Who

Who is involved in Planning and Land Use?

The Bodies

Q & A

 

First, let’s start with the existing bodies within Knoxville and Knox County that pertain to land use and planning.

 

Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission Staff:  Formerly the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), the Knoxville-Knox County Planning (Planning) was established in 1956 by Knoxville and Knox County as the agency responsible for comprehensive county-wide planning and administration of zoning and land subdivision regulations and remains so today, except for the town of Farragut. Funding for Planning activities comes primarily from city and county appropriations and from federal grants for specific studies. The Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission Staff is an organization serving both the city and county who recommends to the Board of Commissioners the boundaries of the various original districts and appropriate regulations and restrictions to be enforced therein.  The planning staff often formulates, implements, facilitates, and monitors local plans and studies.  An appointed executive director and a staff of 35 work in all divisions: Planning Services; Information Services; and Transportation Planning. Transportation staff provides assistance to the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization that serves Knox and urbanized portions of Blount, Loudon, and Sevier counties. In addition, Planning works with the Knox County and Knoxville Historic Zoning Commissions.
 

The Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission: A planning and zoning Commission is a local appointed government board charged with recommending to the local county commission or city council the boundaries of the various original zoning districts and appropriate regulations to be enforced therein and any proposed amendments thereto. The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission is comprised of 15 members: seven appointed by the Mayor of Knoxville and eight appointed by the Knox County Mayor and confirmed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Commissioners serve four-year staggered terms, without compensation.  The Planning Commission meets on the second Thursday 2:30pm of each month.  Information available includes active cases, agenda updates, public comments, active appeals, and actions taken at last month’s meeting.  Zoning and sector plan requests and decisions must first come before the planning commission and then on to county commission or city council for final rulings.  Planning Commission has the final ruling on Use on Review / Concept Plan. 

 

Authority: Title 13 of the Tennessee Code authorizes municipal and regional planning commissions to regulate land use and conduct other planning activities. As a regional planning commission, the Commission has the following authority and responsibilities.

  • Prepare and adopt a General Plan...that places under a single cover, long-range policies for land use, utilities, recreation, transportation, public facilities, and other concerns.

  • Review subdivision regulations and site plans...approving those proposals that encourage the harmonious development of the community and create conditions favorable to health, safety, convenience and prosperity.

  • Prepare and recommend zoning ordinances and maps...for the city and county.

  • Review proposed zoning amendments...and advise legislative bodies on the appropriate zoning action.

  • Review proposed capital improvements...and advise the appropriate legislative body regarding project necessity, feasibility and compliance with long range plans; and, promote coordination between various agencies and different levels of government.

The Knoxville City Charter further requires Knoxville-Knox County Planning to prepare five- and 15-year comprehensive development plans. Each sector plan that staff prepares for the city contains these elements. The Charter also requires Planning to annually update the land-use policies that form the legal basis for zoning decisions in Knoxville. These policies are embodied in the One Year Plan and effectively link zoning and comprehensive planning. In 2002, the City Charter was amended to require Planning to prepare an annual report on the preservation of historic structures and districts within the city.

Planning performs special purpose studies and analyses of significant issues commissioned by city or county government, e.g. voting district boundary revisions, impact studies for major development proposals, and annexation studies.

A Capital Improvements Program is submitted to the city each year that includes capital expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year, the capital budget, and a projected five-year capital improvements program. Capital improvement programs specify the location, timing, priority, estimated cost and financing method of public capital expenditures. The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Knoxville City Council on all capital improvements.


Historic Zoning Commission (HZC): The Historic Zoning Commission works with developers to encourage the preservation of historic sites and areas and to integrate historic facilities into other plans.  The commission reviews applications for building permits for construction or demolition within a designated historic zone. https://knoxmpc.org/historic  (add link to historic registry)


Design Review Board: The Design Review Board functions as the decision-making body for the design of new development projects and most exterior changes to existing buildings.  The board also acts as an advisory body to the Planning Commission in cases also involving land use decision.  The board meets the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 4:00pm in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building. Effective August 28, 2020, the Design Review Board will review all applications within the Infill Housing Overlay (IH).

 

Infill Housing Design Review Committee: The Infill Housing Design Review Committee ensure that the Infill Housing Overly (IH) guidelines are upheld.  Such guidelines include re-establishing the architectural character of those historically valuable properties with new housing that is architecturally compatible; fosters neighborhood stability; recreates more pedestrian-oriented streets; and meets a wide range of housing needs. Infill Housing Overlay applications are heard by the Design Review Board effective August 28, 2020.

