Residents in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee are in peril after an overhaul of the previous zoning code was authorized on August 13th. Formally known as RECODE Knoxville, the ordinance serves the city as a comprehensive plan that will reshape generally, the main arteries into and out of downtown. This may seem like a great opportunity for the city as an increase in tax revenue from new businesses and urban development could serve to revitalize an underused and misappropriated area. Organizations such as The Beacon Center, however, maintain that citizens should remain sensitive and informed about their property rights in a time of influx. The organization states its intent to defend and advance the liberty and prosperity of all Tennesseans. So, is the skepticism surrounding RECODE demanded, or does this master plan deserve praise from all?

The current skyline of the Knoxville greater metropolitan area circa 2019.

Following the trend of ‘migration’ back to urban areas, RECODING Knoxville serves to replace the outdated zoning of the city and retrofit it with a “mixed-use footprint” as noted by Gerald Green, executive director of Knoxville-Knox County Planning. Years of planning and referendum back-up RECODE. In 2016, Mayor Madeline Rogero proposed an updating of the city’s zoning ordinance, which was last updated 60+ years ago. Planners and a consulting firm hired worked through 5 drafts and 90 plus meetings to incorporate public opinion and reach consensus. The changes, which seem much needed, will affect the zoning map of Knoxville in a big way. All zoning names within the jurisdiction of Knoxville will be changed and updated to fit RECODE. However, the use of each zone will generally remain the same. This is to clear up confusing and often redundant zoning language that the city was founded upon. Of course, those whose properties that are affected by the rezoning will be able to appeal the decision and request a rezoning showing Knoxville’s integration of public opinion. So for RECODE, which has been well thought-out and revised many a time, what might cause reason for controversy?

A map visualizing the proposed zoning ordinance for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Like all plans, RECODE faces detterers and minorities. The concern for citizens specifically, could be RECODE’s impact on property taxes. With the implementation of this new plan, Steve Hunley, the publisher at an influential and prominent local newspaper, The Knoxville Focus, warns of the use of upzoning, increasing property tax in zones affected. Additionally residents should concern themselves with the new uses of property provisioned under RECODE. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) may be permitted in areas they were not seen previous. These units are essentially smaller dwellings located and attached to the main property. They typically serve as single unit dwellings such as garage apartments or a tiny backyard house. However, they can increase taxes on surrounding properties and increase in congestion for local streets. Hunley points out however that, “Recode has become similar to Obamacare. We have to pass it to find out what’s in it. We’ll fix it after we pass it”. Experts and followers of the proposed plan don’t know if RECODE will bring Knoxville more benefit than harm. The only way to know is to implement it and observe. A general consensus can be made though that RECODE will bring substantial changes to the community.

Presented by: Ben


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