Rider represents ‘new urbanism’ on city council

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Carlene Malone, Rob Frost, Nick Della Volpe, Lauren Rider. What do these four have in common? Not much. But combined, they have represented Fountain City on the Knoxville City Council since 1992.


Rider polled 48.6 percent of the vote citywide in 2017, besting former state Rep. Harry Tindell (31.3 percent) and Amelia Parker (20.1).

She fits well with her council mates – unlike the often-contrarian Malone and Della Volpe. Rider is smart and hard working like her predecessors. But she does not have the same bent toward homeowners (as in homeowners vs. businesses/development) that defined their service.

Rider represents the turn toward “new urbanism” that’s reflected in the city’s current Recode effort to modernize zoning.

“New urbanism” reverses the trend toward suburban sprawl by emphasizing infill and greater density, connectivity and walkability, public transit and personal mobility such as bikes, shopping within a 10-minute walk from home, less reliance on the automobile.

The trend toward folks who could afford to live outside the city doing so has been reversed by young families choosing to buy homes and live downtown. For them, density is an asset, neighbors a blessing and robust entertainment and dining options a must. These families live close in, proudly support neighborhood schools and demand attention from city government.

Yikes! These folks are not just demanding attention. They are quietly becoming government. Two of the top three candidates for mayor live within a 10-minute walk of Rider’s house on Scott Avenue. She often bikes with Indya Kincannon, and her husband bikes with Marshall Stair.

She and her husband, a physician, live in a hundred-year-old house. Their boys attend Beaumont Elementary and Vine Middle schools. Rider, with a master’s degree in library science, holds down a full-time job at Pellissippi State’s Division Street campus. Before her election to the council, she personally rehabbed two residential, blighted houses and is currently working on a commercial building – personally, with hammer and saw.

She is frustrated that things don’t move quicker, mentioning sidewalks: “We’re woefully underfunded to the level of requests.” Speeding in neighborhoods is her biggest constituent complaint – District 4 has many cut-through streets. And she says we’re “on a 20-year schedule for 100-year floods.”

Regarding Recode, Rider says, “The biggest change is (enabling) garage apartments, which are currently illegal in some residential zones. … A 50-foot lot width is nonconforming (to current zoning). A lot of folks in my district have (to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals) to ask for a variance just to put in a shed. That’s unreasonable.”

Rider is “open to change” in current zoning and points out that Recode does not affect “what’s already built.” City council plans another workshop on Thursday, April 4, at 5:30 p.m. at the City County Building.

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