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Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero Addresses Recode Concerns Ahead of City Council Meeting

Baylor Spears

With Recode Knoxville reaching the final stages of a three-year process, Mayor Madeline Rogero addressed some of the concerns and misconceptions about the comprehensive zoning update at a press briefing Tuesday morning. 


As Mayor Rogero explained, Recode Knoxville is the first comprehensive update to the city’s zoning ordinances in over half-a-century. The goals of the projects are to support investment in the city, connect communities, and protect the unique aspects of Knoxville communities. 


The current zoning ordinance, which Rogero says was written for suburban sprawl, includes a lot of hoops that developers have to jump through, which make development difficult. By simplifying and making the ordinance more flexible, the city can move towards these goals and a more urban-looking future.


Steps have been taken to compromise and engage the public. There have been more than 90 public workshops, two hearings before the planning commission, notices sent to all property owners, two city council meetings and additional meetings with other groups and individuals… and still more are planned. 


Despite this, the project still faces its fair share of critics and has been a major topic of debate during the current mayoral race. Most of the mayoral candidates have expressed that they wish the public was more directly involved in the process. Some of the candidates, mainly Calvin Skinner, Eddie Mannis, and Fletcher Burkhardt, have expressed some more specific concerns. One candidate, Fletcher Burkhardt, is concerned that Recode is a “one-size-fits-all” approach, which he says could hurt neighborhoods in East and North Knoxville.


Mayor Rogero, however, believes that Recode works to address the needs of specific neighborhoods in Knoxville, especially considering that Recode is a “living document” meaning that it can be amended at any point to keep it relevant and flexible. Rogero and backers have said that this has been an inclusive and transparent process that has taken everyone into consideration, even if they didn’t know it. 


“We have had a very diverse process, a lot of different people involved. We’ve heard from people all across the community, so even though you may just be hearing about it, more than likely folks like you have been involved,” Rogero said. 


Mayor Rogero also addressed what she described as misconceptions about the project. She said the first misconception was the idea that this is a massive rezoning. She said that while zones are undergoing name changes, most of the properties will continue to operate under the same laws.


Rogero also explained that no one is being forced to change a property’s use and that where most changes have occurred, it has been at the request of the owner or to protect the current neighborhood.


Tapping into concerns about how this will affect people’s money, Rogero stated that “Recode will not raise taxes. Rather Recode will allow investment that grows the tax base and eases the pressure on existing homeowners and businesses.” Mayor Rogero’s hope is that this issue will be resolved and approved before she leaves office at the end of this year. 


The project, which has been in the works since 2016, reached its fifth and final draft in May meaning that the project is now in the hands of the City Council, who will continue discussing and proposing amendments.


The ordinance and the map both must go through two readings and approvals by the City Council for it to be completely implemented in the city. The City Council will discuss the project more in depth and address some of the outstanding issues at a meeting tonight. Following meetings are already planned for July 30 and sometime in August.


All of the information about Recode including the final drafts of the zoning ordinance and map can be found at  https://recodeknoxville.com.


This story was reported by WUOT News intern Baylor Spears, and edited by WUOT All Things Considered host/reporter Chrissy Keuper.