By J.J. KINDRED
By a six to five vote, the Knox County Commission voted down the Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan during its meeting April 25, with dozens of concerned citizens in attendance.
The plan’s purpose was to control growth and have appropriate regulatory protection for environmentally-sensitive areas, protecting water quality and offering incentives to the prospective builders.
It identified four areas of concern:
• landslides resulting from improper clearing and grading;
• heights of structures built on ridgetops;
• lack of reforestation, resulting in problems with stormwater control, water quality and air quality;
• lack of infrastructure to support high density developments in steeply sloped areas.
The plan would have also provided a list of non-ordinance rules commissioners and zoning officials could follow when determining how much development to allow on certain parcels of land.
Supporters of the plan argued for air and water quality, while opponents said property owners’ rights were in jeopardy.
” I think it goes farther than anyone truly intended,” said Mike Stevens, president of the Tennessee Home Builder’s Association. “It takes 132,000 acres off the table so a landowner isn’t deciding what to do with it, a small group of people are, and that’s just not right.”
CIties such as Asheville, N,C., a city that has an average home price of close to $100,000 more than Knoxville, has been pointed out as a model city by some opponents of the plan.
“What I’m concerned about with this plan is what happens with affordable housing over time in Knoxville,” said Ron Peabody, president of TYP Choice who opposes the plan. “The middle class will be driven out of Knoxville.”
Margot Kline, president of the West Knox County Homeowners Association, said that the plan would not change any current zoning.
“The people whose property rights who need to be protected are those who own land adjacent to steep hillsides and ridge tops,” Kline said as she addressed the commission. “We believe that they have a right not to have their property flooded by runoff.”
Commissioner Tony Norman was in agreement, saying it’s an “abomination and a desecration.”
The plan could still come back before commissioners at a future date, thus giving it a glimmer of light.