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Knox Co. Commission to approves development plan appeals, increasing penalties for selling alcohol to minors

The Knox County Commission also approved changes to the PILOT agreement with developers to turn the Andrew Johnson Building into a hotel.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Commission met Monday to vote on several items related to zoning, development and school security.

Before the meeting, during a work session, they honored the former Superintendent of Knox County Schools, Bob Thomas, as he retires from the school system. 

On Monday, they continued the discussion involving KCS by approving a resolution to give school security officers pre-funded cards to purchase required uniforms. They also approved an agreement to provide music therapy services for students with an individualized educational plan through Knoxville Music Therapy. 

They also approved a contract with Central Technologies that will continue giving school security officers body-worn cameras through June 30, 2023. The contract can be extended annually for 4 years and will cost around $205,293. It also effectively upgrades many of the cameras school security wear.

Commissioners voted to increase the penalties people could face for selling alcohol to minors. The ordinance brought the penalty of the first offense up to $1,000, the second offense to $1,500 and the third offense to $2,000. 

The fourth time someone is found to be selling alcohol to minors, they can face losing their license to sell alcohol.

One of the most significant aspects of Monday's meeting was an ordinance that changes how people can appeal decisions related to developments in their area.

Instead of appealing development plans to the Board of Zoning and Appeals, people would need to take their issues directly to Chancery Court. There, they would need to make their case about why proposed developments would harm them and the court would need to decide whether their appeal is valid.

According to a report from Knoxville-Knox County Planning, around 69% of appeals ended before the board since 2008. The rest went further to court.

They also said that in the last 15 years, the board has affirmed the planning commission's decision when it comes to development plans. Most other times, they modified the plans and only overruled the planning commission twice.

The ordinance passed on first reading.

On Monday the County Commission also addressed proposals to change the board overseeing the Knox County Sheriff's Office's merit system for employees.

They include expanding the board to seven members, with the majority of members from the Knox County Commission. Board members also would not be able to be an employee of KCSO or the Knoxville Police Department for at least 10 years, to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Members would also need to attend ethics training. The board is meant to guide decisions related to hiring, promotion and management in the sheriff's office. It is also meant "to protect law enforcement personnel from coercion or loss of employment because of political activities of the administration."

The proposal was passed on the first reading.

They also passed a tax on local companies that mine resources in the county and transport gravel, sand, limestone and other minerals. It was proposed by Commissioner John Schoonmaker to offset the impact of hauling on local roads.

The tax will charge $0.15 per ton of materials transported. Schoonmaker said 68 of Tennessee counties charge a similar tax and that it could provide the county up to $900,000 in additional revenue.

Finally, a resolution passed that changed the terms of a PILOT agreement to turn the Andrew Johnson Building on Gay Street into a hotel and build apartment and retail facilities. The agreement will be for 17 years, plus a construction period. It is guaranteed to end on Dec. 31, 2040.

The developers will need to pay the county $60,000 annually as part of the agreement, instead of their usual taxes. It is around half of what they would have needed to pay in the original agreement.

Schoonmaker voted against it, but the rest of the commission approved it.

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