 

Tennessee Technology Corridor Development Authority (TTCDA): The TTCDA was established in 1983 by state legislation creating the Tennessee Technology Corridor Development Authority.  A grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission allowed a team of consultants to develop a concept plan and guidelines addressing setbacks, lot coverage, signs, landscaping, lighting, access, and architecture. Planning staff wrote a comprehensive plan based on the consultant's work, and this plan was adopted by the Knox County Commission in 1984. The result was a 7,000-acre technology overlay zone stretching through west Knox County along the Pellissippi Parkway, north of I-40/75. In April 1999, the operations of TTCDA were turned over to Knoxville-Knox County Planning. Applications for building permits, grading permits, sign permits, and rezoning certificates are assigned to the TTCDA staff, and their recommendations are considered by the TTCDA Board of Commissioners at monthly meetings.  The TTCDA is designed to encourage technology and related land uses while preserving forested ridges, rolling hills, and broad valleys. The zoning is fairly flexible and allows most types of office and light industry, with limits on retail development.  The TTCDA has seven members who serve staggered five year terms.  One member is appointed by the governor, five members are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Knox County Commission, and one member is a current Knox County Commissioner.

 

Plat Review: Knoxville-Knox County Planning is responsible for regulations governing the subdivision of all land in Knox County, Tennessee, including the incorporated City of Knoxville, but excluding all land located within the corporate boundaries of the Town of Farragut (see bottom of page 3). The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission has delegated review authority of final plats to Planning staff. This delegation does not apply to final plats that include a request for a variance from the subdivision regulations, which will still require review and approval by the Planning Commission. All subdivision plats should be submitted to Planning electronically for review. Below are instructions for submitting plats, applications, and payment. Also included is an overview of the plat review and certification process, a step by step guide to adding electronic signatures, and a list of agency contacts.


Board of Zoning Appeals: The Knox County Board of Zoning Appeals is comprised of nine members. One member from each of the nine Commission districts is appointed by the County Commission to serve. The Board usually meets the 4th Wednesday of each month at 1:30 pm in the Main Assembly of the City County Building to hear requests for variances of the Knox County zoning regulations, appeals of Uses on Review, and appeals of Zoning Enforcement & Stormwater Engineering administrative decisions and penalties.


County Commission:  The Knox County Commission elects a chairman and vice chairman annually, adopts its own rules and procedures.  The Commission has the authority to: adopt ordinances, emergency ordinances, and resolutions governing the operation of government or to regulate the conduct and affairs of the residents of Knox County.  You may access current agendas, the minutes from previous months, a Directory of Government Officials, and links to a number of websites that might be helpful to you. Each member of the Knox County Commission serves all Knox Countians eagerly and are happy to be of assistance to you. All zoning and sector plan amendment requests and decisions must come before county commission. Please feel free to contact your Commissioner by email at commission@knoxcounty.org or telephone the Commission office at 215-2534.

City Council: Composed of nine members, City Council has six members elected from districts and three elected 'at-large' representing the entire city. The Vice Mayor is selected by City Council from its membership for a two-year term. Council Member Gwen McKenzie is currently Vice Mayor.  Each Council member is elected to serve a four year term. Will Johnson and the staff of the City Recorder's Office supply assistance to City Council. Council members can be reached by phone through the City Recorder's Office at 865-215-2075 or fax at 865-215-4269 or by mail at City of Knoxville, P.O. Box 1631, Knoxville, TN 37901.

 

 

WHO sent me the notification postcard and what does it mean?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission mails surrounding neighbors within a (insert required footage or mileage) a postcard informing them that a rezoning application has been filed and will be heard at their next meeting.

 

State law requires that any rezoning be publicized in a local newspaper because it may affect surrounding property, roads, and public utilities. Knoxville-Knox County Planning public notices are placed in the Knoxville News-Sentinel 12 days prior to the hearing. Knoxville-Knox County Planning also posts a sign on the property 10 - 12 days prior to the public hearing stating the date, time, and place.


WHO put up the notification property sign and what does it mean?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission posts a sign on the property to notify surrounding neighbors that a rezoning application has been filed and will be heard at their next meeting.  Signs must be posted 10-12 days prior to the public hearing stating date, time, and place.

 

WHO is the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission was established in 1956 by Knoxville and Knox County as the agency responsible for comprehensive county-wide planning and administration of zoning and land subdivision regulations and remains so today, except for the town of Farragut. Funding for Planning activities comes primarily from city and county  appropriations and from federal grants for specific studies.

