Introduction banner

In this Chapter:

Action Proposals and Their Relationships to the Agenda for Quality Growth

Unified Development Ordinance
Street Standards
Site Planning Roundtable
Smart Trips
Gateway Corridor Enhancements
Early Action Compact
Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities
Distinguished Business Districts
Develop Downtown/Civic Vision CBD
Historic Preservation
Natural Heritage
Infrastructure Coordination
Economic Development
Regional Initiatives
Continuous Public Involvement

Directly Responsive
Indirectly Responsive




This list of projects was distilled from hundreds of separate suggestions received during the plan update process. Wherever possible, multiple suggestions have been combined into one strategic project. The list has been kept purposefully short, in order to focus on the implementation effort.

Most of these projects are major undertakings that will require many months or years to implement. The cooperation of a wide variety of stakeholders, including government, the development community, and neighborhood and business groups will be needed to accomplish these tasks.

Unified Development Ordinance
Much of the content of our zoning ordinances was developed in another era, when Knoxville was surrounded by sparsely populated, rural county. During the general plan update process, staff received many suggestions about improving the development regulations. Reasons given for improving the regulations included:

  1. Better development standards, to encourage attractive, convenient neighborhoods and business districts.
  2. Protection and conservation of natural environmental features, such as hillsides, creeks and woodlands.
  3. Increased flexibility to foster innovative development concepts.
  4. Encouraging affordable housing for all age and income groups.
  5. Better standards for sidewalks, other pedestrian ways and bike routes.
  6. Elimination of excessive design requirements for roadway widths and parking lot spaces.
  7. More predictability for homeowners as well as developers during the development review process.

It will probably be necessary to maintain separate ordinances for the City of Knoxville and Knox County, but they should be as similar as practically possible. Some of the major points of this proposal include the following actions:

  • Combine zoning, subdivision, and other land development ordinances into one document.
  • The ordinance should spell out specific standards for permitted uses which will result in quality development.
  • Use tables of permitted uses and dimensional requirements to make the ordinance easier to use.
  • Illustrate the ordinance profusely to better communicate what is expected.

Improved Street Standards
Minimum standards for construction of roads are necessary to protect the safety of the public, minimize tax-funded maintenance costs, and promote convenient, efficient travel. Traffic engineers and planners have been coming to the realization that many cities have adopted well intended standards that actually add to the cost of development, result in more water pollution and flooding, and detract from pedestrian safety. Communities have seen the benefits of taking a closer look at traffic safety, the needs of pedestrians, and the impact of road standards on development costs. The following draft standards will be used as a starting point to develop improved designs for thoroughfares and residential streets, working with local government engineers, developers, designers, and citizens.

Residential Alley
Utilities, either above or underground, may be located in alleyways to provide service connections to rear elevations. Generally 12 feet in width, additional pavement at alleyway intersections may be necessary to facilitate turns.


  • Right-of-way: 20 feet (minimum)
  • Utilities, either above or underground, may be located in alleyways to provide service connections to rear elevations
  • Width: 12 feet (minimum)
  • Additional pavement at alleyway intersections is necessary to facilitate turns.
  • Larger trees to side of garages; smaller trees could be planted toward outside portion of the right-of-way where they would not interfere with access to garages

Relatively short streets - two to six blocks long - that provide access to residences.


  • Street width: 18 to 22 feet with curb and gutter and informal parking designated on street
  • Planting strips: 6-foot minimum
  • Sidewalks: 5 feet on at least one side
  • Design speed: 20 mph
  • Posted speed: 20 mph
  • Requires a 40- to 44-foot right-of-way
  • Drainage: curb and gutter
  • Generally less than 1,000 feet

The basic residential street; a few early Knoxville streets are similar, improvements in the Mechanicsville Commons provide a recent example.


  • Street width: 24 to 26 feet with curb and gutter and informal parking
  • Planting strips: 6 foot minimum
  • Sidewalks: generally, 5 feet on each side (varies with density)
  • Design speed: 20 mph
  • Posted speed: 20 mph
  • Requires a 50-foot right-of-way
  • Drainage: curb and gutter
  • Generally two to six blocks long

Avenues are medium speed connectors between a core area such as downtown and neighborhoods. Adjoining land uses can include a mix of residential, office and commercial uses, including a vertical mix of those uses within a building.


