Planning Commission represents whom?
Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission is where the county’s land use decisions are made. It should represent the best interests of the county’s citizens – all of the citizens.
When we hear from citizens, they tell us the Planning Commision (formerly MPC) is dominated by real estate developers, realtors and representatives of their downstream industries. It is very hard to dispute that long held perception when one looks at the makeup of the Commission. Hard working, fair-minded citizen servant members are tarnished in the public mind by their apparently conflicted peers.
Mayor Jacobs has compounded that problem by appointing yet another realtor and a long time developer to fill upcoming vacancies on the commission. We wonder what the Mayor’s rationale could possibly be? Are only realtors and developers capable of analyzing the county’s land use needs and making thoughtful decisions? Wouldn’t it be possible for the commissioners to call upon industry experts if they feel the need for consultation? How is it possible to avoid conflicts of interests or the appearance of conflicts when active members of the industry fill the seats and have such opportunity to influence decisions?
Both of the Mayor’s nominees, Rich Levenson and John Huber, have long made their livings in Knox County’s residential real estate industry, Levenson as the owner of a major real estate franchise and Huber as builder of subsidized housing projects. Both are deeply connected in the industry.
We aren’t questioning whether either is a good person. The relevant question is one of public confidence in the Commission. Members must not only be conflict free, the public must have confidence that they are. Appearances matter.
How can the citizens possibly have confidence in a panel apparently riddled with conflicts?