Murphy leads fight to retain right to appeal development plans to BZA

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk, North Knoxville

Kevin Murphy and his cohorts from the Knox County Planning Alliance will be at Knox County Commission today (7/25/22) to speak against Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ proposal to fast-track certain appeals of planning commission decisions.

Knox County Commission will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. today and the item is also on today’s agenda (item #59) for second reading following the public hearing.

Kevin Murphy

Murphy calls it “a controversial ordinance change that would remove the right of citizens to appeal planning commission decisions on development plans to the locally appointed Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Instead, the ordinance would require citizens to file a lawsuit in court if the applicant opts out, which would be an expensive and significant barrier to many individuals and groups.”

The “opt out” provision was added by the county law department/ordinance sponsors after opponents pointed out that state law requires appeals go to BZA before going to court.

The amended ordinance now provides for the appeal to go first to BZA unless the developer chooses to go straight to court.

Opponents say the change is being rushed, and Murphy says it’s unnecessary.

“The BZA has heard appeals of Uses on Review and Development Plans for many years. They are infrequent – BZA has only heard sixteen appeals in the last 14 years. BZA and the courts are not a rubber stamp for the planning commission – of the 16 appeals, nine decisions of the planning commission were modified or overturned by BZA or subsequent courts, said Murphy.

“New housing proposals are not being significantly slowed down by the appeals process either. There were only two instances where a development plan for housing was turned down, and each of those also involved Uses on Review that the BZA or courts deemed incompatible. In all other instances, BZA affirmed the development plan or made slight adjustments, such as changing setbacks or sidewalk positions, and did so within a couple of months.

“However, because the changes suggested are significant, opponents say the ordinance should be required to either go back to the planning commission for consideration or, at minimum, to first reading at county commission.”

Murphy concluded: “We would like commissioners to know that there is widespread opposition to this move from neighborhoods and all over the county.”

For those unable to attend today’s public hearing or meeting, it is available on the on Community TV or here.

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

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