Knox County Mayor Jacobs Is Very Busy

Knox County Mayor Jacobs is very busy in a community-wide blitz to eliminate citizen appeals of real estate developers’ rezoning proposals. His developer-friendly proposal to County Commission comes up for final vote Monday night.
The Mayor insists we are at risk losing our young people and we must free the developers to provide more housing and, we guess, more jobs? The Board of Zoning Appeals is in the developers’ way, the Mayor insists. We must “green tape”. ??? (Hint – eliminate public process.)
What odd arguments for those of us closely observing and checking the facts of Knox County’s development. In reality, a tiny fraction of decisions (around 2%) are ever appealed and even those, almost without exception, are not denied. They are handled quickly, economically and efficiently by citizen volunteers in less time with fewer steps than in our sister cities in Tennessee.
In reality, Knox County is in the midst of the greatest residential construction boom the county has ever seen. What and where are these imagined obstacles to approvals the Mayor describes?
By our observation, only local small fry asking for small changes encounter any real scrutiny. Sadly, county zoning hearings have become a maddening kind of theater of the absurd. The same few lawyers, the same large developers and the same pro-development commissioners perform skits monthly in an effort to convince angry citizen groups that the decisions being made are actually in their best interest. By our observation, no one’s buying it – except maybe the actors themselves.
The Mayor probably hasn’t noticed the amazing volume of Knox County construction, especially of huge, very similar apartment developments which have gone up in every sector of the community. Those monster developments are supplemented by mid to lower end (of quality) cookie cutter, higher density subdivisions, also in every sector of the community, while few to no provisions have been made along the way for roads and schools.
The Mayor also probably has not noticed the overcrowding of our schools and roadways – without impact fees for developers to help us construct new ones, nor, we imagine, has he noticed that to serve all the new construction, our Knox County quasi-public utility companies are simply passing their costs directly to rate- payers, the rate -payers who should be protected by their elected representatives.
Pubs, breweries, restaurants and entertainment venues now fill Knoxville as never before, well patronized by the young people the Mayor would have you believe are abandoning Knox County. We wonder where they get that money? Jobs?
Meanwhile, ask any serious realtor and they will tell you people are flowing into Knoxville from other areas, also contributing to overcrowding, while driving housing prices way, way up. No doubt, property tax increases will eventually follow. But by then the Mayor and commissioners will likely have moved on to new opportunities and others will be left to deal with the fall out.
These are facts.
What the Mayor is saying is not just nonsense, it is an affront to intelligence. Knox County tax payers are being forced to subsidize big money developers – those guys we just saw pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to elect their buddies.
Last month the Mayor told the nineteen citizen groups who came to speak against his proposal that his speech was inspired by Hancen Sale, spokesperson/analyst of the Board of Realtors. Are we to believe a paid industry spokesperson’s analysis of Knoxville’s housing market and the speeches of an ambitious politician – or should we trust our own eyes and experience?
If you care please contact your commissioner. Some of them care and try very hard.