 

The Planning Commission meets the second Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room, City-County Building. Eight members constitute a quorum. The Commission's annual meeting is held in October of each year or as determined by the chair.

 

Comments on specific agenda items should be submitted no later than 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday before the meeting at https://knoxplanning.org/share. If you are not an applicant and you are interested in speaking during the meeting about a specific agenda item, request to speak at https://knoxplanning.org/act no later than Wednesday at noon.

 

WHO is the Board / Planning Commissioners?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission is comprised of 15 members: seven appointed by the Mayor of Knoxville and eight appointed by the Knox County Mayor and confirmed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Commissioners serve four-year staggered terms, without compensation.

 

WHO is the Planning Staff?

An appointed executive director and a staff of 35 work in all divisions: Planning Services; Information Services; and Transportation Planning. Transportation staff provides assistance to the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization that serves Knox and urbanized portions of Blount, Loudon, and Sevier counties. In addition, Planning works with the Knox County and Knoxville Historic Zoning Commissions.

 

WHO is the Applicant / Developer? 

The applicant as designated on the official Application can be the property owner, the contingent buyer, the developer / builder, and or hired legal counsel.

 

It is advised that the Applicant consider connecting with adjacent property owners and or neighborhood members, review the area’s plans and studies, understand the requested zoning ordinance, and check for additional development guidelines.

 

The Applicant must pay an application fee determined by the Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission based upon the applicant’s request.

 

WHO is the Department of Engineering and Public Works?

The men and women of EPW work diligently to provide the public with a broad range of essential services, including codes administration, fire prevention, highway maintenance, planning & development, soil conservation, solid waste & recycling, stormwater management and transportation.

 

These divisions have a daily impact on the lives of Knox County residents. It is our goal to offer efficient, cost-effective services to every citizen of our community.

 

WHO is Codes Administration & Enforcement?

Knox County Code Administration's mission is to protect the safety, health, welfare, and property of the citizens of Knox County. This is accomplished through administration, public education, and enforcement of building regulatory codes. Whereas, plan review, periodic inspections, and active enforcement of zoning regulations on new and existing construction are fundamental elements of our overall mission.

WHO is the Knox County Fire Prevention Bureau?

The mission of the Knox County Fire Prevention Bureau is to make Knox County a safer place to live, work or visit by protecting its residents and guest from the ravages of fire. We accomplish this by conducting life safety inspections of existing structures and new construction, developing proactive and diverse public education programs and maintaining an aggressive fire investigation program. 

WHO is the Highway Maintenance Division?

The Highway and Bridge Division maintains, builds, and rehabilitates all Knox County roads and bridges. This includes nearly 2000 miles of paved roads and 134 bridges.

 

WHO is the Knox County Soil Conservation District?

The Knox County Soil Conservation District (SCD) formulates and directs a local natural resource conservation program for Knox County, Tennessee. There is an SCD office in each Tennessee county and nearly 3,000 Soil Conservation Districts nationwide.

WHO is Solid Waste and Recycling?

The Knox County Solid Waste Department delivers cost-effective services and provides quality information to help Knox County taxpayers efficiently recycle and dispose of residential waste. This includes managing the seven Knox County recycling and household waste drop-off centers, providing comprehensive recycling options at the centers, and making convenient disposal of household hazardous materials available for all Knox County residents.

 

WHO is Stormwater Management?

The mission of stormwater management is to improve and/or maintain the health of Knox County water resources by mitigating the effects of urban development.

   

WHO manages Traffic Engineering and Traffic Calming Program?

Knox County Engineering has developed a traffic calming program to help mitigate the effects of speeding and cut-through traffic experienced in many Knox County subdivisions. As Knoxville continues to grow, major roadways and intersections in Knoxville are becoming congested. Because of this, frustrated motorists often use local subdivision streets to bypass this congestion.

WHO is County Commission and what part to they play in land use and planning?

The Knox County Commission has the authority to: adopt ordinances, emergency ordinances, and resolutions governing the operation of government or to regulate the conduct and affairs of the residents of Knox County.  

 

All zoning and sector plan amendment requests and decisions must come before county commission. These items are heard at their monthly meetings at 7:00pm.  Commission may vote to pass, amend or deny requests. Sector plan amendments must be approved in order for a zoning request to be heard.  Decisions are effective immediately.

 

The Commission also has the authority to approve funding for land use and planning studies and updates. 

