Knoxville launches website as part of municipal code overhaul project

The city of Knoxville is taking the first steps in a major municipal code and zoning ordinance overhaul, the first conducted by the major metro area is nearly 60 years. 

In order to bring the code up to modern standards, officials decided to begin by bringing the process of evaluating and garnering input into the 21st Century. The city and Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) jointly launched a Recode Knoxville website, which hosts all information regarding the project, an event calendar, project timeline, news, general information and frequently asked questions, Stakeholder Advisory Committee agendas and minutes, and contact information.

Gerald Green, executive director of the MPC, said utilizing the website and social media are just one of the ways officials are working to bring Knoxville’s city code into the modern era.

“The ability to use the internet and the website to obtain public input, get word out and keep people informed is a great tool in terms of making sure people know what we are doing and can give input,” Green said. “I think the ability to meet with a greater number of people is an asset. On the other hand, the more knowledgeable public may make it more challenging than 60 years ago. Sometimes, there is a polarization of what people want – balancing individual property rights and community rights. We have a variety of strong neighborhoods in Knoxville, and they want what they want.”

In 2016, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero proposed that MPC conduct a complete review and update of the city’s zoning ordinance. After city council approved funding for the request, city and MPC staff selected a team with both local and national experts, consultancy firm Camiros and a stakeholder committee representing business, neighborhood, environmental and other community groups to help craft the new codes and ordinances.

Dubbed Recode Knoxville, the project will allow the city to adopt modern standards to help shape the city for the next 20 to 40 years, and help protect and enhance Knoxville’s sense of place over the next few decades. The area is projected to add 170,000 residents by 2040.

Green, said the decision to revamp the code came when city leaders realized the current code doesn’t address the needs of important redevelopment efforts.

“Some of the problems we have encountered with our current code are that it doesn’t allow the type of development or redevelopment we are seeing in some of the older portions of the city,” Green said. “A lot of the commercial areas originally developed in the 1920s that are now being redeveloped cannot meet the suburban template mandated by the current code. Most of our zoning districts do not permit mixed-use development, though there is a high demand for mixed-use development that allow residential use. The code also mandates a lot of parking, but doesn’t pay attention to alternative transportation options.”

While the code has been amended several times over the years, Green said it still hasn’t kept up with the needs of modern development. Furthermore, the amendments are not always consistent and is sometimes contradictory.

Some of the priorities for the project include facilitating and encouraging the redevelopment Knoxville has seen in its downtown area and on arteries leading into downtown as well as along the riverfront. Green said encouraging sustainable development is also a priority.

Green said the deadline for the draft code review and adoption is September 2018, though it may take longer for adoption to take place.

To learn more about the project, visit www.recodeknoxville.com.