Purpose of Zoning
Zoning protects the rights of property owners while promoting the general welfare of the community. By dividing land into categories according to use, and setting regulations for these categories, a zoning ordinance can govern private land use and segregate incompatible uses. The purpose of zoning is to locate particular land uses where they are most appropriate, considering public utilities, road access, and the established development pattern. In addition to categorizing land by uses such as residential, commercial, and industrial, a zoning ordinance also specifies such details as building setback lines, the height and bulk of buildings, the size and location of open spaces, and the intensity to which the land may be developed. Zoning does not specify minimum construction standards; these are set forth in separate building codes.
The Need for Rezoning
When a property owner wants to use land in a way that is not permitted by the zoning of his or her property, the owner must request to rezone the property to a classification which permits the desired use. A rezoning is a legislative action which is considered through a complex process.
Generally, rezonings are justifiable under one of the following three circumstances:
- When the requested rezoning is consistent with long range land use plans adopted by the appropriate governing body
- When there was an error or oversight in the original zoning of the property
- When changes have occurred to conditions in the vicinity of the property which prevent the reasonable use of the property as currently zoned
Applying for Rezoning
If you are the owner or option holder of a piece of property and wish to petition for rezoning, you begin the process by submitting an application and filing fee to Knoxville-Knox County Planning, located on the fourth floor of the City County Building, Suite 403.
To complete the application you need to know:
- The map and parcel number of the property as listed with the Knox County Property Assessor’s Office, Suite 204, City County Building
- The existing zoning classification and requested zoning change
- The existing land use and proposed use for the property
Planning staff can help you understand the process and complete an application.
If your property is in the City of Knoxville, you may be required to request an amendment to the One Year Plan before filing the rezoning request. Planning staff will help you determine if this is necessary. An additional fee is charged for plan amendment requests which are only considered by the Planning Commission in January, April, July and October of each year.
Knoxville’s One Year Plan is intended to ensure that the zoning for every piece of land in the city conforms with long range development plans adopted by the City Council.
State law requires that any rezoning be publicized in a local newspaper because it may affect surrounding property, roads, and public utilities. Knoxville-Knox County Planning public notices are placed in the Knoxville News-Sentinel 12 days prior to the hearing. Knoxville-Knox County Planning also posts a sign on the property 10 - 12 days prior to the public hearing stating the date, time, and place.
When an application is filed, the planning staff evaluates the request, beginning with an on-site assessment of the property and surrounding area. This field work is needed to determine how the rezoning could impact adjoining land uses. The staff consider which services are available to the site, consult with various departments, and review adopted Sector Plans, the One Year Plan, and the General Plan.
If the rezoning request is consistent with the goals and policies of these adopted plans, then the planning staff will most likely recommend the rezoning. If the request is in conflict or has a potential for harming the surrounding area, the staff may recommend denial. In forming these judgments, the staff is obligated to consider the health, safety, and welfare of the total community as well as the desires of the applicant and neighbors.
A written staff report is prepared for each request and mailed to the applicant on the Friday prior to the Planning Commission hearing. These reports are also available to the general public at that time.
The Public Hearing
Planning Commission monthly hearings occur on the second Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building. The hearing provides a public forum where petitioners and any opponents can address the commission. The Planning Commissioners then vote on the rezoning request, recommending either approval, denial, or approval of a different, less restrictive zone than the one requested.
Denied rezoning requests are closed matters, unless the petitioner appeals the decision to City Council or County Commission, a procedure that requires an additional filing fee and takes up to two months to complete. All appeals are filed at Planning's Development Services Division, where the staff forwards the necessary information to the City of Knoxville Law Department or the Knox County Commission Office. Appeals must be filed within 15 days of Planning's’s action for City requests, and within 30 days for County requests.
Zoning requests recommended for approval are placed on the agenda of City Council or County Commission for final action.
Planning Commission can also vote to postpone a rezoning decision to a later date, or table it for an indefinite period of time.
Following the Planning Commission hearing, it typically takes up to two months before the rezoning request receives final approval.
City Council requires a 15-day public notice period before hearing the request. Also, except in emergencies, an approval by City Council requires two readings, normally at successive meetings. Final legislative action is effective 17 days after the second reading. Emergency ordinances are effective at once.
County Commission also requires a 15-day public notice period. Action on the rezoning is effective immediately upon a favorable vote on one reading.