Sep 13 2018
06:38 am

From KnoxTNToday,

During a Recode Knoxville meeting at the South Knoxville Community Center, there was a presentation for "the city’s first attempt to update and create a comprehensive zoning plan in more than five decades."

Terrence Carter, Knoxville Area Urban League, the host of the meeting, stated, “The city is projected to grow, and grow rapidly, over the next several years … so by 2040, 170,000 new residents (will be) added to our community,” Carter said. “We want to be able to determine what we want that growth to look like – and manage it, if you will.”

Nick Della Volpe, Attorney and former City Councilman, responds in a comment,
"Seems like they just can’t shake that outrageous fib about future population growth rate in Knoxville...
The current population of the city is roughly 187,000. We have only added about 13,000 residents in the 17 years since 2000... Hardly meteoric growth."

It would appear to be a good idea to "update and create a comprehensive zoning plan" that hasn't been changed in over 50 years. However, I suggest there is no hurry if a primary reason is population growth. It is important to give current citizens plenty of time and information to understand changes that could affect them.

barker's picture


I wasn't at this particular meeting - one of the few Recode meetings I've missed - but the 170,000 population increase projection is for all of Knox County, not the city of Knoxville.

bizgrrl's picture

Therefore, at the Recode

Therefore, at the Recode Knoxville meeting where, according to the KnoxTNToday article, they were discussing "the city’s first attempt to update and create a comprehensive zoning plan in more than five decades", they quote county growth projections for a city project?

barker's picture


I wasn't there, as I pointed out, so I don't know what was actually said. I'm not defending anybody, just clarifying.

Andy Axel's picture

This is the same statistical voodoo pulled in midstate

You may have heard that "Nashville" is growing by 100 people a day, but that statistic refers to the Nashville MSA -- a 13 county area defined for census purposes that includes Franklin, Murfreesboro, Hendersonville, Gallatin, etc.

But that "MSA" part is almost always left out of the lede.

bizgrrl's picture

Yes, I have family in

Yes, I have family in Nashville. Was there not long ago and had to deal with the traffic, morning and evening. Nothing like living in Orlando, as we experienced for quite some time.

Nashville growth can not be compared to Knoxville, imho.

Andy Axel's picture

Was more referring to the artificial fiddling of the numbers

and the balancing of genuine needs vs "forecasted" needs based on same

Up Goose Creek's picture


they quote county growth projections for a city project?

Because who would want to live out in the county with a pesky lawn to mow when they could live in a beehive type box and be carfree.

JR01's picture

Suburbia is tacky

That’s actually the first consideration I have when I think about buying property. Do you have any idea how much time, money, and resources are wasted taking care of a lawn? It’s not for me.

bizgrrl's picture

I love my green spaces. Could

I love my green spaces. Could only voluntarily live in a place with plenty of it. My definition of plenty can be different than others.

I also like to be close to grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.

Up Goose Creek's picture


That’s actually the first consideration I have when I think about buying property. Do you have any idea how much time, money, and resources are wasted taking care of a lawn?

Sure I do. For a 50'city lot it is $30 x 2 times a month x 7 months add in $80 for leaf blowing and it comes to $500/yr. Less than most condo fees.

Since I'm doing my taxes on my rental properties I can tell you it's $730 for a 1/4 acre lawn with trees and $1060 for 3/4 acres of grass.

It’s not for me.

What do you mean by this comment? Are you implying that because you don't personally want a lawn no one else should either.

Suburbia is tacky

Do you walk up to random strangers and criticize their clothing choices as well?

Rachel's picture

Know your source.

Know your source.

Bill Lyons's picture

Knox County is growing. But where and how will we grow?

Terrence obviously misspoke here but the points he made are germane. The projected growth figure is for Knox County. However the City is obviously within Knox County and the challenges apply both within and outside the city limits. Part of the solution is to create opportunities for increased density in the City. To the degree that growth can be accommodated in the more urban part of the County Examples include allowing quality mixed use development along major commercial corridors, allowing accessory dwelling units and more multifamily options. The Recode process has brought these topics to the forefront.

There will continue to be healthy discussion, certainly disagreement as we move to ultimate Council consideration. There is also a need to accommodate more housing in the areas outside the City, either through more units per acre in subdivisions, more multifamily, and/or mixed use. Clearly there has been tension between existing residents and developers when projects come to the public agenda.

The issues here have great policy import across many arenas. Growth affects the need for schools, roads, and public transportation. It affects one of our key concerns – the availability of affordable housing. If we do not find a way to increase the supply of units the prices of existing units will be bid up. For instance is there is unmet demand for houses at the $300k price point people will seek out units at the $200k point and invest in improvements. Those units will be pulled from the rental inventory as well as well as from those who would like to purchase at that level. The nature of our growth affects everyone’s quality of life.

In short Recode is very important. But it is just one of the opportunities to come to grips this issue. It has been and will continue to be addressed at every meeting of MPC and just about every meeting of City Council and County Commission. A good bit of the discussion on such issues is quite contentious. It can be addressed though systematic policy making or through a series of ad-hoc decisions. I think we are all better off if we concentrate on the former.

BTW, Scot Barker has an excellent article addressing many of these points in Knoxville Compass. I encourage all to subscribe and read.

Thank you.

R. Neal's picture

Scott's article (here) seems

Scott's article (here) seems to suggest that the city, constrained by restrictions on annexation, sees population growth as a way to increase property tax revenues*. But as you note, increased population means increased expenses for infrastructure and services. So it would seem to be a zero sum deal, except just more crowded.

*"the city must increase the number of residents through density if it wants to increase property tax revenues without annexation."

Bill Lyons's picture

Impact on infrastructure cost is not a constant

Scott's article (here) seems to suggest that the city, constrained by restrictions on annexation, sees population growth as a way to increase property tax revenues*. But as you note, increased population means increased expenses for infrastructure and services. So it would seem to be a zero sum deal, except just more crowded.

