Community Forum Alert Letter to Neighborhoods and Individuals re: Recode Knoxville, 7-10-18

PURPOSE OF THIS ALERT:  In 2016, the City authorized a full review and update of its 50-year old Zoning Ordinance. The initiative is known as Recode Knoxville. The final product will replace Knoxville’s existing Zoning Ordinance in its entirety.  The first draft of the proposed Zoning Ordinance was released to the public on March 21, 2018.  It was prepared by outside consultants, working with MPC staff and the City administration.  The Community Forum has prepared this Alert to share with neighborhood groups and individuals our questions and concerns about the March 21, 2018, draft of the proposed Knoxville Zoning Ordinance.
WHAT IS THE COMMUNITY FORUM? The Community Forum was established in 1987.  Its membership includes citizens and groups from Knox County, both inside and outside the City of Knoxville.  The purpose of the Community Forum is to promote community improvement via neighborhood/community associations and to encourage full citizen participation in community planning and governmental processes.  The Community Forum is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates. It does not take positions on specific zoning, use on review requests, etc.
Please feel free to contact the Community Forum at:
HOW DOES RECODE AFFECT YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?  The proposed zoning ordinance will affect every parcel of property in Knoxville.  Changes from the existing Knoxville Zoning Ordinance are proposed for every zoning category–residential, office and commercial.  The proposed changes include which uses are allowed on the property, as well as changes to other zoning regulations such as setbacks and approval processes.
COMMUNITY FORUM REVIEW AND RESPONSE TO THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED ZONING ORDINANCE:  Due to the enormous impact of the proposed zoning ordinance on our homes, neighborhoods and our quality of life, the Community Forum reviewed the March 21 draft and submitted written comments to Recode.  This Alert provides a brief description of 7 of the 14 items included in our submitted comments.  For a more complete discussion of the issues, please see the separately attached Community Forum comments submitted to Recode.
MORE INFORMATION ON RECODE KNOXVILLE: The entire March 21, 2018, first draft Ordinance, meeting schedules, etc., are available at and the MPC’s website,
A second draft of the proposed Zoning Ordinance, including zoning maps showing the proposed zoning district designation for each parcel of property in Knoxville, is expected to be released to the public in July, followed by several public meetings beginning August 20.
Please share this material with other interested neighbors.  Please provide feedback to MPC and City Council and plan to attend public meetings.
1.  ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS (ADUs):  (See Topic 1, page 1, of the complete Community Forum Review)  The draft ordinance defines ADUs as “An additional dwelling unit located on the same lot with and is incidental to, a principal single-family dwelling.  An accessory dwelling unit may be attached or detached and must include separate cooking and sanitary facilities, with its own means of ingress and egress.”  As proposed, ADUs would be allowed by right, i.e., without special approval required, in all of our existing low density, single-family residential neighborhoods, including existing R-1, R-1E, EN-1 and EN-2 neighborhoods.  The proposed ordinance does not require the property owner to live on the property.  Both the “principal single-family dwelling” and the Accessory Dwelling Unit could be rented at the same time.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have not been allowed in R-1 and R-1E, under our existing zoning ordinance.
ADUs are allowed in EN-1 and EN-2, under our existing ordinance.  However, under our existing zoning ordinance,  ADUs in EN-1 and EN-2 are required to get special approval (Use on Review) and are required to meet strict standards, including the requirement that the property owner live on the property, large lot size (33,000 square feet), etc.
The Community Forum’s position:  The introduction of ADUs into the R-1 and R-1E low density residential zoning districts, will significantly change the character of existing low density residential neighborhoods by increasing population density and vehicular traffic.  The character of the EN-1 and EN-2 neighborhoods will be negatively impacted by the removal of the existing ordinance’s strict standards regulating ADUs in EN-1 and EN-2 zoning districts.
2.  OFFICE ZONING DISTRICT:  (See Supplement 2, May 17, 2018, to the complete Community Forum Review)  The draft ordinance proposes replacing the Office-1 (O-1) District with the Office (O) District.  The proposed Office (O) District is listed in the “Commercial” category of zoning districts.  There will no longer be an “Office” category of districts.  The Office (O) District would allow more intense usesnot presently permitted in the O-1 District, including restaurants, retail goods establishments, and small animal care facilities with outdoor exercise areas.
The Community Forum’s position:  Restaurants, general retail and outdoor animal exercise areas should not be permitted in the Office (O) District.  Historically in Knoxville, the Office-1 (O-1) District has been located next to residential development to serve as a buffer and transition zone between commercial and residential uses. Introducing high-activity commercial uses, such as restaurants, in the Office (O) District will negatively impact our residential areas by increased traffic, hours of operation, noise, lighting, and general activity level.
