Ordinance passes to limit BZA appeals

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Knox County Commission voted 6-4 on Aug. 22 to adopt Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ proposal to allow developers to “opt out” of certain appeals to the Board of Zoning Appeals and take a case straight to court. Jacobs says this will speed up the process and help overcome Knox County’s housing shortage.

The meeting room was filled with representatives from neighborhood groups. Many held signs reading “My voice is not red tape.”

For an issue with uncertain impact, this ordinance became a flashpoint. I don’t think Jacobs expected the ferocity of the opposition. Commissioner Terry Hill captured it best at a previous meeting when she said citizens felt a perceived right was being taken away.

With Justin Biggs absent, the 10 remaining commissioners split 6-4, the bare minimum needed to adopt the ordinance on second reading. Dasha Lundy, Courtney Durrett, Terry Hill and John Schoonmaker voted no. Commission chair Richie Beeler was key. He had indicated that he saw no reason for the ordinance, even as he voted yes on first reading. Had Beeler (or anyone) voted no instead of yes, the motion would have failed with a 5-5 tie.

In 10 days, three commissioners will be gone: Justin Biggs, Charles Busler and Randy Smith.

It’s unlikely that new commissioners Kim Frazier, Rhonda Lee or Gina Oster will try to rescind Monday’s action – at least during their first month on the commission. But watch Frazier’s work on the Advance Knox committee that Jacobs convened to look at land use issues. Knox citizens may find their perceived right to appeal restored.

And Commissioner Kyle Ward had best be looking over his shoulder. He represents District 4 where Kat Bike (D) just beat the better-funded Will Edwards (R) for a seat on the school board. Owners of stock in Team Ward should sell short.


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