*"the city must increase the number of residents through density if it wants to increase property tax revenues without annexation."

True enough. However all infrastructure needs relative to development are not the same. The expenditures for infrastructure are much less when the schools have capacity and the roads and utilities are already in place. Take the Holston Building. It was appraised at about $900,000 before being redeveloped to create 30+ new units and an overall appraisal of north of $26,000,000. The sidewalks, streets, utilities, and school capacity are already there. We have some very marginal increased expenses for trash pickup. Overall, this a great addition to the tax base for decades. Compare this to a comparable single family subdivision in a greenfield with new roads, new utilities, increases in traffic, and more demand on schools, not to mention storm water and other environmental impacts.

R. Neal's picture

Guess it helps that the city

Guess it helps that the city doesn't have to figure in schools, because they are the county's responsibility. (Yes, city residents pay county taxes, too, but that doesn't show up much on the city's budget.)

On the Holston Bldg., I'm too lazy to look it up, but are there TIFs, PILOTs, etc.? If so, when do they start paying taxes?

Regarding subdivisions, don't developers usually pay for streets, water and sewer and then deed it back to the local government to maintain (and collect revenues from the utilities)?

Anyway, I'm totally in support of reworking 50 year old codes and zoning. I'm all for higher density, more diverse, more affordable housing, especially in urban and suburban areas.

The recode project is a good initiative. Just keep it real. Y'all have been pretty good on inclusion and transparency. Seems like that's the approach on this, too. Keep it up.

Bill Lyons's picture

Efficiency of growth with infrastructure in place

Thanks Randy. I had to chuckle when I thought about discussion the TIF and PILOT program and downtown. It brought back all kinds of memories of endless dealing with our friend #9. It was quite valuable because Knoxviews served as a great forum for the discussion of tools and processes that were new to the City.

You are of course right that many of the downtown restorations have had deferred taxes necessary to ensure that the projects occur. They all do greatly invigorate the tax base in the long run with minimal service or infrastructure demands. TIFs also provide an immediate return. In the case of the Holston, with a 15 year TIF we realized an immediate increase in City and County property taxes of $50,000 a year. Following the TIF expiration in 2020 the City and County property taxes will jump to a $245,564 yearly increase over the base. Of course this continues indefinitely and goes to the general fund. It is this kind of economic return that allows us to take on projects such as the affordable housing fund.

Most redevelopment projects don not generate nearly this level of return of course. The main point here is that growth in areas with existing infrastructure, including school capacity, is always going to be more efficient then growth where the public infrastructure must follow the development. That does not mean that the latter is bad policy. We are going to grow in a variety of ways. And most of it will be outside the city limits. It just means that the economic models, not to mention the societal impacts, are not the same.

barker's picture


The point I was trying to make is that denser housing creates more tax revenue for the footprint than less dense housing. For example, a three-story apartment or condo project that has, say 50 or 60 units of housing, generates more property tax revenue than the two or maybe three houses that would occupy the same footprint. Bill can correct me if I'm wrong (I'll even admit it!).

For all practical purposes, the city can't annex anymore. Natural property value increases help in the short term, but in the long term the city will need to encourage developments that produce more revenue for the footprint they occupy.

I hope that makes sense.

barker's picture

And ...

And commercial property is assessed at a higher rate than residential property. More commercial development means more tax revenue.

NiccoD's picture

Recode Knoxville— Biz Girl’s post today

Thanks Bizgirl for pointing that out. The 170,000 number is way off for the city, and is not even accurate as to the county projected population growth by the year 2040.
As I noted in my 2nd Recode article, the projected County population is estimated to grow by 79,000 by 2040, not 170,000. Based on the historic numbers, it is more likely the city will grow by some 20,000 to 25,000 people by 2040.
For sources, I used both the official US Census numbers (for 2000, 2010,and 2017), and the future numbers provided by UT’s Economic and Business Department which provides that information to Tennessee state government.
The wishful thinking number (170k) reflects the administration’s desire increase density in order to push its walkable, bikeable, and bus-able agenda. Whether that is good or bad, and should be the goal for our community, should be the subject of public discussion and debate, not a hidden “gift” slid into the 200 page zoning code.

By the way The Recode article stated its sources:
“Turns out the 170k growth number they have been quoting — gosh, we must be ready! — came from an inflated figure for the entire county (not city) out of the 2010 Plan ET document. That number is not substantiated by the 2010 official census of county population (432,266) or the 2017 estimate (461,860). The UT Center for Business & Economics projects the 2040 county population in the 543k range — an increase of roughly 79,000 people, not 170,000. Where are the fact checkers? And Recode only affects the city.”

Bill Lyons's picture

Debunked Population Projections ?

Hi Nick. I do want to mention a few things in response to your comments on growth projections and the notion that something has been debunked. I have to admit you have me flummoxed with your statement - “Turns out the 170k growth number they have been quoting — gosh, we must be ready! — came from an inflated figure for the entire county (not city) out of the 2010 Plan ET document. That number is not substantiated by the 2010 official census of county population (432,266) or the 2017 estimate (461,860)..”

I urge your to consult the The Plan ET document. It includes a figure of 432,226 for the 2010 Knox County population as part ot the trend line toward their 2040 projection. Most reasonable people would characterize that as consistent with your referenced census figure of 432,226. Moreover, the Plan ET researchers have projected the 2020 population of Knox County at 482,122. That is not at all inconsistent as an extension from your referenced Census estimate of 461,860 for 2017.

