Jacobs wants no zoning restrictions in rural areas; citizens want a plan

Larry Van GuilderOn the Grow, West Knox

Kim Frazier has a message for Knox County planners and legislators. Frazier wants to change the way you think about planning.

“I don’t want to change their minds; I want to change how they think,” she says. The difference may be subtle but it’s meaningful.

She and her fellow volunteers at the Knox County Planning Alliance have most recently been stirred to action by Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ proposed growth plan amendment to eliminate all zoning restrictions in rural areas from the plan. That’s fine with Frazier if county commission tables a vote on the amendment until the Knoxville-Knox County General Plan is updated as necessary. (The General Plan was adopted in 2003.) There are funds available to perform the study, Frazier said.

This is where a different way of thinking about planning comes into play. Particularly in rural area development, it can be too easy to downplay the increased burden on infrastructure and the costs that come with updating it.

In a Sept. 30 press release, Planning Alliance chair Kevin Murphy addressed the issue: “Determining the cumulative fiscal impact of development on transportation, utilities, schools, emergency services, and parks…is not addressed in the proposed amendment.” Murphy notes that, effectively, taxpayers will continue subsidizing development.

Frazier says she’s been pleased to hear both the mayor and commission speak of “smart” development. That’s a term not often used to describe rural development in the past in Knox County.

That the mayor’s proposed amendment sailed through the Growth Plan Coordinating Committee without opposition was expected, but that was only the first step, and Frazier seems confident that the mayor and the commission want to do things the right way.

“Planning is really critical for the success of any community,” Frazier said. “Unless amended, the mayor’s proposal would result in scattered development without sufficient infrastructure.”

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday.

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