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Commission pauses on ridgetop decision 60 days

10:34 PM, Feb 28, 2011   |    comments
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Facing several dozen members of the public on both sides of the issue, Knox County Commissioners tabled what has become a controversial plan designed to protect the area's scenic hillsides and ridgetops.

The commission voted 10-1 to delay any decision on the plan Monday night.  Jeff Ownby was the only commissioner who voted to make a decision on that night.

Commissioner Tony Norman, former City Councilman Joe Holtquist, and a number of citizens formed the plan along with the Metropolitan Planning Commission.  Nearing a vote, the plan has come under intense scrutiny from developers and Knox County's Chamber of Commerce who argue it limits property owners' rights while hurting growth in the county.

"I think we're seeing just how emotional this thing has become," Commission Chair Mike Hammond said Monday.

Norman, said he could support the delay, although critics of the plan think the 60 day wait may kill it.

"I'm not opposed to it.  It may even be beneficial to the plan if there is some kind of cooling off period," Norman said.  "We think this is good policy, it's 3 years of study."

"It's a solid, good plan.  All this screaming about the 15% slope issue, there is already a policy in place that deals with the 15% slope.  This plan actually goes in and refines those regulations, using more current technology, making it more accurately and fairly applied," Broyles said.

Commissioners are expected to hold a number of workshops in the next few weeks and several voiced their interest in meeting jointly with the Knoxville City Council, a body that would also vote on any ridgetop protection plan.

Previous Report

Knox County developers took three hours blasting a plan that took the public and community leaders three years to create.

After dozens of a public hearings and meetings, Knox County Commissioners heard public comment Tuesday evening on a proposal that would be the first step in new restrictions for ridgetop development in the county.  

"It is not radically different from what exists today," Commissioner Tony Norman said.

Starting at a 15 degree slope, the restrictions are as follows:

15%-25% Slope: 2 units per acre

25%-40% Slope: 1 unit per 2 acres

40%-50% Slope: 1 unit per 4 acres

> 50% Slope: No development

Currently, 19 lots in Knox County sit in the over 50% slope category, supporters of the plan say that's not very many.

Still, developers and representatives from Knox County's Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the plan.  They argue it limits development and could potentially cost Knox County residents more when it comes to property tax rates if growth in the county is deterred.

"It's morphed into a massive land-use policy," Wes Stowers, a MPC member critical of the plan said.

Under the plan, MPC leaders say the county could easily accommodate the growth of 420,000 new residents.

 

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