Mayor Rogero Proposes Demolition Delay for Historic Properties

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Mayor Rogero Proposes Demolition Delay for Historic Properties

Posted: 08/27/2014
August 27, 2014 - Mayor Madeline Rogero today announced proposed changes in City of Knoxville building and zoning codes that would provide a delay of up to 60 days before a demolition permit is issued on historically significant buildings.

A resolution on the issue will go to City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. If approved, the resolution will refer the proposed changes to the Metropolitan Planning Commission for review. They will then come back to City Council for final approval.

The demolition delay would affect properties either on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places that are not already protected by historic overlay zoning. The delay will not give the City the ability to deny demolition permits for such buildings, but is intended to give ample notification and time for discussion of alternatives and opportunities for preservation.

"Historic properties are crucial to our civic identity," Mayor Rogero said, "and they also present great opportunities for economic redevelopment. We have heard from local and national preservation groups that a delay is often the best tool for working constructively with property owners to save these buildings."

Under the proposed changes, modeled after a similar ordinance in Nashville, any demolition permit application for a building more than 50 years old will be referred to MPC's Historic Preservation Planner for review. If the property is found to be historically significant, the Preservation Planner will work with the property owner to ensure that they are aware of any opportunities for preservation or salvage of historic features. The Planner would have up to 60 days to complete that process before approving the demolition permit. (The Preservation Planner would not be able to deny the permit.)

The proposed changes also include incorporating a state law that already applies to Knoxville, specifically protecting any historically significant residential structures built before 1865. Under the statute, any such structures located in counties of greater than 300,000 population cannot be demolished without approval from the local legislative body - in this case, City Council. Although that law has been in Tennessee Code Annotated since the 1980s, it has never been adopted into Knoxville City Code.

"We hope these changes will encourage productive dialogue between owners of historic properties and local preservationists and developers who might be able to offer alternatives to demolition," Mayor Rogero said. "Our historic buildings are valuable to the community, and they deserve that extra bit of consideration. As we have seen many times over the years, buildings that seemed past any hope of saving can often be brought back to vibrant life."