One of the most important things our neighborhood association does is monitor zoning issues. Zoning regulations are especially important to settled residential neighborhoods. These rules safeguard the “look and feel” of street views that have evolved over many years. When we drive along Cherokee Boulevard and up and down the web of streets it encircles, we are seeing zoning regulations at work.
The job of monitoring zoning issues for KP-SHA has long fallen to Jim Bletner. Even when he served as president many years ago, he tended to tackle the zoning questions, and he has for some time now been the association’s front man in dealing with the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the City of Knoxville on these issues. He starts by staying closely informed about requests for zoning variances, rezoning requests, and Use on Review proposals. Sometimes he even finds out what someone is planning to do from an interested neighbor. Then it’s a matter of getting more information about what is being proposed, keeping track of scheduled meetings, attending MPC meetings, and bringing zoning issues to the KP-SHA board at its monthly meetings.
As a rule, KP-SHA usually winds up supporting the interests of the neighbors that would be most affected by a requested change. Although the board considers each case on its own merits, it often votes to support the views of the majority of neighbors. So, although it speaks out against some zoning variance or rezoning requests, it may just as likely support a zoning variance, such as permitting an exception to setback rules, for example. In fact, KP-SHA is often able to work with neighbors concerning a potential zoning issue to find a resolution that is satisfying to everyone.
2014 was an especially busy year for Jim, thanks to the request to rezone 3222 Kingston Pike from RP to RP-1 – a saga that has been chronicled in each issue of our newsletter. (Be sure to read about the latest news in this issue.) Jim was front and center in this long-running fight and was rewarded with a successful outcome which protected our neighborhood from creeping rezoning requests that would likely have led to construction of apartment buildings and condominiums in place of even more of the grand old residences on the Pike than have already disappeared over the decades. For much of the year, he devoted countless hours to analyzing traffic data, keeping track of the developer’s plans, checking the MPC schedule, attending meetings, and preparing materials to support the board’s efforts to fight this rezoning request.
For every highly visible case, however, each year there are a number of less notable zoning issues that must be identified, investigated, and acted upon, each of which is very important to the neighbors who might be affected. Someone wants to turn a home into a business or build a garage that is larger than permitted or rent a house to too many people. In order to preserve the qualities that are so important to our neighborhood, KP-SHA has to keep up with each one of these situations and be prepared to represent the neighborhood’s interests to our local government. We couldn’t do this without Jim Bletner’s leadership.