We tell our kids to set goals and plan ahead. But we realize during the second half of life that some of the best stuff comes unexpectedly, or even accidentally. That was the case when I got the chance to cover local government for the Shopper News.
I was trained as a journalist, but I took a detour after college to immerse myself in the latest technology craze − desktop publishing. I hadn’t done any reporting for some time when I submitted a writing sample to my first Shopper editor, Larry Van Guilder. It was a story about my older daughter getting her hair styled.
Last Tuesday, when the world was beginning to tilt on its axis, but before anyone realized it, Knoxville City Council discussed whether or not to uphold a decades-old ordinance that prohibits beer joints from being within 300 feet of churches.
For some, it was a matter of housekeeping. The current ordinance, which also prohibits beer permits for sites within 300 feet of schools, daycares, hospitals and funeral homes, is trumped by state law. Establishments with a state liquor license can sell beer, as well as liquor, without such limits, so it’s unfair to place greater restrictions on businesses that plan only to sell beer, they said.
Sidewalks: everybody wants them, but few will get them, unless the budget changes, or neighborhood groups band together to gift property to the city. That was the takeaway from an informational meeting presented to city council members by Public Works director David Brace last week.
The city’s budget for new sidewalks is approximately $750,000 per year. The cost of new sidewalks ranges from $100 to $300 per linear foot, depending on the challenges of the terrain and the cost of purchasing right-of-way.
Lawyer jokes aside, one of Bud Armstrong’s priorities as Knox County law director is saving taxpayers money. He described changes that have resulted in savings at last week’s Council of West Knox County Homeowners meeting.
Worker’s comp cases have been brought in-house, saving the county $200,000. The number of cases has dropped dramatically, and the county is now actuarially sound, he said.
Chuck Marohn, founder and president of Strong Towns, hails from Minnesota. But he used a Tennessee landmark − the Pyramid in Memphis − as an example of “dumb” development that threatens the financial health of cities.
The mission of Strong Towns is to support a model of development that allows America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods to become financially strong and resilient. Marohn was keynote speaker at last week’s fall conference of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Tennessee Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Those Who Pay Attention know that the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission has been working on new subdivision requirements. The final draft was on this month’s MPC agenda, but staff requested a one-month postponement to allow for more public input.
This was primarily because the first draft of the document included language that required sidewalks to be installed on one side of the street in new city and county subdivisions while two subsequent drafts did not.
Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission Executive Director Gerald Green has been talking about Knoxville’s outdated zoning code ever since he came to town in July 2015. Now that the city is on the cusp of updating the code, MPC staff needs guidance from the community.
“Knoxville is driving to the future in a Maserati going 150 miles per hour − looking in the rearview mirror,” he said at last week’s Fryer Talk, hosted by the East Tennessee Community Design Center. The talks, named for ETCDC cofounder Gideon Fryer, explore design issues.
Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s former executive director David Yoder was once told that the organization would never be thought of as “permanent” until it owned its space.
Now, after leasing space on Gay Street for over 35 years, Legal Aid will have its own digs on the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law campus. Technically, it will still have a lease − $1 per year − but the plan is for a long-term partnership that will serve the community and train future lawyers.
Transportation engineer Ian Lockwood, who was in town last week to talk about how complete streets change communities, had good things to say about Knoxville’s historic buildings, public spaces and art-filled alleys.
Other areas, like Henley Street, he called “opportunities.”
A forum for Republican candidates for Tennessee’s 18th-district House seat came across a little like the story of Goldilocks − conservative, more conservative, most conservative and an outsider.
The candidates − incumbent Martin Daniel, his predecessor Steve Hall, former Stacey Campfield aide Bryan Dodson and attorney James Corcoran − spoke at last week’s West Knox Republican Club meeting. The 18th district is roughly constrained by Pleasant Ridge Road, Northshore Drive, Gleason Drive and Lovell Road.