Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MPC asked to modernize zoning laws

Mayor Madeline Rogero proposed that the Metropolitan Planning Commission conduct a complete review and update of the City’s zoning ordinance since it hasn't undergone a thorough review in roughly 50 years and many of the current provisions are so obsolete that they hinder quality sustainable development, according to her office.

As it stands, the City Council has approved a measure to fund the cost - some $300,000 - that will allow the MPC to hire and direct a consultant to start the review.

“Our zoning ordinance was written decades ago, for land-use patterns of a very different era – the post-World War II suburban model,” Rogero said. “The ordinance may have made sense then. But as we’ve grown, and lifestyle choices have changed, the ordinance no longer fits our needs in 2016.

“In many cases, the outdated, rigid ordinance actually prevents some neighborhoods from achieving their full potential. We need an up-to-date ordinance that protects the things we all value in our neighborhoods and commercial areas while allowing the kinds of smart, sustainable growth that will move Knoxville forward.”

Rogero said public input is encouraged – and needed.

“This will not be a top-down review,” she said. “We need to hear what works best from residents, business owners and developers. I look forward to everybody’s help in making this new zoning ordinance insightful and comprehensive.”

The list of issues to be discussed is lengthy in overhauling and modernizing such an old zoning ordinance. MPC will be smoothing out a variety of inconsistencies and gaps in the existing ordinance. For example, the ordinance update will establish clear and objective standards that can be used to help guide consistent use-on-review decisions.

Among the issues to be addressed: 
  • Is more flexibility needed in allowing mixed-use development in commercial districts?
  • The existing ordinance lacks uniform, consistent landscaping requirements, and flood-zone development standards are unclear.
  • Standards for lighting do not take advantage of current technology to reduce the light impact of new development and redevelopment.
  • Regulations of setbacks in current non-residential districts make it difficult or impossible to redevelop many of the properties located in the older sections of the City initially developed prior to World War II.
  • Standards for preserving the community character of the City's residential neighborhoods can be clarified and strengthened.
The MPC review will look at best practices and hear from Knoxville community and business leaders about what requirements they would like.

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