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IF YOU CARE, ACT LIKE IT!
It’s time to ring commissioner phones until even the super tone deaf get the message (and fill their inboxes, too!). Tell the commissioners NO,NO, NO to the Mayor’s offensive proposal to cut you out of the zoning appeal process and send you right to court $$$$ if you don’t like mega development $$$$ on your doorstep.
(I really hate piling a post on top of another important one. There’s no choice. Monday’s the Commission meeting to decide if we peon citizen taxpayers get another door slammed in our faces by the development- at- all- cost cabal on our county commission.)
HERE’S THE WHAT (statement from Knox County Planning Alliance) AND THE HOW TO:
Remember, there are good commissioners who want to do the right thing but they need you behind them or else they are brow- beaten and worn down by the relentless, well-funded $$$$ development cabal.
Knox County Planning Alliance statement:
Community members! Your county commissioners need to hear from you before Monday night’s meeting. The most impactful way is a phone call! Please pick up the phone and call your district commissioner and your at-large commissioners. Contact info for commissioners is here: https://commission.knoxcountytn.gov/people/
There is a proposal to change the Appeals process for Use on Review. It would remove the Board of Zoning Appeals from the process, and require appeals to be filed directly with court.
We view BZA as more approachable than court – less intimidating. BZA has the authority to reweigh and consider all of the evidence. BZA hearings have been resolved within 2-3 months of filing; court filings and appeals drag on for more than a year.
The proposal is unnecessary and a step backwards.
AND THERE’S MORE –
We don’t seem to be the only people thinking Commissioner Randy Smith’s proposal to smack back the citizens even further smells like _______. (We don’t like bad words so you decide …)
If you need a belly laugh to tamp down the bile and revile, you may want to read long time veteran of KC governance shenanigans, journalist Betty Bean’s view.
Take a look. (Courtesy of Sandra Clark and Betty Bean).
Developers take a licking, keep on ticking.
Here we go again!
County Commissioner Randy Smith is proposing yet another way to remove citizens from the process of Knox County property rezoning. Smith’s proposal will make the process of turning protected areas such as farmland into dense subdivisions much easier for developers. Smith would eliminate the Board of Zoning Appeals!
Once again, we are indebted to Jesse Mayshark and his publication COMPASS for attending the Commission meetings and providing us with the details. Thank you Jesse Mayshark and Scott Barker for your excellent coverage of Knox County government.
Commissioner Smith (a Knox County employee and lame duck commissioner whose term is expiring and who is term-limited) would do the development corporations a huge favor if his proposal succeeds. The proposal would force individuals, communities and neighborhoods that are unhappy with a rezoning decision directly to court. As we know, that is very expensive, time consuming and out of the reach of average citizens.
Here is the story from Jesse Mayshark.
County Commission voted at Monday’s work session to recommend approval of a resolution that could ultimately remove some jurisdiction from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
At issue is the use-on-review approval process. The county’s zoning code allows many potential uses of property in certain zones only “on review,” meaning that each specific project has to be approved by the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission. Under current county law, anyone who is unhappy with the Planning Commission’s decision to approve or deny a given use can appeal to the BZA, a volunteer board appointed by Commission. After that, parties who are still unhappy can take their case to court.
In practice, appeals are primarily filed by two sets of plaintiffs: developers or property owners upset that a particular use has been denied, or local residents and community groups upset that it has been allowed.
A proposal by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and County Commissioner Randy Smith would ask the Planning Commission to consider eliminating BZA’s role in the process, which would mean any appeal would have to be filed directly in court.
“Under the current system, appeals slowly matriculate from the Planning Commission to the Board of Zoning Appeals, and often finally all the way to Chancery Court,” Jacobs told commissioners Monday. “Our proposal would simply eliminate the second step and allow these complex zoning decisions to be made by an elected judge, not an unelected body.”
Jacobs made clear that one of his concerns was the delay that the BZA process can cause for a proposed development. Neighbors opposed to a given use can file an appeal and at least stall a project for a few months.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re in a housing crisis,” Jacobs said. “So when we’re talking about delays, even if they’re only 30 to 90 days in some cases, that is hurting our housing inventory.”
But Commissioner John Schoonmaker, who used to serve on the BZA, said that having to file in court was a higher hurdle for average citizens than filing an appeal with the BZA.
“I think that this body needs to look at this issue very closely,” Schoonmaker said. “When you take an existing right of a citizen away from them to appeal this at a reasonable cost.”
Smith argued that Chancery Court isn’t much more difficult to file an appeal with than the BZA. It costs $200 to file an appeal with BZA. Smith, with support from county Law Director David Buuck, said it costs $259 to file an appeal with Chancery Court — not much more than BZA. And he said people didn’t necessarily have to hire a lawyer to file the appeal.
But Schoonmaker said he had talked to a lawyer familiar with land-use cases who had estimated that an average appeal could cost $10,000.
Commissioners also heard from a concerned member of the public, Bob Thompson, who said he served about six years on the BZA from 2012-18.
“You’re going to price citizens out,” he said. “They’re going to feel like they’re not being heard.” Thompson said that in his time on the board, appeals of use-on-review decisions were relatively rare, and he didn’t consider any of them frivolous.
A few other commissioners raised questions but said they were willing to send it to the Planning Commission for consideration. A final decision would still have to come back to County Commission for approval. Commissioners voted to recommend the resolution by 10-1, with just Schoonmaker opposing it.
Follow the money.
Local political blogger Brian Hornback revealed yesterday that an ethics complaint has been filed with the Election Commission about Devin Driscoll’s campaign.
The allegations – of multiple contributions over the limits, failure to provide required information verifying who the donors are, inaccurate accounting and an oddly short period of receipt of donations are serious matters that may require Attorney Charme Allen to act.
