ADU second reading: Keep owners on premises

Nick Della VolpeOur Town Neighbors

On Tuesday, March 5, Knoxville City Council will again address a Mechanicsville developer’s request to eliminate the owner-on-premises requirement of the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) zoning ordinance. The proposal was defeated at its first reading two weeks ago. The Planning Commission staff had earlier rejected this proposal.

Council should again reject it in this final reading. Nothing has changed. The peace and quiet enjoyment of the surrounding neighborhoods remain at stake. It also helps preserve the American dream of eventually owning your own home.

ADUs were added to Knoxville’s zoning code several years ago as a part of former Mayor Rogero’s Recode initiative. The rule allows someone in a neighborhood to add a second dwelling unit on the property, whether inside the existing structure, or attached to or separate from the main residence. ADUs can be a way to house an elderly family member who no longer can live alone.

The ADU zoning law requires the owner to live on the premises, either in the original house or the new unit. That presence is intended to put guardrails on the process so that single family neighborhoods are not converted into multi-unit commercial rental projects, opportunity conversions by outside investors (who can turn one house into two rentals), nor be allowed to devolve into disruptive influences on an otherwise peaceful neighborhood. Property owners, like our Gothic Americans in the above portrait, have a stake in the preservation of the neighborhood. Let’s keep it that way.

More Housing Desired. Council members Andrew Roberto and Charles Thomas, among others like Fountain City Town Hall, have argued that the stated goal of adding more housing can better be satisfied by fostering redevelopment of underutilized sites along commercial corridors, like Broadway, Magnolia Avenue or Clinton Highway. There are shopping centers and strip malls with lots of acreage that have fallen into disuse. The city should find ways to incentivize redevelopment of those properties to add needed rental and condo housing. Those locations often have bus service and nearby convenient shopping for future inhabitants.

Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer, a gardener and a former member of Knoxville City Council.


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