Knox County has proposed changes to the development planning process

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Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) – Members of the community are expected to voice their opinions on a possible change to the way Knox County government works at a public hearing on Monday night.

To build a project of a certain size on land in Knox County, a person may need to have the development cleared by the planning commission to ensure it does not violate zoning rules.

If this board says ‘no’, a person can go to the Zoning Appeal Board, and if the person still gets a ‘no’, they can ask a court to review their development plan.

Although this is the current process, county commissioners are considering a change that would allow anyone to skip this intermediate step.

“It’s typical government bureaucracy,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

As some county officials seek to find ways for other future developments, some residents fear their voices will not be heard.

The Knox County Planning Alliance also spoke out against Jacobs’ proposed zoning ordinance that would remove citizens’ rights to appeal Planning Commission decisions on development plans.

“Don’t limit our voice. Listen to us,” said Hardin Valley Ward Representative Daniel Greene.

Both sides are clear on the controversial proposed ordinance to change part of Knox County’s planning process.

“Because of the way the planning process is going, it adds months to development time at a time when we can least afford it. We have a housing crisis here in Knox County, and we’re trying to streamline that process to allow for more availability and better housing prices in Knox County. Frankly, at this point, anything we can do to cut red tape and make sure we keep housing prices as affordable as possible is absolutely necessary,” Jacobs said.

Greene hopes he doesn’t get the green light.

“It limits us too much. We need more capacity and we need to retain our ability to be able to discuss this as a community with our elected representatives,” Greene said. “We don’t have a lot of room as citizens of our community to really challenge a lot of developer plans. By removing that, it’s really going to limit our ability to ensure proactive infrastructure growth in our communities.

Jacobs believes cutting red tape will allow for more economic opportunities in Knox County for current residents.

“If our housing prices continue to rise the way they have, many working people will no longer be able to afford to live in Knox County. Our friends, our neighbours, our children, our grandchildren – they will move out because they cannot afford to live here and they will take with them economic opportunities for all of us. This is a case where we can cut red tape and do something really good,” Jacobs said.

County commissioners will discuss the ordinance after the public forum on Monday evening. WATE found that about 19 community members had signed up to speak in public.

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