 

You may access current agendas, the minutes from previous months, a Directory of Government Officials, and links to a number of websites that might be helpful to you. Each member of the Knox County Commission serves all Knox Countians eagerly and are happy to be of assistance to you. Please feel free to contact your Commissioner by email at commission@knoxcounty.org or telephone the Commission office at 215-2534.

WHO is City Council and what part do they play in land use and planning? Need text here

 

WHO is the Board of Zoning Appeals?
The Knox County Board of Zoning Appeals is comprised of nine members. One member from each of the nine Commission districts is appointed by the County Commission to serve. The Board usually meets the 4th Wednesday of each month at 1:30 pm in the Main Assembly of the City County Building to hear requests for variances of the Knox County zoning regulations, appeals of Uses on Review, and appeals of Zoning Enforcement & Stormwater Engineering administrative decisions and penalties.
 

WHO can I reach out to within the city / county?  WHAT should I ask?

 

The Knoxville Knox County Planning Staff member assigned to the case.

  • Is the Applicant the owner or is the sale of the property contingent on the outcome of the request(s)?

  • Case history on the property and dates

  • Resources or references to applicable plans or studies

  • Dates of most current Sector Plan

 

The Applicant

  • Market research; why did you choose this location?

  • What is the intended use?

  • Have you read the area’s Sector Plan?

  • Have you read applicable plans and studies for this area?

  • What density are you requesting?

  • How many total dwellings?

  • What will be the price range of your product?

  • What style product?  Single family dwelling, townhome, all brick, combination, detached or attached garage, square footage, etc.

  • How will your project add value to our community?

  • Have you designated greenspace or common area?

  • How will you address stormwater?

  • How will you improve infrastructure?

  • Utilities, water, sewage, septic?

  • Are you willing to work with the community on your concept design?

  • Are you willing to meet with community members? 

  • Will there be buffers?

  • Will there be a conservation concept?

  • Will you use a landscape architect?  Vegetation?

  • Who is your civil engineer?

  • Can I see your portfolio of work?

  • Will you be both the developer and builder? Who is performing the site prep work?

 

Planning Commission

  • Citizens can email the Planning Commission at commission@knoxplanning.org with specific concerns, community needs & vision, data, statistics, reference material, positive or negative impacts, vegetation requests, buffers, communication summaries (with Applicant, departments, organizations, etc), “asks”.....be factual.  Facts do not have feelings...stick with the facts.

 

Your County Commissioner or City Council Members

  • It is advisable that you copy your elected officials on correspondence with the Applicant and Planning Commission

  • Ask do I have your support?

  • Will you propose a substitute motion?

  • Will you reach out to the Applicant?

  • Will you reach out to county / city departments?

  • Will you help facilitate communication and or meetings?

 

The Department of Engineering and Public Works

 

Constituent Services or the Office of Neighborhoods

  • These offices are there to assist citizens in any way necessary and or possible. -They are tremendous resources and can help increase awareness of a specific land use or planning proposal

 

Your Neighbors and or local Community Group(s)

  • KCPA

  • Homeowner's Association or Neighborhood Groups

  • COIN

  • Council of West Knox Homeowners

  • Town Hall East

  • Fountain City Town Hall

WHO is looking out for my district?

State elected officials can approve and implement land use and planning legislation.

 

Local elected officials are expected to abide by state land use and planning legislation and should always be looking out for the best interest of your community, however, there is very little codified land use and planning requirements and most elected officials typically do not have any formal training in land use or planning.  

 

The Planning Commission should adhere to state, county and city plans, studies, ordinances, regulations, and guidelines, however, many are advisory only and commissioners can take liberties with zoning and sector plan decisions. 

 

The Planning Staff can only provide recommendations that fall within state and local advisory plans & studies, and present applicable regulated, permitted land uses. 

 

Citizens must ultimately look out for their community by monitoring monthly planning agendas, organizing community groups, communicating with local officials, and taking action.

 

Can our elected officials (council or commission) help us?

Yes and No.  

 

First, it’s important to point out that your planning “Sector” may fall in one or more “Voting Districts”.

 

Planning Sectors are geographical portions of Knox County defined for planning purposes.  The Knoxville and Knox County area is divided into twelve (12) sectors.

 

There are nine (9) voting districts in Knox County. 

 

There are six (6) voting districts in Knoxville City.

