Divisions Over Recode Become Apparent in Mayoral Forum

Jun 26, 2019

Six candidates for Knoxville mayor field questions at a public forum, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. WATE's Blake Stevens is the moderator.
Credit Baylor Spears, WUOT News

At a public forum Tuesday night, Knoxville’s half-dozen mayoral candidates revealed they are split on how to proceed - or even if the city should proceed - with a long-awaited plan to revise the city’s zoning codes.

Recode Knoxville plans to reform the City of Knoxville zoning ordinance, which hasn’t been reviewed in half a century. The plan’s backers say it would make zoning more flexible and clearer.

The six candidates who attended the public forum say they have concerns about the project, but split half-and-half on their support for the effort.

Marshall Stair, Indya Kincannon, and Michael Andrews stated their support, saying Recode could being positive value to the city.

Stair said Recode would improve walkability and diversity of housing options. Kincannon talked about how the project would expand affordable housing and sustainability in Knoxville. Andrews said he supports Recode, but that he thinks the two-year process has been rushed and that more members of the community need to be brought to the table to find a solution that will best fit all Knoxville citizens. 

In contrast, Calvin Skinner, Eddie Mannis, and Fletcher Burkhardt shared their opposition to the project.

Despite a two-year planning process, online feedback opportunities and more than 80 public meetings, Skinner asserted only a handful of people understand Recode’s plans to begin with, and that the proposed changes aren’t tailored to the unique needs of particular districts. 

Mannis said he is against Recode because of the overhaul's question marks. He said Knoxville residents won’t know if their property will increase or decrease in value. Burkhardt said he felt Recode is a “one-size-fits-all” approach, lacking flexibility and potentially hurting portions of the city, such as East Knoxville and North Knoxville. 

All of the candidates, whether in favor or opposed, agreed rezoning efforts could benefit from more community and citizen involvement. The matter may be settled before the next mayor takes office, but Stair, as a current city council member, will have a vote on Recode. The city council is expected to consider the proposal again next month.

The next mayoral forum is set to be held July 9 at the Knoxville News Sentinel headquarters near downtown. Early voting for the primary election begins August 7, and primary election day is August 27. The general election will be held in early November.

This story was reported by WUOT News Intern Baylor Spears, and edited by News Director Brandon Hollingsworth.