Statement from Mayor Madeline Rogero on Recode Knoxville July 16, 2019

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Statement from Mayor Madeline Rogero on Recode Knoxville July 16, 2019

Posted: 07/16/2019
Recode Press EventGood morning and thank you all for being here.  I will read my remarks and then take any questions.

In early 2017, the City of Knoxville began a public planning process known as Recode Knoxville – a comprehensive update of our zoning code.  

The current code was adopted over 50 years ago. It has been amended, added to, and tweaked ever since. It is often difficult for the average person to make sense of. It often discourages the kind of quality development people want.

We took on the task of reorganizing and updating our zoning code to make it easier for residents to understand and for developers to implement. 

When the current code was written, there was an emphasis on suburban development resulting in a sprawled, less efficient pattern. 

Times have changed, and people want more choices – like mixed-use developments along corridors, more affordable housing, and options for business creation and commerce.  

People also want to protect the character of our single-family neighborhoods, while allowing for apartments and housing units that meet the needs of family members and neighbors.  

All indications are that our population will continue to grow. Our challenge is to grow in a way that meets the changing, complex, and differing needs of current and future generations. 

The Recode process has been led by Knoxville-Knox County Planning staff, along with numerous City staff, a team of experienced consultants, and a broadly-representative 20-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

Their patience and hard work moving this transparent public process forward deserves recognition and praise.

There is a reason why cities (and mayors) choose to comprehensively update their zoning code – only every 50 years or so.  

Zoning, by its very nature, is contentious. 

Zoning considers your rights as a property owner to use and enjoy your property – and balances your rights with the rights of your neighbors not to be negatively impacted. 

Zoning creates a roadmap to achieve shared community goals related to development, equity, sustainability, and quality of life.  

Zoning is the poster child for my favorite maxim: “Good and reasonable people often disagree.”

If our current zoning code was up for a vote, I’m sure you’d see the same level of debate and, unfortunately, distrust that we have seen with Recode.

But what I have also seen with Recode is a massive engagement of people from all parts of Knoxville who have talked, debated, then listened to one another and compromised to bring us to where we are today.  

The public engagement process included more than 90 public workshops, two hearings before the Planning Commission, a mailing to all property owners, seven City Council workshops, and two City Council meetings so far.  

Staff and Council members have engaged in hundreds of additional neighborhood meetings, individual meetings, and phone calls throughout the planning process.

Recode is the most thorough and transparent public engagement process Knoxville has ever had.

Nevertheless, there are still some lingering misperceptions about Recode.

This is not a massive rezoning. Though the names of zones have changed, the vast majority of properties will be subject to the same rules under the new code as they are under the present code.

• Where a property’s zone has changed, it’s typically been at the request of the owner, or to protect the character of the existing neighborhood, or to bring zoning in line with the current use.

• In any case, no property owner will be forced to change the property’s use.  All current uses will be allowed to continue, or be “grandfathered,” unless the use is abandoned and not actively marketed for two years. Strong property rights remain in place.

• Recode will not raise taxes.  Rather Recode will allow investment that grows the tax base and eases the pressure on existing homeowners and businesses.

Modernizing a zoning code requires compromise – aiming for the sweet spot in the middle. As a result, the Recode ordinance has gone through five drafts. The accompanying Zoning Map has gone through four drafts.  All drafts and related materials can be found at

This past May, Recode transitioned from the planning stage to the policy stage. It is now City Council’s responsibility to make the final decisions that weigh and balance the diverse interests expressed during Recode.

During two lengthy meetings, City Council carefully reviewed the ordinance page-by-page and word-by-word. They engaged in substantive dialogue and listened to more public input. Numerous amendments were made and all are documented online.  

City Council meets in regular session tonight and will again review the proposed Recode ordinance. There likely will be more detailed discussion and more amendments.  

There isn’t another City Council more prepared to deal with these issues or more committed to a careful review and balanced solution. 

Once passed, Recode Knoxville will be a living document, like the code before it.  It will always be subject to amendment as improvements are identified or as times and desired development patterns change. 

I encourage all Knoxvillians to support the process and to support City Council as they finalize Recode.

Video from today's statement