there an issue you both care about you can bring up?
4. Don’t overwhelm them with paper. Have a bullet list / fact sheet and link to more info if needed.
5. Listen. If you are able to meet in person, don’t go in spouting off facts and figures or be a know it all – they may know more than you or have already heard it, been there, done that. On the other hand, be prepared. Make sure everything you do say is factual, not hearsay.
6. Don't threaten, burn bridges, attack them on his/her positions or other votes. Don’t ridicule government or politics and don’t be partisan.
7. Provide concise, accurate information, no technical terms or jargon.
8. Don’t forget to ask for their support or their vote if you are there for specific issue – ask if you can count on their support/vote.
9. Thank them for meeting with you.
10. Don’t forget to follow up with nice note or email.
Get in Touch
Here's a handy list of contacts to help you get in touch with members.
You can email all commissioners at once by sending an email to email@example.com
Not sure what district you live in? Check here to find your representatives.