You are dismissive of the projections used to frame the Recode discussion. These come from models employed by TPO researchers in the Plan ET process. You do cite the UT Center for Business and Economic Research projections as your source for less growth over the period. As a reformed academic I can attest to the existence of multiple models of social and economic phenomena. The fact of other models does not invalidate the models used by the research of the Transportation Planning Organization

The TPO researchers do explicitly acknowledge their model's diversion from other models.

“Population Projections The application of the labor force linkage cohort survival method described above produced population projections for the ten eastern Tennessee counties which generally tended to be somewhat higher than those by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) but just slightly lower than those produced by Woods & Poole (W&P) and slightly lower than the average growth over the period from 1970 to 2010.”

I certainly respect the CBER research. I did a lot of work with and for them in my years at UT where I headed up the Social Science Research Institute for a time. But projections are complex and rely on varying assumptions. I guess I can revisit from my memory care unit and beyond in 2040 but until then we don’t really know whose assumptions are more sound. Ir really does not matter. We are going to grow and we have to deal with that growth. We need a set of land use policies to give guidance to residents, businesses, and those who would build new housing. We are doing so with the Recode process.

Finally, I wish to take a moment of personal privilege to respectfully challenge your assertion -“The wishful thinking number (170k) reflects the administration’s desire increase density in order to push its walkable, bikeable, and bus-able agenda.“

I have been at the City for 15 years under 3 mayors Nobody thinks this way or works this way. We may be wrong occasion. We certainly make mistakes. We don’t ever knowingly use bad data to justify agendas and we don’t manipulate facts to bring about desired conclusions. As someone who has spent the better part of my life teaching students that such practice is totally unethical and unacceptable I am troubled by your assertion because it does nothing more than increase cynicism and distrust about the public sector and fuels an anti government agenda.


Moon's picture


If we do not find a way to increase the supply of units the prices of existing units will be bid up.

j.f.m.'s picture

The issues Scott talks about

The issues Scott talks about in his story don't turn on any particular growth number. Knox County has grown at a steady pace for decades.

1970: 276,000
1980: 319,000
2000: 382,000
2010: 432,000
2018: (est) 461,000

The disputes over zoning we've seen recently are over projects of anywhere from 50 to 600 units. Any serious amount of growth raises a lot of questions about where and how it's going to happen and what impacts it will have. Knox County sprawled out for decades, and is continuing to. We are one of the sprawlingest metros in America. That has impacts. Density also has impacts, as neighbors invariably point out.

The question isn't whether to grow, because that is not really under anyone's control. Nobody's proposed building a wall around Knox County. So the question is how to manage that growth, that's what all these debates are about.

Of course, if/when growth ever stops, that will also have a whole lot of effects. There are plenty of examples of that around the country too.

jdmcomp's picture


Why not put to a vote of city voters. What do the people of Knoxville want? The ugly highrise apts showing up on Cumberland or a livable city with open spaces covered with green instead of asphalt?
The city is run by those who think they know best for you and do not need your opinion (note that they do not like taking comments at the presentations and give little time for consideration, even holding meetings after the comment deadline). As an alternative, the city could concentrate on lowering spending by government, limiting the generous pensions they give themselves, and cut the political deadwood soaking up your tax funds. Why does the city need more tax revenue? Oh, I know, its for the children, again and again.
And lastly, who is the driving force behind this? Not the MPC, not the voters (via their reps on council). Their is a driving force hiding behind this RECODE, and we need to know who.

NiccoD's picture

Population — it’s not the numbers, but the process

Thanks Bill. I don’t want the numbers game to control the discussion or our future as a city. My original post came into play when Terrence Carter posted that big number at The Burlington recode meeting a month ago. All I Really was advocating was that our community take the time to discuss some of the implications of where we are headed, and not simply pass a major revision/Re-write of our zoning code without discussing the future vision of our city. Obviously mixed use and multi-family growth along Major Corridors makes sense, as does your suggestion that high-rise residential be allowed on those corridors and related similar use areas.

By contrast, the notion that there should be ADU’s on every residential parcel in the city, without regard to whether it is owner-occupied or considered desirable by that community — should be done only after vigorous public debate ... something which is only now coming to public awareness as the Recode clock ticks down. Likewise, Community Forum’s recommended inclusion of enforceable standards for rezoning, home business, day care, and other uses in residential areas (May comments) be PUT BACK INTO THE PROPOSED DRAFT RECODE. It was ignored in draft 2... without explanation or justification. WHY? Too hard to enforce? A lazy code enforcement team? An unstated objective of administration? Let’s put the pieces on the table, and have a focused discussion of our vision of the future we hope to encourage via zoning change.

Bill Lyons's picture

Lots of conversations. This thread has been about the numbers

"Population — it’s not the numbers, but the process"

Thanks Nick. As you and then Lisa point out there is always concern about process and definitely about substance. I expect those conversations to continue for a good while. Reasonable people are going to disagree up to and during the period when Council votes. But to be clear re: the genesis of my post here, the thread within which we are conversing is titled "City of Knoxville growth projections debunked" and your comments in that thread titled "Recode Knoxville— Biz Girl’s post today" to which I was replying seem to me to be almost totally about the numbers.

I agree that we don't need to argue about whether Knox County is projected to grow by 83,000, 170,000 or some other figure, but to move the real discussion of managing what is significant growth by the most modest of estimates.

NiccoD's picture

Numbers vs substance

You are correct, Bill, that Biz Girl started her article today focused on the city population the big number had been again used in the Sept. 10 South Knoxville Recode meeting. That numbers “information” leaves the impression we are virtually doubling the city population of 187,000 in the next 21 years. Yikes!
(Note: my raising of the numbers was originally in an earlier Knoxtntoday article on Recode, found at (link...))— but the focus there, and hopefully here, was and should be about the sea change in zoning and housing philosophy, the jettisoning of planned zones, and the omission of certain property use approval standards.
Maybe the gap is part of the growing pains on writing an overall recode document. On the other hand, maybe there is more at work than meets the eye. I say let’s talk about the Where Are We Going Issue before we run this thing through the formal adoption sausage mill...
Ask yourself: how could you effectively comment on a 200-page zoning tome and the new August 6th online zoning map covering 73,000 parcels with 5 minutes to speak at the podium? It’s tough enough to express your opinion about a single issue in such a modest time frame.
In short, The internals of the Recode issue need more detailed airing before a formal voting agenda is set. Let’s do it right. Thanks.