  • Street width: 26 feet on both sides of median with on-street parking; 18 feet if no parking or curb and gutter
  • Median width: 18 feet (minimum)
  • Travel lanes: 11 to 12 feet
  • Maximum: 2 travel lanes
  • Bike lanes and planting strips: 6 feet
  • Sidewalks: 5 to 8 feet depending upon intensity of adjoining land use
  • Design speed: 30 mph (maximum)
  • Posted speed: 25-30 mph
  • Right-of-way depends upon width of design features
  • Drainage: curb and gutter

Can be used to provide connections through parts of the city. Adjoining land uses can include a variety of uses, including various residential types, commercial, office, and institutional uses.


  • Lanes: 11 feet with striped parking and bike lanes
  • Maximum of 4 travel lanes
  • Median width: 20 feet is recommended
  • Planting strips: 6 to 11 feet
  • Sidewalks: 5 to 8 feet, depending upon intensity of adjoining land use
  • Design speed: 40 mph (maximum)
  • Posted speed: 30-35 mph
  • Right-of-way: depends upon the width of design features
  • Drainage: curb and gutter

Parkways are designed to provide access through parts of a region, to be on the edges of a community, and to protect or enhance natural settings. They are designed to blend with the terrain.


  • Travel lanes: 11-12 feet
  • Median width: 30 feet is recommended minimum
  • Design speed: 50 mph (maximum)
  • Posted speed: 45 mph (maximum)
  • Right-of-way: depends upon width of design features
  • Drainage: swales allowed, or curb & gutter
  • Multi-use trails: 10-14 feet
  • Planting strips: 7-20 feet
  • Bike lane not adjacent to travel lane; multi-use trails may be on one or both sides
  • 6 feet minimum paved shoulder on high-speed parkway (greater than 45 mph: typical section has shoulder with ditches)

Site Planning Roundtable
The Knox County Engineering and Public Works Department, assisted by the Tennessee Valley Authority, has formed a broad coalition of interests to identify ways to substantially reduce water pollution and other environmental problems that can be unintended consequences of the development process. Using environmentally friendly development principles developed by the Center for Watershed Protection as a starting point, roundtable participants will advise the MPC and County Commission on changes in the development review process. Regulations will be suggested based on ability to achieve the reductions in water pollution as mandated by the federal government under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

Smart Trips
Reducing the number of miles traveled by motor vehicles is one of the best ways to improve air quality. The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) has initiated a regional Smart Trips Program to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by reducing single-occupant vehicle trips. Smart Trips will encourage a balance of enhanced transportation choices and incentives to reduce automobile travel.

A main component of Smart Trips is the implementation of commute trip reduction (CTR) programs at individual worksites. Getting businesses involved in promoting transportation choices and implementing Smart Trips strategies is vital to the success of the Program. Smart Trips will also include a marketing/public information campaign describing the benefits of transportation choices and encouraging people to try another travel mode “once a week, or more if you want.”

Gateway Corridor Enhancements
Major streets such as Clinton Highway, Chapman Highway and Kingston Pike serve as major entry points to Knox County from surrounding counties. A major entry gives a first impression of a community, and the images along the street such as signs and landscape offer a lasting impression to a visitor. Improving these corridors to incorporate safety, accommodate pedestrian, bicycle and bus transportation with improved landscaping and access to adjacent businesses can greatly improve a community’s image.

MPC proposes to work with state and local governments, businesses and property owners on transforming our gateway corridors into a pleasant driving experience that enhances safety and economic development through the following objectives:

  • Accommodate a wide range of transportation modal options with particular emphasis on transit, bicycle and pedestrian networks.
  • Identify opportunity areas that will support a wide range of mixed-use development options that transform the roads into activity corridors.
  • Create gateway corridors that enhance the beauty of Knoxville and Knox County through landscape design.
  • Improve the safety of the traveling public through appropriate road and access improvements.

Early Action Compact
The Early Action Compact (EAC) will identify an air quality improvement plan for the Knoxville area that could result in a faster timeline for emission reductions and greater flexibility in selecting reduction measures. Several agencies will be involved in this effort, such as the Knox County Department of Air Quality Management, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Knoxville Regional TPO, Tennessee Department of Transportation, and local officials from Knox and other affected counties in the region. Close coordination among these agencies will be necessary in order to satisfy the strict requirements set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for EAC’s.

