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Planned Development: New Planning Tool to Encourage Innovative Design

April 22, 2020 | More News

Local planners have a new tool in their arsenal to encourage creative and innovative development. Authorized by the City’s new zoning code and an amendment to the County’s, Planned Development enables design treatments that may not otherwise fit within the bounds of standard zoning.

Design of a Planned Development project is guided by property characteristics and neighborhood setting, with some relaxation of the range of uses tied to a property’s zone. To justify waiving zoning’s use and dimensional standards, the project must clearly and convincingly demonstrate a public benefit or meet a community need.

A key advantage of this option is that the proposed use is clearly outlined during the application process. If any changes to the original plan arise, the applicant must reapply. Also, because the application and design plan are publicly posted before the Planning Commission meeting, the community will see no surprises.

“This process provides an opportunity for conversations regarding a proposed project rather than a debate about what could happen. The potential impact is known beforehand, and the approved use is the only use,” says Planning’s Executive Director Gerald Green.

Some Knoxville developers are already recognizing the advantage of the new Planned Development option. Galbraith School in South Knoxville has been vacant for years due to its location and the owners’ uncertainty of how to reuse the property. The building is an iconic landmark for residents, many having fond childhood memories – the owners want a project that will balance business needs and neighborhood benefit. If the owner pursued traditional rezoning, it would be zoned commercial. While certain uses allowed in commercial zones could be beneficial to the neighborhood, others could be detrimental and alter the integrity of the area.

The owners of Galbraith School have outlined their vision: “The plan is to redevelop the old Galbraith School into a multi-use building that benefits the neighborhood by strengthening the economy with key tenant spaces such as offices, artist studios, daycare facility, restaurant, brewery, art gallery, and retail shops. Providing space for businesses like these creates a place for the community of South Knoxville/South Woodlawn to come together.”

Planned Development provides opportunity for better investment in communities. Putting public need and superior design at the forefront, it brings flexibility to a very standards-driven process. And we will see residents and developers working together to add value to existing neighborhoods and Knoxville as a whole.

Interested in what Planned Development could look like? You can view active cases at knoxplanning.org/cases. The Galbraith School project will be heard by the Planning Commission in May, 2020. Keep up with the case here.

For an overview of the Planned Development process from start to finish, click here if you’re in Knox County and here if you’re in the City of Knoxville. A recent presentation outlining the process is also available.