Bill Lyons's picture

How much can one make of one verbal slip?

Biz Girl started her article today focused on the city population the big number had been again used in the Sept. 10 South Knoxville Recode meeting. That numbers “information” leaves the impression we are virtually doubling the city population of 187,000 in the next 21 years. Yikes!

Nick, Against my better judgement I am going to respond because there is a bigger principle here - context, proportion and reasonableness in our public dialog. Yes, Bizgirl referenced your previous reporting of the verbal slip as the basis of this thread. In that article you had seized upon an obvious misstatement to create a straw person of projected city growth of 170,000. As I hope we can agree, the 170,000 is one of a few estimates of county growth.

Seriously, a member of the Recode stakeholder advisory committee, not MPC or City staff or the consultant, obviously misspoke while helping with outreach at one meeting. This kind of thing happens. There is not a single other time in print or verbally that anyone has put forth the notion that the city will grow by anything like this amount. Of course that notion is absurd on its face. It is not a position that anyone in local government has ever come close to putting forth. So no, there is not a "city population issue" such as you reference in your comment above.

One might ask whether it is reasonable, let alone responsible to exploit one obvious slip by a person not anywhere near the core of an effort by using it as the basis for attacking the credibility of an entire process and the integrity of many involved in this effort. I may be an outlier here but I obviously don't think so.

NiccoD's picture


Took a deep breath, and revised my earlier off-the-cuff reply:

It’s not population numbers, but zoning change substance that really matters. The community needs to discuss that openly.

(Aside: by the way, the pop. thing was not a one-off slip of the tongue. I questioned the high numbers /projected slide used at the Burlington meeting— they told me not now, too much to cover. Apparently they were still pumping the same numerical urgency juice a month later in South Knoxville. Oh well).

But let’s stick to Substance: where is this recode designed to take us us? Some aspects of this rewrite are helpful (better graphics, cleaned up language, etc) But an unstated, more-density-is-needed subtext gets laced in somehow. Don’t we need to discuss that? Is there a more direct way to get low income housing built? Susidized? Or perhaps tax reliefed?
Do we need to take a wrecking ball to existing neighborhoods? Some people like their suburban neighborhoods. Remember the official mantra: “a great place to live, work and play.”

Are we now saying: density are us? This needs to be discussed openly. So do the other issues raised about recode. Open dialogue.

fischbobber's picture


I always looked forward to less density ay my house and on my property in my old age, but, with rising medical costs, a job market that's great for minimum wage workers but sucks for dean's list graduates with working parents, increasing retirement facility costs and an economic system that's geared to bankrupt ordinary citizens before death, perhaps it's time the city recognized the harsh realities of our modern economy and society. It's not all about low cost housing, but rather the recognition that families must go back to a time when they occupied less space together to survive. Code, like government, should serve the populace; the populace should not be the slaves to government officials and power brokers that pull their strings.

I'm sure there are other issues as well, but my initial reading of some of the proposals lead me to think, it's past time for this.

Lisa Starbuck's picture

Big changes

Although I live in the county, I am on the edge of the city limits and fall inside the UGB. Any dividing lines are really arbitrary when it comes to things like traffic, stormwater, etc., so I sent in some comments to the Recode task force. Besides questioning the haste with which changes of such far-reaching impact are being considered, I have some specific concerns about the proposed changes.

FWIW, here are my comments I emailed earlier. I encourage others to send in their comments as well, before the new deadline of Sept. 20th.

Dear ReCode Knoxville,

I am concerned with the speed that this is moving forward. Due to traveling for work, I have not been able to attend any meetings but based on what I have read, I think it needs further discussion and input. Some specific areas of concern I have include: removing the requirement to comply with long range and other plans, especially removing the Hillside plan requirements from zones other than residential. There are many areas in the city where slope is a concern on industrial and commercial sites and I am opposed to removing the Hillside plan from these zones. Also, it should not be up to legislative discretion as to whether or not to comply with the plans. This will cause a great deal of difficulty for anyone trying to appeal a zoning or Use on Review in court. Another area of concern is accessory units - it should be required for either the main home or the accessory unit to be owner-occupied. While I am supportive of the idea, I believe it is a necessity that the person renting out the accessory building be living on the property. Another area I am opposed to in the proposed new code is the idea of removing planned zones and allowing developers to negotiate with MPC staff without a public process. This should not be allowed to happen.

R. Neal's picture

It appears this entire

It appears the original kerfuffle here might be the result of an unfortunately placed ellipsis in the original article.

"The city is projected to grow, and grow rapidly, over the next several years ... so by 2040, 170,000 new residents (will be) added to our community"

As is often the case, the expanding discussion is interesting and good.

Bbeanster's picture

This is a great – and needed

This is a great – and needed – discussion!!
Thanks for kicking it off, Biz!!

Bill Lyons's picture

Gosh Betty, I am relieved to hear this.

Gosh Betty, I am relieved to hear this. Nick and I both share the belief that a bit of an edge in discussion is often a good thing. While I appreciate that, I was worried that we might be irritating people.

In stepping back we do need to recognize that the consideration of Recode will bring to a head many varied and firmly held views, even values, about the nature of our city and county. Inevitably we will appear to be engaged in a zero-sum game where every victory is perceived as a loss by others. There is nothing new here, of course. One always looks to find common ground. When that is not possible one hopes we can have the most informed discussion and reach the outcome that is best for our area in the long run. I am optimistic. We really have gotten better about public decision-making in recent years.