Although the Knoxville region is in attainment with the current ozone standard, it is expected to lose this status when new standards are enacted in 2004. The Knoxville EAC, if successful, will cause the effective date of the non-attainment designation to be deferred, which will help to avoid the stigma, cost and economic development impacts of non-attainment.

Sustainable Neighborhoods and Communities
The character of neighborhoods and communities varies greatly, depending on their age, natural features, architecture, layout and community facilities. Strong neighborhoods – including older neighborhoods – tend to have a well conserved landscape, harmonious architecture, sound schools and well designed parks. These are elements that sustain communities. In conserving 20th century neighborhoods and developing new communities in this century, the following actions are proposed:

  • Reinforce the identity and viability of neighborhoods through the design and locations of civic buildings, roads and open spaces.
  • Coordinate capital improvements, including roads, utilities, schools and parks, so that communities are ready for the impacts of growth.
  • Include provisions for park and open space dedications, as part of the unified development ordinance.
  • Create community councils, covering each area of the city and county, to foster citizen participation in planning and opportunities to review public and private development proposals.
  • Create development guidelines for infill housing and neighborhood-oriented commercial development that fits the architectural context of surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Plant street and yard trees in older neighborhoods.

Distinctive Business Districts
Business districts take several forms, including business or industrial parks, shopping centers, office parks, commercial corridors. Just as successful neighborhoods or towns have distinctive identities, successful business districts should have clearly defined boundaries, be well organized, and should be pleasing, memorable destinations. Whether a business district is developed as a unit by one developer or evolves through the action of many business owners, attractive design, an efficient layout, and convenient transportation access are critical factors in developing sustainable centers for economic activity. Examples of business destinations with clear identities include downtown Knoxville, the Technology Corridor on Pellissippi Parkway, and the Homberg area in Bearden Village.

In order to provide expanded employment, shopping and entertainment opportunities, enhance the tax base and combat the decline and obsolescence of commercial areas, the following actions are proposed:

  • Remove regulatory barriers to mixed-use development.
  • Encourage formation of voluntary associations of owners and tenants in business districts.
  • Create design guidelines to provide coordinated design themes for emerging business areas.
  • Design public elements of business districts—streets, sidewalks, directional signs, lighting, and open space—to reinforce the district’s identity.
  • Locate civic uses such as municipal service centers and branch libraries within business districts when appropriate.
  • Coordinate and target capital improvements to support the growth of business centers in the best locations.

Developing Downtown: Civic Vision
A series of guiding principles created by the Nine Counties One Vision downtown task force outlines interrelated ways in which downtown development can be maximized so as to create a more vibrant downtown. These principles have been the basis of success in many other cities. The guiding principles have been circulated to the public as a draft document, generating broad support and enthusiasm. Within Downtown Knoxville, many opportunities exist for potential development, consistent with the guiding principles.

A downtown plan is now being developed by citizens, guided by an urban design consultant. Components of the plan will include:

  • An Urban Design Plan
  • An Economic Strategy
  • A Strategic Investment Plan to identify future areas for investment from both the public and private sectors.

Historic Preservation
To encourage growth in the existing urban areas of the City and County, conservation of historic and architectural resources is a logical place to start, since historic sites and buildings can create a marketable identity for neighborhoods and business districts. A growing body of research demonstrates that historic preservation results in faster than “market rate” appreciation of property values. Preservation also stimulates the tourism market.

In order to take advantage of the benefits of historic preservation and neighborhood conservation, the following actions are proposed:

  • Integrate preservation planning with plans for land use, economic development, and capital improvements, using the recently approved Knoxville City Charter Amendment regarding an annual report by the Mayor on historic preservation progress.
  • Develop a broader array of financial tools and incentives to promote preservation.
  • Provide technical assistance to building owners needing help in architectural design, rehabilitation, and financing preservation projects.
  • Continue to identify historic resources and establish historic zoning and neighborhood conservation overlays.

Natural Heritage
Tree-covered ridges, pristine streams, woodlands and prime farmland are assets that are valued by Knox County residents. Citizens spoke about the conservation of these features time and again when developing this plan, noting that they form a natural heritage that should be protected or rehabilitated for the benefit of future generations.

