Fri
Feb 25 2011
12:00 pm

Knox Co. Mayor Tim Burchett released a statement today saying the proposed ridgetop protection plan is "bad public policy" and calls on County Commission to reject it.

Full statement after the jump...

Mayor Burchett announces opposition to hillside, ridgetop plan

Knoxville, Tenn. — Mayor Burchett today announced his opposition to the currently-debated Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan that Knox County Commission is scheduled to vote on Monday. Mayor Burchett released the following statement:

"The Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan lays the foundation for bad public policy, and it is my hope that Knox County Commission votes to reject it.

"I appreciate Commissioner Tony Norman’s work on this plan, and I know it was developed with good intentions. However, it is in fact a roadmap for the significant erosion of the rights of thousands of Knox County property owners. In this difficult economy, government should not put in place new bureaucratic roadblocks that further restrict economic development. From both a philosophical and practical standpoint, I oppose this plan.

"In addition, few property owners know the exact slope of every hill on their property. The Metropolitan Planning Commission, however, has the full list of affected property owners, and I believe it is their responsibility to directly notify these Knox County taxpayers about this plan. On February 8, I sent a letter to MPC encouraging them to do just that. Unfortunately, they chose to ignore this advice. Citizens deserve a legitimate opportunity to voice their opinions of this plan.

"If Commission approves this plan Monday, tens of thousands of taxpayers will wake up Tuesday not knowing whether their property is affected. I hope this does not happen."

144
like
slapshot's picture

"our way or no way"

The problem is that MPC and others chose a position of "our way or no way".

On Tuesday it was made clear compromise was not an option. MPC has over stepped its bounds. Over $350,000 was spent on a plan that didn't suggest but made an ultimatum. That is not the role of MPC.

Now Commission will settle this. There could have been a plan. Now there won't be.

Barker's picture

*

County commission and city council have always been the final word. MPC is an advisory panel.

slapshot's picture

"MPC is an advisory

"MPC is an advisory panel."

Then why didn't they seek a compromise? Because of arrogance and obstinance there will be no plan. Three years and $350,000 has been wasted. All the realtors, home builders, and developers wanted was to begin at 25% slope and have notification.

They were willing to meet halfway. The problem is MPC.

Barker's picture

*

The MPC recommended a plan, based on a lot of input from many people. If there's a compromise, it should appropriately come at the county commission and city council level. It's part of the give and take of democratic government.

Crawfish's picture

"The MPC recommended a plan,

"The MPC recommended a plan, based on a lot of input from many people."

I'm curious. How many people?

I notice you don't say anything about Gary Norvell's points. Why is that?

Barker's picture

*

The MPC recommended a plan, based on a lot of input from many people. If there's a compromise, it should appropriately come at the county commission and city council level. It's part of the give and take of democratic government.

j.f.m.'s picture

Compromises

Let's not forget that -- despite the hysterical rhetoric of the predictable parties here and the incoherent developers on Tuesday -- the entire plan is the product of a long series of compromises. People go on about the cost of the effort as if it's some kind of indictment, but that investment was in a long, public process involving a lot of people representing a lot of interests. If you listen to the developers, it's like Tony Norman and Joe Hultquist cooked the whole thing up on a $300,000 jaunt to the Caribbean or something, and just unveiled it last week.

Also, I think it's hilarious for anyone to suggest there hasn't been time to review and understand it. I read it last summer. Took maybe an hour, including appendices.

jbr's picture

The compromising has been

The compromising has been done, but some cannot accept it.

Hopefully this will get passed.

Rachel's picture

All the realtors, home

All the realtors, home builders, and developers wanted was to begin at 25% slope and have notification.

Excuse me, but that's not what I've heard from a bunch of them. It's not the Chamber's position either.

Rachel's picture

MPC has over stepped its

MPC has over stepped its bounds.

You keep saying that. So could you please tell us, under state law, just exactly what the bounds are?

Bird_dog's picture

Re: notification

Seems like a list of property and owners could be published in the newspaper. Word will get around. sheesh

Note to anyone who is ever asked to serve on a task force: be certain that your work will be completed within the term of the person who asked for it. I, too, have worked on a task force under one administration, only to have all the work scrapped by the next.

I don't think the County Executive should be setting policy. I guess being elected and called "mayor" gives him the bully pulpit, but County Commission is our governing body, isn't it?

Barker's picture

*

Yes. The county mayor is using the bully pulpit. Which, by the way, he did not do on the Midway Business Park issue.

metulj's picture

His buddy, the one who read a

His buddy, the one who read a blog post about that, thought that it would be a bad idea.