Bbeanster's picture

Do I detect a soupçon of

Do I detect a soupçon of sarcasm there, Bill? :-)

That's OK. This is going to be a good, old-timey bar fight.

As we both know, folks generally don't pay much attention to these things until the issue is ripe and about to fall on our heads.

It's rosy and ready now, and it's been awhile since we had a length-of-the-bar and Into-the-street citywide discussion.

While I don't mean to leave out all the other competent Community Forum people who are actively working on this issue, there are some very smart, engaged young people among us who had never heard of Carlene Malone. Can you imagine that?

Bill Lyons's picture

Really, No Sarcasm intended

"Do I detect a soupçon of sarcasm there, Bill? :-)"

Betty, Really, there was not a bit of sarcasm intended. I don't do that very well. Rather I have intentionally stayed away from engaging in various lengthy interminable online arguments for a while after years (actually decades) of such on K2K, a couple of Blabs, Southknoxbubba, and Knoxviews. You have been around for most of that and we have had a healthy skirmish or two along the way.

You are right. There are many very smart younger folks who are starting to engage without all that history. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Bbeanster's picture

You are right. There are many

You are right. There are many very smart younger folks who are starting to engage without all that history. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

'Necessarily' being the key word; fresh blood is good, but reinventing the wheel every 10 years gets tiring.

bizgrrl's picture

I'm a numbers person, it's

I'm a numbers person, it's all in the details, although 200 pages is way too much for me. When someone's presentation/sales pitch uses invalid numbers I tend to not hear a lot of the presentation.

I appreciate all those people that do get involved in these projects. I know very little about growing a city/community, but I agree the process should not be rushed.

j.f.m.'s picture


"Rushed" is a subjective thing, everything always seems rushed if you either just found out about it or just don't like it, period. When I was with the city, we spent a solid year of public meetings and discussion of short-term rentals, and people who didn't like the final ordinance still said it was "rushed" (because they didn't want it at all). Even though the last six months of that was basically just rehashing the same issues over and over.

Anyway, the Recode timeline is here: (link...).

20 months may be enough time or may not be, that will be up to how the process plays out.

bizgrrl's picture

Exactly:) Hmmm. Maybe the


Hmmm. Maybe the media could have reported on it more? Summaries to make it all more relevant to more people?

bizgrrl's picture

I wonder how many of the

I wonder how many of the 180,000 city residents or the 460,000 county residents (includes city residents) have provided input or are even aware of this project.

How many may not care until it affects them?

NiccoD's picture

20 months— there you go again, wagging phoney numbers...

Jesse, 20 months is more governmental doublespeak. I thought you left the city’s hard sell team a month ago. Hmm!
The first public Recode draft hit the streets only in late March 2018. What you all did in the back room in the prior months doesn’t count as public vetting. The Community Forum compiled and submitted over 30 pages of comments to MPC by May—a pretty large undertaking in just over a month. Very few comments were incorporated in the next draft which came out at the end of July. ..and you had to beg or xerox a copy of the 200 pages to actually review it in any detail. No explanation of the ignored suggestions was ever provided by MPC or the city’s hired gun, Camiros.

Many of the public only got a copy of this 2d technical draft as they walked into a presentation slide show/meeting in the past few weeks. We now have only till September 20th to comment on the 2d draft (200 pages) and the 73,000 parcels coded onto the proposed zoning map. That’s hurried pushing, at best.

So, that’s a total of 6 months, not 20.

Second, if the “process” you are describing for the STRs is a fair example, then it shows our dear city doesn’t give a damn about public views. Hundreds of citizens attended these “process” sessions, only to be ignored. You did what you set out to do, public be damned.

This so-called “process” is to cooperative planning with the citizens , as Velveeta is to natural cheese.... That dog just don’t hunt.

Please stick to how wonderful density and disruption of neighborhoods is in our “best” interest.

Bill Lyons's picture

Nick, A bit more light and a little less heat would be helpful

Second, if the “process” you are describing for the STRs is a fair example, then it shows our dear city doesn’t give a damn about public views. Hundreds of citizens attended these “process” sessions, only to be ignored. You did what you set out to do, public be damned.

Uhh... I was at every one of our sessions (as was Jesse) and there was in no way "hundreds" who came.Perhaps there were dozens, with input from basically from two sides. A group wanted them allowed with minimal regulation and somewhat more wanted them basically outlawed. We had multiple meetings of all sorts and at least 2 Council workshops. And the final version, which disallowed STRs in non-owner occupied residences clearly was a middle ground approach. We all had to factor in the fact that we were trying to avoid ceding control to the state legislature. who was quite concerned with property rights. Most importantly the Council on which you were a member heard from all sides and overwhelmingly voted to approve the ordinance we recommended. And we have had virtually no complaints or problems since that vote, We had an outstanding process and a good result that reflects that process.

Public process does not mean those who yell the loudest or pack the room necessarily get their way. They do have the expectation of being heard, and all sides are being heard. in the Recode discussion. This includes everyone from those who oppose accessory dwelling units to advocates for affordable housing who do not believe in R1 zones. Ultimately it is the leadership of the planning commision, city staff, and the consultants who will consider best practices, public reaction, and the administration's vision for the city and present Council with a draft after which the legislative body will weigh all factors and all views and then vote. That is the way local government is supposed to work.

All should keep in mind that Council will ultimate vote on the new zoning ordinance. For those who are interested there is a Council workshop this coming Thursday at 5:30.

I am fairly certain there will be amendments proposed and voted on once this comes up for a vote.