Key proposals include:

  • Designate ridge, stream and river corridors as special areas with unique environmental and scenic values, identifying areas to conserve and the development opportunities that are consistent with the values.
  • Develop a Rural Heritage Strategy to preserve prime agricultural land, including agricultural protective zoning, conservation easements and transfer of development rights.
  • Create an Urban Forestry Plan for Knox County, to protect woodlands and plant trees, including the creation of a city-county tree board.
  • Develop standards to rehabilitate hillsides and streams and to avoid disturbances of those assets in the future.

Infrastructure Coordination
Greater coordination of planning and construction of community facilities and infrastructure is needed, including schools, libraries, other public buildings, roads, and utilities. The development community should be included in this process, so that they can advise and inform the other participants of the issues and opportunities related to schools and infrastructure, as well as potential future trends in development.

Proposed actions include:

  • Creation of a Capital Improvements Coordinating Committee to share information between the Knox County School Board, utility districts, the city, county and state highway department.
  • Compilation and maintenance of maps showing improvements anticipated by the local governments, school board and utility districts. Combine these maps with development trend maps.
  • Annual briefings or reports to the committee members on current and future development trends from MPC, the Home Builders Association, and other land development experts.

Economic Development
A diversified economy is a key component of economic health and sustainability.

Economic development initiatives include:

  • The development of an inventory of critical employment sites throughout the county. Maintenance of this database will be coordinated between the MPC, the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership and other appropriate agencies and groups.
  • The removal of development obstacles, by identifying necessary improvements in utility and transportation services and setting aside the land for future employment sites. This can be done by working with the local utility districts and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization. Recommended improvements should be included in the city and county capital budgets as a way to provide needed infrastructure and public service upgrades.
  • The creation of a Brownfield Sites Coordinator in both city and county governments to oversee and facilitate the identification and cleanup of ‘brown-field’ and ‘gray-field’ sites for redevelopment.

Regional Initiatives
Many of the problems facing Knoxville and Knox County are regional issues that do not respect political boundaries. Because regional governance is rare in America, successful resolution of regional issues often must rely on coalition building and voluntary cooperation. To create a more desirable region both now and in the future, a regional approach is needed for the following initiatives:

  • Providing open space and greenway trail connectivity. This includes connecting Knoxville and Knox County with other parts of the region by developing a continuous system of blueway and greenway trail corridors. Alignment should be determined by natural conditions and, when possible, by the availability of unused paths such as rails and power line easements.
  • Working together to maintain environmental quality. Efforts can include repairing, preserving and protecting the natural environment by setting aside green, restorative settings and by promoting clean industry and communities that are not auto dependant.
  • Basing a transportation system on both roads and mass transit. Roads should effectively connect all parts of the region, and be of adequate capacity to handle reasonable traffic demands without creating unnecessary new demand. The regional transportation system should be designed not to conflict with core principles of building sustainable, viable, multi-use communities. The regional system should accommodate automobiles, public transit, public safety vehicles, freight, pedestrians, boats and bicycles in a balanced way to maximize access and mobility throughout the community.
  • Cooperating on economic development. The Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership along with the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency have identified opportunities to coordinate economic development initiatives on a regional basis.

    For example, the Jobs Now! Campaign is a coordinated effort between ETEDA, the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership, Oak Ridge and Blount Economic Partnerships to raise $10.75 million in local public and private funds for regional marketing initiatives and increase job creation, retention and recruitment in the region. The goal will be 35,000 new jobs in the next five years and $2.5 billion in new capital investment.

    In another successful program called Technology Mining and Matching Program, the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership is partnering with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help industries in the region access the resources and services of the DOE Complex.

    The aim is to enhance the economic wealth of the region by sharing technology, enhancing productivity, creating new products and solving technical problems. The program also supports the recruitment of new businesses considering the region. The major focus is on identifying and sharing manufacturing and engineering technologies, government user facilities, equipment and personnel.

    The Knoxville Chamber also continues its existing industry program. With partners, they call on more than 200 companies in the area for the purpose of making resources in the community available to ensure the continued success of existing businesses.

Continuous Public Involvement
Updating the elements of the General Plan is a continuous process requiring broad-based public participation. MPC will continue working to improve and enhance efforts to involve the public in all aspects of land use planning and decision making.



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This is not a legal document. It does not replace or amend the existing procedures and regulations governing the publication of agency information. If you have questions, please contact MPC by telephone at (865) 215-2500.