Barker's picture

*

It would have been nice if Burchett had asserted a position on Midway. He didn't, and so avoided any political fallout (whether he came out one way or another). At least in this instance he is stating a position.

metulj's picture

I guess I am pretty jaded

I guess I am pretty jaded with him right now. I am not inclined to care for his politics in general, but he's not exactly a shining star of, well, much anything. I know it is too early, but where's the friggin' beef? A position on a relatively esoteric bit of land-use recommendations that affect relatively few land holders. Wow. Gripping stuff that. The school financing scheme was lifted from elsewhere. He punted on Midway. What else?

Rachel's picture

A position on a relatively

A position on a relatively esoteric bit of land-use recommendations that affect relatively few land holders.

Oh, I think it's more than that. It's a sign of what kind of land use and planning decisions we can expect in Knox County for the next 8 years.

vernon's picture

Really

Guess it ain't the way y'all did it back in friggin Virginia.

metulj's picture

Ow. Ouch. The pain. It would

Ow. Ouch. The pain. It would have hurt more nearly twenty years ago when I actually left there.

Rachel's picture

Compromise? I've said about

Compromise?

I've said about twelve times that there has already been a compromise.

The plan that came from the task force did not allow commercial above 15%. The plan passed by MPC does, as long as there is a plan review for 15-25%. In addition, "special districts" (close to major transportation corridors, etc.) would be created that would allow further flexibility for commercial.

government should not put in place new bureaucratic roadblocks that further restrict economic development.

Ummm, assuming that this DOES restrict economic development (an assertion I reject since no one has given me any credible evidence that it's so), this sounds like someone who doesn't have much use for planning/zoning in general.

slapshot's picture

"I've said about twelve times

"I've said about twelve times that there has already been a compromise."

Will you be speaking Monday to defend the plan?

Rachel's picture

Will you be speaking Monday

Will you be speaking Monday to defend the plan?

Come to the meeting and find out.

And BTW, it's not MPC's job to "compromise." It's our job to use our judgement to reach the best possible recommendation we can make.

That's what we did. Now it's Commission's job to reject or accept it.

R. Neal's picture

Knox chamber circulating ad

Knox chamber weighs in:
Knox chamber ad
(click for bigger)

Rachel's picture

Mike Edwards called me

Mike Edwards called me yesterday to make sure I understood the Chamber's position, and how the Chamber wasn't driven by developers.

We had a very amicable discussion, and agreed to disagree about some things, but I was puzzled why the call to begin with. That might be a bit clearer now.

reform4's picture

Uh, so what DOES drive the chamber?

Both on this issue and in general?

Rachel's picture

Mike E. told me yesterday on

Mike E. told me yesterday on this issue they are driven by their board.

reform4's picture

Ah, the Board...

.. which would include?

Mr. H. Blair Trimble
Gerdau AmeriSteel

Mr. Allan Cox
Denark Construction

Mr. Kirk A. Huddleston
Blaine Construction

Mr. Don Freeman
CEO, Rentenbach Engineering

Ms. Maribel Koella
NAI Knoxville

Mr. Doug Kennedy
CEO, Johnson & Galyon, Inc

Mr. James Schaad
Schaad Companies

And about 10 representatives from banks that finance construction.

All fine people, mind you, but please Mr. Edwards, don't try to tell me that the members of the Board of the Chamber doesn't have a personal agenda in this matter. I was born, but it wasn't 24 Feb, 2011.

Rachel's picture

please Mr. Edwards, don't try

please Mr. Edwards, don't try to tell me that the members of the Board of the Chamber doesn't have a personal agenda in this matter.

I want to be perfectly clear. Mr. Edwards did not say that to me. He simply said that the Chamber board is the driver on this issue.

jbr's picture

I have the impression

I have the impression developers have had their way so long in this area they construe compromise as defeat. I hope this slope plan passes. I believe it will be good for the area.
If it does not, I believe most will regret that decision some day.

I believe Mayor Burchett is wrong on this one.

Don J. 's picture

what a mess

Just read in the Sentinel comments that one of the Commissioners who supports the Hilltop Ridge Plan is calling for hand to hand combat. While that is rhetorical, it shows how messed up this mess is.

The is the same blue print that has been used for years here. False consensus, dialog to consensus, claim there is only one solution, demean those who object, call people liars, claim bad faith, and accuse people of being ignorant.

We need a new way of doing this.

metulj's picture

Knoxdrools is a reliable

Knoxdrools is a reliable source? I keep forgetting. It's a regular School of Athens over there. Anybody calling for a lynching today?