NiccoD's picture

Excessive heat

Good point, Bill.
You can ignore the second so-called point. Unnecessary, and probably overstated.
The main point: let’s keep the facts straight. There have only been 6 months of public access to voluminous and very dense material, not 20 months. More detailed discussion is needed.

The rest was unnecessary comment. Sorry.

j.f.m.'s picture

I always thought of us as

I always thought of us as more of a soft-shoe operation than a hard-sell, but yes, I left that. I'm still interested -- as I was then -- in people having accurate and timely information.

The Recode process has had public input at every stage, and that's not a matter of opinion. There was a comprehensive survey that MPC and the city spent weeks circulating and promoting, which garnered more than 1,500 responses -- a very high response rate for public processes, even if it's only a small percentage of city residents. Then the draft was published in March, which at this point is six months ago, and a second draft followed in August, and now people are having input again into that draft. Those are facts. They're not opinions. Whether that's enough time, whether people need more time, those aren't things I have opinions about. I'm just reporting what has happened to date.

We will see where it goes from here.

j.f.m.'s picture

It will be done! Yes, there

It will be done!

Yes, there could definitely have been more coverage up to this point. We will do what we can, I imagine others will also get more engaged now that it's getting to the people-getting-mad stage. One of the problems with local government reporting is that it tends to be more interested in conflict than process -- so as long as there are meetings and meetings and meetings and nobody is freaking out about it, it doesn't attract a lot of attention.

PM Parris's picture

Opportunities vs. after-the-fact

This has been a great discussion. I'll say I've seen/gotten some material about this process, but have not followed it closely.

To Jesse's point, it's an unfortunate fact that while government at all levels often has a variety of processes to garner input, the public at large is often too busy, disinterested, distracted and so on to participate. After the process is complete, there's lots of complaints about government "not listening", "overruling the people", "there should have been a vote", and so on. Whomever figures out how to fix what seems to be an intractable problem in this regard in today's world deserves a medal. Likewise, as Bill alluded, this tangled cycle can breed more cynicism in parallel regarding government, while the do-nothing option would likely have done the same, due to outdated codes in this case, based on a legacy world. Somewhere in all this, some oxen will get gored -- that seems unavoidable.

Back to my starting comment, kudos to those who are trying to sort this out as the Knoxville area evolves and grows.

Rachel's picture

This. And it's really

And it's really frustrating for those leading a process, but people are people. It's not likely to change.

For my part, I appreciate input on all sides of an issue, but I admit I don't listen as much to people who launch ad-hominem attacks and/or can't be civil.

Treehouse's picture


I'm tired of Nick's complaining. Yes, I pay attention more than most in Knoxville but I knew about hiring the consultants, the public meetings, and the opportunities for input. When I asked MPC questions, they answered right away and thanked me for my input. No, they're not destroying neighborhoods. The current zoning needs to be changed. A process is underway. I like a lot of it and have concerns and questions about other things. Get involved. If we had media that paid attention to local stuff (sorry News Sentinel but you're really not "committed to the community") more people would know, but this is happening now. There will be time for revisions but Recode is a good effort so please help rather than hinder.

NiccoD's picture

Involved and Helping

Agreed Treehouse. Helping and cooperative work is a good thing. Let’s make it so. And if more time is needed, let’s allow that as well. There is currently no zoning gap in the system. Just a chance to improve it.

Lisa Starbuck's picture


Here's some input from the League:

September 13, 2018

Dear City Council Members:

We are writing on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County (LWVKKC), an organization with more than 200 members. Our comments address Draft 2.0 of the proposed zoning code, using the League’s adopted principles and positions as their basis. We don’t address Draft 1 of the zoning map, other than to say that technically it is well-done and easy to use.

LWVKKC supports this much-needed zoning code update, with its streamlined reorganization and concise presentation of complex material. The League also supports two key goals implicit in the proposed code: (1) addressing the growing need for affordable housing in Knoxville, and (2) encouraging less reliance on personal vehicles for mobility.

Nevertheless, LWVKKC has two significant concerns with the proposed code:

(1) Although affordable housing and vibrant, stable neighborhoods are supposedly part of the vision for Knoxville, some measures in the proposed code – unless revised – may work against that vision.

(2) In an effort to achieve greater administrative efficiency, short shrift is being given to citizens’ right to know about and comment on land use decisions that affect them.

Our specific comments are summarized below. Detailed versions of these comments are attached, organized by the articles in which they occur.


Hillside Protection Overlay. The HP Overlay should apply to all types of districts – residential and non-residential – as it did in the 2011 Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan adopted by City Council.

Infill Housing Overlay. To foster affordable, compatible housing in older neighborhoods scattered around the city, we should keep the Infill Housing overlay.

Accessory Dwelling Units. To add to the stock of affordable housing in Knoxville while minimizing disruption of stable neighborhoods, ADUs should have two restrictions: (1) their use as short-term rentals should be prohibited, and (2) in EN, RN-1, and RN-2 neighborhoods, they should be limited to owner-occupied properties.

Required Notice of Public Hearings and Meetings. Required notice of a public hearing/meeting should include information on how to submit written comments.

Administrative Modifications. The Zoning Administrator should send notice of a request for an administrative modification to abutting and adjacent property owners, allowing them 10 business days to comment before the decision is made. Immediately after the decision is reached, they should be advised of (a) the decision made, and (b) their right to appeal it.

Planned Developments. Neighborhood associations, business associations, potentially affected property owners, and other members of the public should get notice of the proposed project early in the process, as soon as a concept plan has been developed. Their opportunity for comment should not be limited to the preliminary plan stage. They also should get notice of the staff review for “substantial compliance” prior to MPC’s review and approval of the final plan.


While still a work in progress, the proposed code is an important step forward. Thank you for all your effort on this monumental task.


