Council retains owner-occupied housing for same-lot ADU

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Citizens of Knoxville are safe from Accessory Dwelling Units built on property that is not owner-occupied following action by Knoxville City Council on February 20. The council amended the proposed ADU changes to exclude that provision. The amended version will be on council’s March 5 agenda for second reading.

The changes in the ordinance were requested by R. Bentley Marlow, a property owner and rehab specialist who sees a business opportunity for himself as well as a chance to increase the city’s housing stock with smaller, more affordable homes.

Marlow was supported by a resident who rents. “We need more places to call home,” he said. “Do not discriminate against renters. … Make policy decisions based on facts, not fears.”

The debate was lively, going forward without a motion to approve. In fact, the proposal was an orphaned child, with no one but Marlow claiming parentage, and even he was unhappy with changes made by the Planning Commission, which advanced the ordinance on a 7-5 vote.

Andrew Roberto, who actually held a town hall meeting in Bearden, said those in attendance didn’t support the proposed changes. He was backed by Lee Hume, president of the West Hills Community Association, who is troubled by the prospect of out-of-town investors changing the character of established neighborhoods.

Lauren Rider (Old North, Fourth & Gill and Fountain City) seemed frustrated with those she called “the housing secure.” Rider said Knoxville should look at other cities and strengthen enforcement of existing codes before tackling the changes, but she added, “We do not restrict any other kind of property.”

Seema Singh (Northwest Knoxville) agreed. Requiring owner-occupied property to establish an ADU is an unfair restriction of property rights, she said. Both Singh and Rider noted that duplexes are “all over town” and don’t require owner-occupancy.

Gwen McKenzie (East and inner-city) said “at this point” she could not support the change. “Let’s slow this down. …” Amelia Parker, (at-large member) agreed. “This is not the time to make changes because a short-term solution could lead to a long-term problem.”

Tommy Smith (South Knox) agreed with the planning staff. “I support ADUs by owners.” He referenced the Denver model and said Knoxville should “be bold.”

And Lynne Fugate (at-large) said she wasn’t prepared to support the elimination of the owner-occupied property requirement. “We need to study more and come up with a better way.”

Debbie Helsley, who just defeated Marlow for election to council, said, “This needs to go back through a public process before we vote on it.” An amendment was adopted to leave the owner-occupied rules as they are and the motion then passed on first reading.

All-in-all an interesting meeting and a complex topic. Stay tuned.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today, Inc.


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