Rachel's picture

I dunno, but someone a poster

I dunno, but someone a poster assumes is a planning commissioner was told their "disgraceful" behavior has been reported to both mayors.

I'm eagerly awaiting the mayors' responses.

j.f.m.'s picture

Maybe you ain't been around

We need a new way of doing this.

Maybe you ain't been around here much. But a public task force with representatives of a whole range of interested parties holding numerous public meetings and sorting through a range of alternatives and best-practices and data with the help of a team of planning professionals actually is a new way of doing this.

The old way of doing this is, developers wait until the last minute, show up at public meetings, call everybody communists (or shout OBAMACARE, which I guess is the new COMMUNIS), and hold their breath and stamp their feet until they get their way. It was looking like a pretty rusty act on Tuesday, but could be they's life in it yet.

slapshot's picture

Monday at 9:00 am 100.3 FM

"Maybe you ain't been around here much. But a public task force with representatives of a whole range of interested parties holding numerous public meetings and sorting through a range of alternatives and best-practices and data with the help of a team of planning professionals actually is a new way of doing this."

You cannot be serious j.f.m. Do you think anyone with a memory believes that? Pick the task force; South Knox Water Front, Market Square, Convention Center, and so on and so on.

Remember k2k? They used to poke holes in the old "interested parties holding numerous public meetings and sorting through a range of alternatives and best-practices and data with the help of a team of planning professionals".

That is a load of bull. The Slope and Ridge, later known as Hilltop and Ridge, "task force" was front loaded the same way all of these old committees are. And people resigned rather than have their names associated with the final product.

You are over on the Metro Pulse crying in your beer that people won't listen to the "professionals". What happened is people didn't listen to you. And that is what you are so bent out of shape about.

So j.f.m, why don't you call in on Monday at 9:00 am on 100.3 and confront Gary Norvell who resigned from the whatever Hilltop task force? Why don't you set him straight? You're a big talking head on WATE opining all the time like you really know the subject material. I'd like to see you confront someone who knows this plan a lot better than you do.

Or is it just easier to take pot shots at people from the relative safety of your alt-weekly newspaper. People who live by advertising revenue should be more cautious with what they allege in public. The local realtors, home builders, developers, and Knoxville Chamber are not on the same page as you are.

Rachel's picture

South Knox Water Front That's

South Knox Water Front

That's an example of an extremely good process that ended up in consensus from pretty much everybody but Bill Baxter.

The Slope and Ridge, later known as Hilltop and Ridge, "task force" was front loaded the same way all of these old committees are.

Once again, the members of the task force were approved by Commission. I assume they did the "front-loading."

People who live by advertising revenue should be more cautious with what they allege in public.

Threats now, eh? Classy. BTW, I know where you live. :)

Rachel's picture

BTW, it was nice Burchett

BTW, it was nice Burchett acknowledged Tony Norman's work on the plan. It would have been nicer, tho, if he'd acknowledged the work of everyone else involved.

rikki's picture

How much of this alleged

How much of this alleged $300,000+ MPC spent on this plan would be in county coffers if this task force was never convened? My guess is very little. MPC staff are paid salaries. If they weren't doing GIS work and researching comparable plans for the task force, they'd still get paid, perhaps for sitting on their asses wishing the county would do something worthwhile like smarten up its slope protections.

Staffers who had to attend the numerous public meetings might have gotten paid overtime. Other than that, this expense is merely accounting allocation of money that would have fallen under a different expense column.

Like the rest of the opposition argument, this line is just crap being thrown at a wall to see what sticks.

Rachel's picture

MPC professionals are

MPC professionals are undoubtedly salaried, and don't collect overtime pay.

Pam Strickland's picture

Burchett is a disappointment.

Burchett is a disappointment.

That's all for now. I have people coming to my house Sunday to help me move and still have packing to do. So, I don't have time to really get into this the way I'd like to.

Did y'all notice the oh-so-clever way he used erosion of rights? Makes me want to go over the 6th Floor of the City/County Bldg and slap somebody for thinking they're being cute. This is not something to be cute about.

Rachel's picture

In this difficult economy,

In this difficult economy, government should not put in place new bureaucratic roadblocks that further restrict economic development.

Maybe I'm dumb, but I don't get it. If this is Burchett's philosophy, how come he didn't publicly support Midway?

burntorange68goat's picture

Rachel, Pam, jfm,

Rachel, Pam, jfm, rikki,

Ya'll just can't understand when a Local elected official sees BS and then calls it BS. By your reactions to the events of the last few weeks, I am very incouraged by the direction the Knox County Government is headed.