 

County and City officials are available individually to the general public by phone or email.  Both the County Commission and City Council have group emails and office phones, as well. It is advisable to copy your representative(s) when contacting the Planning Commission about a planning agenda item or land use & planning concern.

 

The biggest role that your elected official(s) can play in the land use and planning process is to be an effective facilitator.  Your representative(s) can help you identify points of contact, provide resources, reference land use and planning regulations / plans & studies, and increase the awareness of your land use and planning case with other decision makers by voting according to the land use classifications/designations and permitted uses & density of the property in question.  Officials can also help to facilitate communication with county or city departments.

 

Individual Planning Commissioners are not available to the general public by phone or email.  Therefore, it is not common or acceptable practice to reach out to them about a land use or planning agenda item.

 

WHO determines if a proposed development adds value to my community? 

KCPA defines “value added” as a measure to quantify how much positive (or negative) effect a development has on a community.  The state of Tennessee does not impose development impact fees, therefore, it is up to the local municipalities and citizens to request that a development project minimize negative impact and increase value to the future residents, existing residents, and community as a whole.  One question that should always be asked of the Applicant is “how will your project add value to our community?”. 

 

Adding value to an area may come in various forms such as neighborhood amenities, creative design concepts, additional greenspace for pocket parks or gathering, conservation concepts, community partnership with schools, advancing and or improving area infrastructure needs such as road improvements, public parks, sidewalks, utilities, stormwater, etc.

 

Can value added conditions be placed upon the Applicant by the Planning Commission?

Yes and No.

 

The basic idea is that negotiations between an Applicant / Developer and a local government are not permitted. If a property owner wants to change the zoning on a piece of property, and he anticipates significant public opposition, he might offer, for example to buffer the affected neighboring properties from the zoning change by not building in the first 200 feet of the property. If the local government accepts this suggestion, and passes the zone change based on the agreement, this is contract zoning and is illegal under current standards.

On the other hand, suppose the suggestion that a buffer be provided is mandated by the government, and not the property owner. The local government unilaterally imposes a requirement that the property owner buffer the surrounding properties; this is conditional zoning and is perfectly appropriate under Tennessee law. This further supports the importance of communicating your community’s needs and vision to both the Planning Commission and County / City Officials.

As you can see, the examples above demonstrate that the same zone change may be either valid or not depending on the process involved. If the local government unilaterally imposes the condition, then the zoning change is valid. If the condition is the result of bilateral negotiations between the local government and the property owner, then the zoning is invalid as contract zoning.

 

What if the citizens disagree with the Planning Staff?

If citizens disagree with a recommendation made by Planning Staff, we encourage you to reach out to the staff and discuss your concerns.  Planning Staff is very willing to assist citizens and answer any questions. Citizens may submit comments using the online platform and sign up to speak when the item comes before Planning Commission.  

 

It is important to provide factual information based on verified data. Citizen participation is critical.

 

What if the citizens disagree with the Planning Commission’s decisions?

If citizens disagree with a decision made at the Planning Commission, we encourage you to reach out to Planning Staff and other county or city departments associated with the case.  Citizens may submit comments and sign up to speak when the item comes before County Commission or City Council.

 

It is important to provide factual information based on verified data. Citizen participation is critical.

 

WHO sets the public notification process requirements and what are those requirements?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission mails surrounding neighbors within a (insert required footage or mileage) a postcard informing them that a rezoning application has been filed and will be heard at their next meeting.

 

State law requires that any rezoning be publicized in a local newspaper because it may affect surrounding property, roads, and public utilities. Knoxville-Knox County Planning public notices are placed in the Knoxville News-Sentinel 12 days prior to the hearing. Knoxville-Knox County Planning also posts a sign on the property 10 - 12 days prior to the public hearing stating the date, time, and place.


WHO ensures that decision makers are using the defined criteria?  

Planning Staff and County and City Legal Counsel are present during Planning Commission, County Commission, and City Council meetings.  It is within their authority to inform and advise legislative bodies at the time of rulings.

 

Various county and city departments are responsible for ensuring that the Applicant follows the requirements and expectations of the county, city, and state.  Citizens are encouraged to follow a development project and stay engaged until completion.

 

How much land use training is city council or county commission provided? What are their qualifications?

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commision is an advisory board comprised of 15 citizens—seven appointed by the City Mayor and eight appointed by the County Mayor. These volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and represent a broad spectrum of community interests and concerns.  There are no defined levels of qualifications.  Appointment is at the discretion of the City and County Mayor.  The state of Tennessee provides information regarding the powers and functions of the planning commission.