HOW SUBDIVISIONS ARE REVIEWED AND REGULATED
Before a subdivision is approved, it must meet Knoxville/Knox County minimum regulations. These regulations set standards for streets, drainage, sewage, and water. They ensure adequate lot size, public access, and availability of public services to each lot. They also help conserve natural, scenic, historic, and recreational areas.

When do subdivision regulations apply?
These regulations apply whenever a property owner converts a tract of land into two or more lots.

Different types of subdivisions
One-lot subdivisions are created by:

  • Dividing a tract of land into two lots
  • Combining two or more lots into one lot
  • Adjusting a lot line between existing lots (only one lot line can be moved in a one-lot subdivision)

Minor subdivisions are created by:

  • Dividing a tract of land into three or more lots, which all have access to an existing public street

 

  • Dividing a tract of land into no more than five lots which only have access to an existing public street by means of a joint permanent easement*

*A joint permanent easement is a private road at least 25 feet wide that provides access to and from a public road to lots with less than 25 feet of public road frontage.

Major subdivisions are created by:

  • Dividing a tract of land into six or more lots
  • Dividing a tract of land into lots which require construction of a new public street
  • Dividing a tract of land into lots where special hillside protection, drainage, or traffic safety concerns will require approval of a concept plan

Proposals for major subdivisions undergo review beginning with a concept plan. For minor and one-lot subdivisions, skip to the section titled Plats.

The Concept Plan

  • The applicant devises a concept plan that shows how a tract of land will be developed. This plan must include details on proposed roads, traffic generation, lot layout, drainage, and other improvements.
  • The plan is submitted to MPC staff, who evaluate the request and coordinate an administrative review with other agencies. All subdivision concept plans are reviewed by the Knox County Health Department, the city or county engineering department, utility companies, and Knox County School officials. MPC staff also look at how much new traffic a proposed subdivision is likely to create and determine whether a traffic impact study is required.
  • MPC staff can recommend approval, denial, or approval with conditions of the subdivision concept plan.
  • The concept plan is then considered by the Planning Commission at one of their monthly public meetings. The Planning Commission can vote to approve or deny the plan, or grant variances to specific requirements if hardships exist that would make compliance impossible or impractical.

The Design Plan
In the next stage of review, the applicant must present a design plan—a more detailed representation of the proposed subdivision. This plan contains maps and engineering documents verifying that the plan meets all requirements for roads, drainage and erosion control, water, and sewer. A design plan "certification of approval" form with signatures of the various city or county reviewing agencies and utilities must be submitted to MPC along with a final plat.

Criteria used to evaluate
all types of subdivisions
  • Does the plan contain all necessary information?
  • Does the design work well with the topography?
  • Are traffic systems safe and convenient?
  • How will drainage be accommodated?
  • Are lots in conformance with zoning regulations regarding lot size, width, and building setbacks?
  • Are any zoning-related approvals necessary, such as those required in a planned residential or commercial zone?

 

Plats
A final plat serves as the official permanent record of subdivision. It is a surveyed map of a piece of land showing boundaries, improvements, easements, roads, and physical features along with other information and legal certifications. It is recorded with the Knox County Register of Deeds and is used by governmental and other agencies for such purposes as mapping, taxation, assigning property addresses, and locating utility and drainage easements. Once a final plat is recorded, property transfers can begin within the subdivision.

One-lot subdivisions without a variance
When no variances to the subdivision regulations are required, a one-lot subdivision final plat can be reviewed and approved by MPC staff without formal approval of the Planning Commission. The staff has 10 working days to make the review and to prepare comments on any necessary revisions and corrections.

Minor and one-lot subdivisions with variance*
Final plats for these subdivisions are reviewed by MPC staff, who also conduct field reviews. If no other information is needed, the plat is recommended for approval to the Planning Commission at their monthly meeting. Occasionally, a concept plan may be requested if drainage, topography, or some other element presents the need for additional review.

*A variance for a one-lot subdivision might be a request not to dedicate land for a required right-of-way or a request not to dedicate the full extent of the standard utility and drainage easement

Major subdivisions
Applicants for major subdivisions submit a final plat after the Planning Commission already has approved a concept plan and the applicable agencies already have approved a design plan. The final plat also must be approved by the Planning Commission at one of their monthly meetings.

Once a subdivision is approved, how long is it valid?
For major subdivisions

  • A final plat for a major subdivision (whether for a part of it or the entire development) must be submitted to MPC within 24 months of the concept plan approval, unless MPC grants an extension. Final plat approval of each unit of a subdivision extends the effective period of the concept plan by 24 months, but no concept plan shall be valid after five years.
  • A concept plan can be extended by MPC if the developer applies to do so before the expiration date. If the deadline is missed, a developer must submit a new concept plan for approval.

For any final plat

  • After MPC approves a final plat for any type of subdivision, the developer must have the plat certified and recorded within 12 months. If this deadline is missed, the plat must be updated and resubmitted to MPC for approval.

This information sheet is not a legal document. It does not replace or amend the existing regulations governing the subdivision process. Please consult the Knoxville Knox County Minimum Subdivision Regulations, available at the offices of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Suite 403, City County Building, 400 Main Street, Knoxville, Tennessee.

 

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