Recode Knoxville Gets Serious

Recode Knoxville, Presentation of Technical Report, Central United Methodist, Knoxville, September 2017

A public meeting was held on Tuesday to detail the progress made by the Camiros Consulting Group on the current effort to re-write Knoxville’s codes into a more unified, understandable and consistent set of codes. The idea is to make the codes general enough and inclusive enough that special approvals, which are now very common, might be less so.

Simplification in zoning uses seems is one emphasis. For example, uses would be define more broadly, such as a use of “retail goods establishment,” rather than current detailed listings such as “clothing store, book store, record store, convenience store.” Specific uses of concern, such as “adult stores,” would be addressed separately and sustainable uses, which are not currently addressed, would be included, such as urban agriculture, solar farms, community gardens.

While MPC would continue to be a vehicle for variances – now called “special use,” the bias would be for any use not specifically disallowed, as opposed to the opposite as it currently stands. The MPC would have the authority to “impose additional conditions on a special use to mitigate impacts.”

Requirements for Residential Districts would also be simplified. Neighborhood districts would be created and current standards, such as the 7,500 square foot minimum lot area would be eliminated. It was pointed out this regulation puts older, denser neighborhoods into “non-conforming status,” out the gate. Setbacks for lots would also be tailored to the district. Once the new districts are established, an evaluation of the overlay districts may determine they are no longer necessary or may be consolidated. Six different residential district types are proposed that more accurately reflect the uses in areas found around the city.

Commercial districts would see significant change. They would be shaped to more accurately “reflect development objectives from adopted plans,” specifically allowing for mixed-use. The new commercial districts would “incorporate existing form-based codes,” and there would be a clarification of, “how these apply to existing development.” The five proposed commercial districts would be “office, neighborhood commercial, highway commercial, regional commercial, and downtown.”

Industrial Districts would be refine more than so much altered, by consolidating districts, protecting existing industrial districts and allowing for their transformation to mixed-use where appropriate.

Recode Knoxville, Presentation of Technical Report, Central United Methodist, Knoxville, September 2017

The devil may be in the details, but the common-sense approach to making the byzantine codes into a sensible and navigable system seems to have a good start. The group brought in to shepherd the process is attempting to be as transparent as possible. In addition to public hearings like the two I have attended, their website, RecodeKnoxville details their progress, including a calendar of their meetings and documents produced thus far, including the complete 38 page Technical Report alluded to above. You can read the document in its entirety here.

So, whether you think the gubment is up to no good or you have encountered the occasional absurdity of the codes as they now stand, you need to get involved. Read the documents. Attend the meetings. Express your concerns to City Council members. I know a number of you have been frustrated with one portion of the current codes or another, so now’s the time to speak up. You may rest assured that powerful interests will let their opinions be known. Essentially, if you don’t let your voice be heard during this very open process, then you’ll be hard pressed to explain why you should be listened to if you don’t like results.


  1. Nothing new from this meeting…apparently I have gotten the same info from previous meetings/discussions/documents. I believe if you watch this meeting via the video on Recodes page you will find most of it extremely confusing and new. It’s a bit much to follow. There is always one nugget of nefariousness that will pop out. Or maybe it’s just me that thinks “gubment is up to no good.” When you go to these meetings and hear that Knoxville’s rezoning will allow you to plant only certain plants…..Only in a certain part of your private property…so that “we can make you make it survive.” Then you too will say hmmm. You can watch these statements via their facebook page. Besides that this meeting was pretty low key. The past meeting one of the board members basically said the rezoning should not be for older people. And It appeared that the board chair, MPC and city agreed, that the rezoning process should be “forward thinking.” I think I am a skeptic because I know who is helping to “guide” this process. “Climate refugees” has also been thrown around as part of rezoning as well as getting rid of one car. As a start. Yes, pay attention. I am for updating zoning. I am for sustainability. But YOU will have to determine what “sustainability” and “private property” means to you vs what it means to someone else.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Christian, I’m confused how there is, “nothing new,” in this meeting, but if they watch a video of it, they will find it, “extremely confusing and new.” I didn’t notice a “nugget of nefariousness,” although that is a clever phrase I may steal at some point. I have no idea what you mean about, “knowing who is guiding this process.” I’ve never heard, “climate refugees,” mentioned, let alone, “thrown around as part of rezoning,” nor has there been any mention of “getting rid of one car.” I’m not sure we are attending the same meetings.

  2. Sean Martin says:

    This is a great synopsis… both of the meeting and of the goals behind reCode Knoxville! I had to miss the meeting, so this is very helpful. Thanks for covering this issue in depth.

    Speaking as a design professional who works with the current zoning code frequently, I can say that I am pretty excited about these proposed changes!

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