Linda Maccabe

President, LWVKKC

Mary English

Land Use and Environment Chair, LWVKKC

bizgrrl's picture

Nice. Thanks.

Nice. Thanks.

NiccoD's picture

LOWV’s Substantive Comments

Great! Let me join Biz Girl in thanking you for getting in some good substantive comments on the draft.
I am happy folks are starting to wade in on this— we all want to end up with the best zoning code we can fashion for our community.

jdmcomp's picture


I am still having a problem finding where there is a limit on the number of living units one could have in an ADU. Two bedrooms could be two studio apartments.

Lisa Starbuck's picture

Oakwood Lincoln Park ReCode Meeting Today (9/16)

Sorry for the late notice, just received this from Emily Ellis.

"Today is an opportunity to find out about ReCode and give feedback. We are lucky that our OLPNA president Deborah Thomas and vice president Michelle Ivester have been attending the meetings and are well informed, but the City needs to hear from more of us. ReCode will impact our neighborhoods for years to come. Deb and Michelle will be available to answer our questions and show us how to submit comments. 3:30 to 5:00 at the OLP clubhouse, 916 Shamrock Ave (behind Christenberry Elementary School. Everyone is welcome."

bizgrrl's picture

From KnoxTNToday,

From KnoxTNToday,

Additionally, the vice president of OLPNA has joined other neighborhood leaders who want City Council to delay [until March or April] voting on the massive rewrite of city zoning codes now under consideration.

KevinMurphy's picture

Good discussion

I've appreciated the discussion!

The interaction between city and county is important. Unfortunately the county isn't considering a wholesale overhaul of it's zoning code, but some progress is (slowly) being made to provide some incentives to protect rural and agircultural land.

If the city doesn't update zoning code to support higher density, then the remaining open space in Knox County will continue to be pressured to turn into low density subdivisions. This will:

  • Exacerbate traffic issues due to non-use of public transit
  • Contribute to lower quality of life (time spent in traffic)
  • Result in a loss community character. We get it from our unique places that already exist within the city, and from our rural farms and landscapes. We don't get character from the newest franchise of a chain restaurant or store opening up in a strip shopping center.

Recode is an opportunity for the City to lead the county in some areas. Unfortunately, there will still be developers who look to maximize their profit by developing open space into low density subdivisions and low quality chain retail, and they will keep their eyes focused on rural areas of the county, to the detriment of our roads, traffic, schools, and overall quality of life.

Efforts to facilitate higher density in the city will help preserve our sense of place in the larger region. Items that help us address affordable housing WITHIN the city limits will deflect families from seeking lower-cost low-density suburban housing 45 minutes outside of the city center.

I'm on the return-leg of a trip to the UK and Ireland, and it's readily apparent how some planning goes a long way to keeping rural character as well as developing a sense of place for urban areas.

My two cents.

PilotLite's picture

"Clearly there has been

"Clearly there has been tension between existing residents and developers when projects come to the public agenda."

--Bill Lyons

Presumably Recode will correct this imbalance by shifting power and the presumption of righteous to Developers.

The obstructionist public must have voices and tools silenced.

Bill Lyons's picture

Oh if things were simple.

"Clearly there has been tension between existing residents and developers when projects come to the public agenda."

--Bill Lyons

Presumably Recode will correct this imbalance by shifting power and the presumption of righteous to Developers.

The obstructionist public must have voices and tools silenced.

Oh if things were this simple - Good folks and bad folks. We are going to grow and it will not be through public housing. It will be done through the private sector with real implications for the public sector and through rules set by the latter. Developers do come in conflict with many in nearby neighborhoods on many, but by no means all occasions. And sometimes the opposition from folks is not necessarily noble. For instance a developer of affordable housing units along Chapman met at length with neighborhood leaders and residents and received support. This proposal was a key element of our affordable housing policy and received support from our affordable housing fund. Some neighbors pushed back against another affordable housing project in Pond Gap. The city supported both projects and we were pleased with the unanimous Council support.

A few years ago we strongly supported a permanent supportive housing developments at Flenniken elementary. There was a good deal of opposition, largely based on fear. That project has resulted in none of what was feared and is a definite success story. Neighbors now see it as a plus.

Also the appropriate governing agencies are deliberative as they consider those projects that do come before them. MPC enacted a sidewalk requirement in areas outside the City despite strong opposition from some developers. MPC approved a site plan for a development in the Toole's Bend area that puts substantial road and infrastructure requirements on the private developer.

We have not had much from neighbors on most of our redevelopment projects in the City. Council is quite good at making clear their desire for developers to work with those around them. There are real issues to consider when developers work with abandoned warehouses and mostly abandoned commercial buildings along the older corridors such as Broadway and Central. The old parking rules set up with suburban patterns in mind either killed projects or necessitated lots of variances.

A model based on walkability often pushes some of the parking to streets away from the new projects. Few would argue that we were better off with abandoned buildings where we now have new restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops. All of these reflect the investment and work of someone who steps up and invests in the properties.

Anyone paying much attention to those wanting to build subdivisions in areas outside of the city will note pushback from neighbors with often legitimate concerns about traffic and school impact. They push for fewer units per acre, necessitating a higher price point for housing if the project is to work. MPC and County Commissioners are tasked with finding the balance. No decision takes place in a policy vacuum.

Of course Recode will affect the rules for future development in the City. There certainly will be a lot of discussion about those rules. Our Council members have done a really good job in understanding and considering the nuances and challenges as projects have come before them. I hope we can stay away from too much of the zero-sum thinking and zero-sum attribution of virtue that characterizes more and more of national politics.

NiccoD's picture

Simple things...

Yes Bill, We need to be sure we have balance. Robert Frost spoke about “maximum freedom within the harness.”... I guess that’s wisdom gleaned from the soil.