Back to sensible Governing with an ear to the people for its direction. Tough to take, but that's OK, just head over to the DTB and down another draft with your buddies. It will all be over in 4 or 8 more years.

Rachel's picture

Sorry, I don't drink beer.

Sorry, I don't drink beer.

an ear to the people

And I KNOW it's trouble when anybody - anybody - claims "the people" are on his or her side.

BTW, just a few hours ago you were claiming "the people" didn't know about the plan. Now they all oppose it?

j.f.m.'s picture

He has a very specific set of

He has a very specific set of "the people" in mind -- the same people who apparently were underrepresented by constituting a mere quarter of the entire task force.

Burchett's free to cater to any interest group he chooses, like any politician, and if he's going to be Mr. Developer, it's just as well to know that early in his tenure. The major thing that bothers me about the timing and tone of his announcement is that I think it does not sufficiently recognize how many people spent hundreds of hours trying -- in good faith, as far as I can tell, Norvell's complaints notwithstanding -- to come up with a reasonable approach to a set a serious concerns. The shrill, often hysterical, and not infrequently nasty tone of the developers and their coterie who spoke at Tuesday's meeting did not give much evidence of people who were interested in serious or reasonable discussion of anything. By basically validating their sense of entitlement and indignation, I think Burchett is seriously disrespecting the work of a whole lot of people -- work that was explicitly commissioned and charged by county government itself, even if it was another administration. Why should anyone agree to spend time serving on any board in the future if their efforts can be so easily waved away and discarded? Even if Burchett doesn't like the plan, it deserves more than a perfunctory Friday-morning press release.

Pam Strickland's picture

I don't drink beer either.

I don't drink beer either. And can't tell you the last time I was at the Brew Pub, well over a year ago. For a variety of reasons, I expect that to change in the coming months, but you really shouldn't assume so much. I had an private e-mail from someone this morning who assumed something about me. Just made it up out of whole cloth because of the stand I took in my column this week. Just because most Republicans can be stereotyped doesn't mean the rest of us can.

The Other People's picture

Mr. Goat, When you say "an

Mr. Goat,

When you say "an ear to the people," to whom do you refer? I think you are referring only to the people who agree with you. It's that whole Sarah Palin conceptualization of who gets to count as "Real Americans." I think you will find that most of "the people" (many of whom are actually also Real Americans) stand on the middle ground, and are oft taken for granted by those who purport to speak for them. That tenure of self-appointed spokesmanship is traditionally short-lived.

Love,
The Other People

R. Neal's picture

Homebuilders weigh in

hbaslopead.jpg

The above ad (click for bigger) appeared in today's KNS (Sat. 2/26/2011).

Bird_dog's picture

5-6 dwellings per acre

is now permitted - according to Rachel, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I am disappointed in my HBAK friends for appealing to fear. The irony is that when developers try to get 5-6 dwelling units per acre, neighborhoods complain mightily about density and extra traffic on the roads, and appeal to county commission to overrule MPC and CC panders to the noisy neighbors and reduces density! What more could you ask for than a very defensible argument for 5-6 du/acre???

Rachel's picture

Not entirely nothing -

Not entirely nothing - nothing for LDR below 40%.

Density is an issue that needs serious discussion in this county. We don't have an infinite supply of land and we can't do low density sprawl forever.

Higher density isn't bad if it's done well. That's a big IF, unfortunately. Of course, lower density isn't good if it's done badly either.

P.S. Not sure your claims about Commission are entirely true, tho. I've seen them up the density recommended by MPC on more than one occasion, at the request of the developer.

Bird_dog's picture

thanks

I was only responding to the photo and focus on the 15% slope.

I have only been involved in a few of these development issues resulting in "public outcry" - opponents use density as code for "those people" that they don't want more of. And they appeal to CC.

Consider the current effort to get supporters of both sides of this issue to attend the CC meeting on Monday. What effect should a small percentage of vocal Knox County voters/citizens have on the outcome? Sometimes the best decision is not popular. (The rights of the minority would always be trampled if pure democracy ruled.) This is one issue that affects us collectively.

jbr's picture

As a group we seem to have a

As a group we seem to have a more level headed County Commission than we have had. I view Anders, Briggs as the current "developers" commissioners in the group. Several times I have not agreed with Smith, MacKenzie, or Hammond's votes.

Hopefully a thoughtful view of the long term impact and importance of these guidelines will win out.

I assume people all over the world have and are dealing with slope regulations. Certainly all over the US. The environmental and quality of life issues with loosely regulated slope development are a real problem. Developers on the average are going to instinctively fight it. When a road I drive on gets a lower speed limit or a traffic light it kind of ticks me off. But it is something we need to do. We will still build homes, stores, etc. and life will go on. We live in a hilly region. We need to acknowledge what that means from a development perspective and this hillside/ridge top plan does. I hope commission shows good judgement and votes for it.