3.  DAY CARE HOME:  (See Topic 3, page 5, of the complete Community Forum Review) The draft ordinance defines Day Care Home as: “A residential dwelling where a permanent occupant of the dwelling provides care for children or adults from outside households in a protective setting for less than 24 hours per day.  A day care home does not include facilities that only receive children from a single household.”  Day care homes would be a permitted use by right in every residential zoning district.  The proposed ordinance relies on what the State allows and State requirements.  Unlike our existing Zoning Ordinance, the draft ordinance provides no locally-established limit on the number of children or adults.  Additionally, there are no yard, space, etc., standards.
The existing Knoxville Zoning Ordinance defines Day nursery, private, as “An agency, organization, or individual providing care for six (6) or more children, not related by blood, marriage to, or not legal wards or foster children of the attendant adult.”  The existing Knoxville Zoning Ordinance establishes standards and requires Use on Review approval if 6 or more children are being cared for in a home or elsewhere.
The Community Forum’s position:  The existing Knoxville Zoning Ordinance requirements should be maintained.  Caring for less than 6 unrelated adults or children should continue to be allowed by right in the residential districts.
However, to protect both clients and neighboring properties, Use on Review approval and yard and space standards, etc.,  as required in the existing Zoning Ordinance, should be maintained when caring for 6 or more unrelated children or adults in a private home, in a residential neighborhood.
4.  PLANNED DEVELOPMENT (PD):  (See Topic 4, page 9, of the complete Community Forum Review)  Planned Development is a new concept in Knoxville.  The draft ordinance proposes deleting all planned zoning districts, such as Planned Residential, Planned Commercial, Shopping Center, in the existing Knoxville Zoning Ordinance.  Planning becomes a process rather than a zoning district. The Planned Development Process can be applied to all zoning districts–residential, office, commercial, and industrial.
The Planned Development process can only be initiated by the property owner, not by government.  The purpose of the PD is to allow more creative and flexible development of land than is possible under district zoning regulations and is intended to apply only when compensating amenities to the City are provided, such as parks, affordable housing, etc.  Exceptions to underlying zoning district dimensional design and use regulations may be granted if certain standards are met.
The Community Forum’s position:  More discussion is needed regarding this concept.  Many terms and standards are not defined (“excessive adverse impact”; “compatible with adopted land use policies (in uncited documents”) and the appeals process is unclear.  Additionally, there is no limit on the extent to which uses can be modified.
Perhaps most importantly, public notice and public involvement appear very late in the process, perhaps too late to be meaningful.
5.  HILLSIDE AND RIDGETOP PROTECTION:  (See Topic 5, page 17, of the complete Community Forum Review)  The Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan (HRPP) was adopted by City Council and incorporated into the General Plan in 2011.  In 2017 the City determined that because the HRPP was not codified, its requirements could only be enforced through Use on Review and the Development Plan process of the Planned Zoning Districts.
The draft ordinance’s proposed deletion of all of the planned zoning districts in the existing zoning ordinance (Planned Residential, Planned Commercial, Shopping Center) removes the mechanism to enforce the requirements of the HRPP.
The Community Forum’s position:  It is in the community’s best interest to protect hillsides and ridgetops.  We have asked City Council to codify the Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan so that the plan’s requirements can be enforced.
6.  ANIMAL CARE FACILITY-SMALL:  (See Topic 6, page 18, of the complete Community Forum Review)  The draft ordinance proposes outdoor animal exercise areas be allowed in the Office (O) Zoning District, the district which would replace the existing O-1 District. Many O-1 Zoning Districts are located adjacent to residential areas and serve as a buffer between residential and commercial.  Outdoor animal exercise areas are not permitted in the existing O-1 District.
Additionally, unlike the existing ordinance, the draft ordinance would allow an unlimited number of adult dogs to be kept on any residential lot.
The Community Forum’s position:  The definitions related to Animal Care in the existing Zoning Ordinance should be restored, including the definition of “kennel.”  Outdoor animal exercise areas in office zones would be a nuisance to nearby residential areas.  The number of adult dogs kept on a residential lot should continue to be limited.
7.  SPECIAL USE:  (See Topic 9, page 23, of the complete Community Forum Review)  The draft ordinance replaces the existing ordinance term “Use on Review” with the term “Special Use.”  The power of the MPC commissioners is unclear regarding Special Uses in the draft ordinance, which states:  “…The Metropolitan Planning Commission will approve the special use with conditions after receipt of the staff recommendation.”  (Note:  “will” is mandatory.)
Additionally, the Approval Standards for Special Uses in the draft ordinance are neither as rigorous nor as specific as the General Standards that must be met for the approval of a Use on Review (Special Use) in the existing ordinance.
Here, and throughout the draft ordinance, reference is made to following “adopted City land use policies.” However, the draft ordinance fails to cite the documents that contain the adopted City land use policies.  The existing zoning ordinance cites the General Plan and the One Year Plan.
The Community Forum’s position:  The role and power of the MPC Commission must be clear;  the existing standards for approval of a Use on Review (Special Use), should be maintained; the documents that set out the “adopted City land use policies” must be cited in order for citizens to be knowledgeable, well-informed participants in zoning decisions.

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