The need/ fear debate you spoke about should be openly discussed when we talk about how to accommodate needed affordable housing. Multi-use corridors seem easier to digest as they have the ability to absorb traffic and provide amenities and bus service nearby. Tax incentives and city grants, as well as federal and state monies can be used to encourage more of what we need. Builders and developers respond to profitable incentives.

The question gets more pointed as we move towards suburban neighborhoods that have a developed pattern and character over the years. That is often the glue that holds them together, and keeps them attractive to home buyers wishing to settle there. More careful placement of some such usage may work, but throwing open the door to multiply housing, ADUs etc, runs the risk of damaging what is part of the fabric that helps make Knoxville a great place to live, work and play, as we are want to say, and market to the world.

Not everyone wants to be immersed in a crowded metropolis, a New York, a Nashville or Atlanta. While those places have great amenities that make them fun to visit, if you ever lived in such a place the hassles overwhelm you day-to-day.

So let’s tread softly. Once you cut open the goose, in search of more, there can be no more golden eggs....

Rachel's picture

There seems to be an awful

There seems to be an awful lot of nimbyism in that third paragraph.

And nobody is suggesting turning the entirety of the COK into New York or Atlanta. Although the last time I looked there were suburbs in those places too.

NiccoD's picture

NIMBY ...Wimby

Rachel, My gosh girl, if we don’t care where we live, why we chose a particular neighborhood, or how the neighbors behave, or the amenities we want to foster, then why get involved at all?
We are searching for zoning reforms that foster the kind of community we want to live in.
Let’s make sure the planners and governing class Listen To Us.

Rachel's picture

And the kind of community

And the kind of community that we want to live in doesn't include affordable housing or public institutions in the more expensive suburbs, right?

As for "listen to us", please define "us."

NiccoD's picture

We are “US”

Rachel ‘‘this is simple:
US = The residents of Knoxville. The citizens who pay taxes, who pay government workers salaries, who elect public officials to represent us.
Planners and the administration work for us, and we should be able to project our vision in fashioning our zoning code. Even if the top-down elitists believe ... they know best.
You are stewards of that public trust.

jdmcomp's picture


The first thing I learned about Washington DC, working for one of those "letter" commissions so loved there, is that those in power inside the beltway find the rest of the nation a damned inconvenience. Necessary to pay taxes, but a damned inconvenience. They do not want to hear your opinion, they find they know how to run things and we, the voters they work for, know little or nothing and must be lead by them.

I see a lot of this in Mr. Lyons statements. He knows best, just shut up and pay your taxes. He is not asking you what you want, he will tell you clearly what you want and shove it down your throats. O yes, you can complain, it is just that you will not be heard.

Up Goose Creek's picture

Owner occupied

in EN, RN-1, and RN-2 neighborhoods, they should be limited to owner-occupied properties.

What would be the mechanism to enforce that the property remains owner occupied after it changes hands?

Bill Lyons's picture

Not headed to Manhattan on the Tennessee River

Lest we journey too far down into rhetoricland I think it is fair to say that the proposed code is not going to impose a Manhattan roadmap upon Knoxville and/ or threaten the fundamental nature of our neighborhoods. I urge everyone to consult the summary table linked below. It clearly delineates present and proposed uses in each residential neighborhood. The proposed changes do not permit multifamily residential in our present primary residential zones (r1e and r1).

Residential Comparison Table

There are proposed changes in the proposed code allowing duplexes as uses on review with restrictions. In some cases the proposed residential districts are actually more restrictive. The substantive change drawing the most discussion revolves around accessory dwelling units - apartments over garages, etc. There are a number of these already in existence. A good number are in Sequoyah Hills. Of course we have heard and will continue to hear a variety of views on this. Again, of course reasonable people will disagree. There has been much good discussion regarding this and we anticipate that there will be a lot more.

Also, please plan to attend or view the workshop this Thursday. We have a very good Council and they will delve into the issues at length in a responsible manner. Thanks again for your patience and for your constructive engagement as we continue through the process.

Rachel's picture


Hi Bill,

Will the workshop be on CTV?

Joe328's picture

Bill, I believe you are

Bill, I believe you are wrong about MPC misleading the public on population growth. Their publication titled, The Changing Demographics of Knoxville, Dated April 13, 2013 corroborates the deception. MPC’s projected population growth of Knoxville’s urbanized area, includes Anderson, Blount, Loudoun, and Sevier Counties. Knox County’s population, which includes Knoxville, is predicted to increase 50,000 every 10 years. That falls well short of 170,000.

Another massaging of the numbers deals with high density (RP-2) affordable housing. City Council recently approved a zoning change on Young High Pike to RP-2 for 158 units. The application states that approximately 3 school children under the age of 18 would be added to the school system. MPC has denied new development due to its impact on local schools or traffic, but affordable housing seems to have a special math formula for calculating impact on schools and roads.

Up Goose Creek's picture


I believe Dr Lyons has me twitted so can someone repeat my question:

What would be the mechanism to enforce that the property remains owner occupied after it changes hands?

Up Goose Creek's picture

What on Earth!

All this talk about affordable housing yet in section 9.6 it specifies that for a townhouse the façade must wrap around the sides of the unit. In section 9.7 it specifies that vinyl is limited to 15% of the facade surface.

So how are we supposed to promote affordable housing if we don't allow affordable building techniques.

I don't think the answer is to expect people on the bottom of the economic ladder to live in subsidized housing. Who is expected to pay for this subsidy, anyway.

Bill Lyons's picture

Please engage as this unfolds

The workshop is Thursday, Some of the comments and critiques people have may well come up. There are multiple viewpoints on all of this. I encourage all to engage at both the MPC level and, of course when Council begins discussion and deliberation.

Bill Lyons's picture

Workshop is on CTV

The workshop is underway and is being carried on CTV.

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