Re-jiggering the zoning works.
Thanks to Jesse Mayshark, Scott Barker and Compass for following important public matters. Here is an excerpt from this morning’s Compass:
The City of Knoxville is taking steps to create a Zoning Department that would coordinate land use determinations with Knoxville-Knox County Planning, though it’s unclear what the relationship between the entities would be.
Buried in a $7.5 million budget amendment approved by City Council last night was a measure transferring a vacant zoning chief position from the Plans Review and Inspections Department to the mayor’s office.
The position, rechristened a special assistant, would “support the creation of a new Zoning department as part of the City’s efforts to improve development services,” according to documents. The budget amendment authorized appropriating $25,000 to cover an increase in pay for the position.
Chief Policy Officer Erin Gill indicated the proposed Zoning Department would work with the Plans Review and Inspections Department on “reactive” matters — applications for specific projects and zoning changes. That apparently would leave “proactive” efforts — the development of long-range plans, for example — to the Knoxville-Knox County Planning staff.
“It’s part of making development more predictable,” Chief Operations Officer David Brace said.
The proposal came as a surprise to Council members Lauren Rider and Lynne Fugate, who grilled Gill and Brace about the Zoning Department. “This seems like it’s something bigger,” Fugate said. “This seems like a precursor to the city having a planning department and the county having something else.”
According to Gill, the city administration is still developing a plan for the proposed department. “This is a work in progress,” she said.
Knox County is indeed taking a similar approach, with Senior Director of Engineering and Public Works Jim Snowden taking a more active role in land use decisions.
The city and county have different zoning ordinances, but the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission, which consists of members appointed by both mayors, makes initial decisions — and in some cases the final determination — on land use issues for both governments. The Knoxville-Knox County Planning staff handles applications and makes recommendations to the Planning Commission.
The idea of creating separate planning commissions — one for the unincorporated portion of the county and one for the city — has been floated from time to time in recent years. The Planning Commission was created by state law, however, so any changes would require state action.