Rachel's picture

I wouldn't classify Briggs as

I wouldn't classify Briggs as either pro- or anti- development. Briggs is a smart guy who studies the material and makes up his own mind on the particulars of what's before him.

jbr - I hope you and others like you are contacting Commissioners, will come Monday night, and will consider speaking. The opponents of this plan have an awfully big megaphone.

goose creek's picture

15% slope

Rachel, you told me the task force had eased up on the restrictions on 15-25% slope. But it seems to be 2 units/acre same as before. So where is the compromise????

Rachel's picture

I'm pretty much done with

I'm pretty much done with this discussion, because it feels a lot like banging my head against a wall, but Goose asks a reasonable question, so I'll answer it.

The guidelines for low density residential are:
0-15% - base zoning (6 du/acre city; 5 du/acre county)
15-25% - 2 du/acre
25-40% - 1 du/2 acres
40-50% - 1 du/4 acres
>50% - no development
Ridgetops - 1 du/acre

For 0-40% these are EXACTLY THE SAME GUIDELINES the MPC staff uses now. Nothing has changed.

For MDR and office:
The plan proposes development plan review on slopes of 15-25%. The task force recommended that these uses have a limitation on building footprint of 5,000 sq. ft. per two acres for slopes of 15-25%. The plan as approved by MPC proposes footprints of 5,000 sq. ft. per one acre at the 15% end of the scale and 5,000 sq. ft./two acres at the 25 % end of the scale – thus acknowledging that more intensive development is appropriate at the 15% end of the scale than at the 25% end.

For commercial:
The task force proposed a ban on commercial development above 15%. However, the plan approved by MPC bans commercial above 25% and requires plan review for land sloped between 15% and 25%.

For industrial:
Development not recommended for slopes over 15%. This criteria is the same used in various MPC industrial and business park site identification studies going back almost ten years.

Special districts:
The plan passed by MPC also allows other new office and commercial development in the Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Area under special circumstances. The following criteria would be considered in evaluating potential projects:
1. The area should be designated in the sector land use plan as office or commercial.
2. In some circumstances, a plan amendment will be necessary. Among the significant criteria that should be considered in making an amendment are:
a. The type of ridge or hillside (narrow knife-edge ridges are generally not appropriate);
b. The site’s proximity to highways, freeways and transit;
c. Traffic carrying capacity for those roads and streets providing access to the site; and
d. The site’s location in relation to the City, its Urban Growth Boundary, and the County’s Planned Growth Area, especially areas that are particularly suitable as employment centers such as major highway intersections and freeway
interchange areas.

MPC loosened the restrictions on MDR, office, and commercial from what the task force recommended, and added the special districts. BTW, the new Parkwest development that opponents insist could not have been built under the plan would have fallen into the special districts.

These recommendations should also be examined in light of exactly what area falls into the hillside protection area, which is:

The Knox County model only places the parts of the parcel above 15% in the HPA and then only under certain conditions.

Specifically, The HPA basically consists of three things:
1) Contiguous areas of slope greater than 15%, larger than 5 acres in size with an elevation gain greater than 40 ft.
2) Contiguous areas of slope greater than 15%, larger than 3 acres in size with an elevation gain greater than 60 ft.
3) Everything “upslope” from these two areas. This is how the tops of ridges get included, even tho the ridgetops themselves may be flat.

Bird_dog's picture

Thanks, Rachel

This is the most readable explaination I have seen of the new MPC plan. A graphic showing point-by-point how the new plan overlays the old and what accommodations are made for the changes would be very hard to argue against. I did wade through the MPC plan, but not wanting to print them both out, I did not compare with the Task Force or the old plan. Somewhere I was hoping for a summary or comparison table, maybe I missed it. It is a complex issue, but I think you have organized it quite well.

Rachel's picture

Thanks. I emailed this to

Thanks. I emailed this to Commissioners, in the hope that it might be helpful. This entire issue has been dominated by too much heat and not enough light.

There was a slide or two like that at an MPC workshop we had; I don't know why they weren't presented to Commissioners. I agree it would have been helpful.

reform4's picture

It was in the slides

just across several slides and not well presented.

There's an art to a concise powerpoint or informational graphics that gets the information across in an easy-to-digest way.

This is a book I'd recommend on the topic:
(link...)

hammersmith2010's picture

Our beloved leader--

Remember that this mayor is the same ignorant redneck who advocated deporting opponents of the Iraq war.

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