Here is Hornback’s post:
Remembering that all three levels of Knox County government failed to protect our Northshore neighborhoods and it was only the courts that stepped in for us, we believe the judicial races are quite important.
No one better knows how our judges are performing than the attorneys who practice before them. Here below, are the results of the survey of the Knoxville Bar Association. (If this link works!)
The Big One!
The race for Knox County Commission Seat 11 At Large is the important one for those who believe that planning and budgeting for roads, sewers, schools and fire and police protection – before issuing building permits, is responsible governance.
Jesse Mayshark and his team at COMPASS, our in-the-know, dig deeper, online paper have done a great job of profiling the two candidates.
We hope you do yourself and your neighbors a favor. Read this article before voting.
In the interest of full disclosure we should state that Kim Frazier was an early friend to Northshore Corridor Association, knowledgeably and impartially guiding us through the difficult, complex processes of Knox County zoning when we knew very little.
Early Voting begins April 13th
(DownTown West and Farragut Town Hall near us, M-F 10-6)
Primary is May 3rd
You asked. Here’s our answer on the candidates.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from our experience working to protect our neighborhoods the past three years is this.
Notwithstanding some excellent public servants, Knox County government has a long way to go to achieve best practices.
Good governance comes from ethical, qualified leaders whose genuine interest is service, not self enrichment. In Knox County there is a long history of scandals and a much too close network of family members and personal business interest promoters on the county payrolls. Isn’t it time for merit rather than connections?
The frequency of unnecessary lawsuits like ours (NCA) and the scandals that continue to plague county offices and officials are costly embarrassments, and they ultimately are our responsibility as voters and taxpayers.
We can stop the mistakes and conflicts of interest by replacing weak and conflicted leaders with stronger ones. In general, that means new blood.
The dreadful mess in which we Knox County taxpayers find ourselves as we stare down the massive shortfall in roads, sewers, and schools has been made necessary by the reckless issuance of building permits without diligent planning. Some of that comes from conflicts of interest, some comes from the lack of relevant education and experience by our commissioners and office holders.
Having closely watched the reckless waving through of multimillion dollar corporations (but only the favored) who petition the county for over-rides of zoning, but pay nothing in impact fees, and contribute almost nothing toward much needed sidewalks, parks and other improvements, we were more than surprised to hear Commissioner Larsen Jay telling listeners at the League of Women Voters/Board of Realtors candidate forum last week, the following:
(The sound system was poor so please forgive if we have misunderstood, but this is the understanding of our several attendees.) Per Commissioner Jay –
1) We should first say YES!!, then ask what is needed by any business with a proposition for the county
2) We should have a short list of preferred developers and offer them a streamlined process
3) Unless our ears tricked us, Mr. Jay also suggested subsidies (precisely for whom and for what, we are not certain).
Mr. Jay is in the camp of those who believe new single family homes net the county revenue. (In reality they bring the county around $8,000 each in new infrastructure costs, $5,000 to schools alone, $3,000 more for sewers, fire, police, etc).
We learned by yesterday’s headlines the county is re-assessing our homes. For a potential tax increase? Why is a tax increase needed if the stupendous new housing boom we are experiencing is filling the tax coffers? But we digress, except to say that if a candidate blasts from your television – NO NEW TAXES, who you gonna believe?
We must replace those on Commission whose employment and business affiliations influence their decisions. That’s another way of saying follow the money. In our opinion, county employees should not serve on County Commission. Neither should CEOs of development companies, nor presidents of their trade associations. Those whose livelihood is tied to the issuing of permits, or the rezoning of land (too often for private profit taking), or the issuance of county contracts should not serve on Commission.
Unfortunately, prior Commission decisions on rules have made it possible for those conflicts to occur. County Commission and Planning Commission are, as we have said before, conflict laden. We would add to that list, those who derive benefit from promoting those industries.
Let’s get new leaders who understand what conflict of interest means, who have the integrity to address the problems and who bring the skills and experience required to comprehend and address complex financial and legal issues. A great deal of money passes through Knox County’s coffers. That calls for serious education and demonstrated skills. Take a look at what two local reporters, both long in the know inside Knox County have to say about the two Republican candidates for Knox County Trustee.
News stories are courtesy of Sandra Clark, Betty Bean and Larry Van Guilder of KnoxTnToday.
The Knox County primary election is upon us! Early voting begins April 13. You have asked for guidance on the candidates.
Our interest is in races with a direct impact on the safety and health of our neighborhoods. County Commission seat 11 is hotly contested and land use is the big sizzle.
Long time community volunteer Kim Frazier and wife of Dr. Russ Frazier, who has just returned from volunteering in Ukraine, is pitted against wrestler/gym owner Devin Driscoll who seems to have a strong youth athlete following.
Mrs. Frazier is a long time advocate for neighborhoods, better schools and roads and Mr. Driscoll, heavily supported by the development community is said to be the face of a sports themed development in Farragut.
Ms. Frazier’s camp has alleged their signs are being repeatedly vandalized and stolen from private property and volunteers have filed police reports. Mr. Driscoll, when asked to intervene with his volunteers allegedly responded “Arrest ’em.”
Here is an article by astute, long time political scene reporter, Betty Bean printed in KNOXTN News. Like us, she is curious why so much money and paid expertise is being poured into the campaign of a candidate, who, like our Mayor, is a former wrestler with no prior civic experience.
This one concerns us, but draw your own conclusions. How much is a candidate worth and why are home builders spending more than $100,000 (as of last January, surely more by now) to elect him? Why would a community volunteer decide to go pro and largely self-fund her campaign?