Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19th Update

Update on City Council 11/11/10 Workshop
Provided by Neighborhood Advisory #103, David Massey, Neighborhood Coordinator

** This meeting was discussed at the last Ft. Sanders Stakeholder Meeting on October 21st and it was suggested that members of the group attend to understand how the City is dealing with absentee landlords and problem properties. The focus of this information is predominately residential properties.**

Knoxville City Council last week conducted a workshop devoted to the challenges posed by vacant and blighted properties - a problem to one degree or another for many if not most neighborhoods in both the city and the county.

Madeline Rogero, director of the Community Development Dept., presented the work of the Vacant Properties Committee, which she chairs. Her presentation was followed by questions and comments from members of Council, responses by various members of the committee, and comments from several neighborhood representatives.

She also noted that the City already employs quite a few tools to deal with problem properties. These include:
** Neighborhood Codes Enforcement and the power of the Better Building Board to declare houses unfit for human habitation or to order that dilapidated houses be torn down.

** Community Development’s programs to rehab houses and build new houses on vacant lots.

** The ability to determine and certify that a property is blighted; to acquire the property (at fair market value) with City Council’s eminent domain powers; and to rehab the property and return it to the private sector via Community Development’s Homemakers Program.

** Issuing proposals for redevelopment of city-owned lots in a way that insures that the winning bidder will actually carry through with promised renovations and return the improved property to the tax rolls.

Rogero then listed 11 separate new tools and strategies that the City is ready to implement or pursue in the near- to mid-term. These include:

** Increased use of Municipal Court by the Neighborhood Codes Enforcement office, and the possibility of imposing increased court penalties for violators of city housing codes.

** Changes to local ordinances to clear up uncertainties and vague language so that codes enforcement can be more effective and can be tougher on repeat offenders.

** Reform of property tax foreclosure laws so that properties taken to tax sale do not end up with uninsurable title, which is a roadblock to obtaining loans for redevelopment.

** Better tracking of all available data on problem properties.

Rogero noted that cities and towns all across the U.S. are facing problems with blighted and vacant properties. Some cities have implemented programs such as home maintenance education, landlord training, vacant property registration, rental property registration and inspections, and public identification of properties and owners that are consistently violating city codes. These tools may or may not be relevant or effective in Knoxville, Rogero noted. “No one size fits all,” she stated.

Rogero concluded by noting that the causes of vacant and blighted properties are complex, as are the solutions. “There is no silver bullet,” she said, no single program or law, that will solve the problem. Knoxville needs stronger disincentives for owners of blighted property. While government has a key role to play, the nonprofit and private sectors are critical to success, she noted.

Formed in mid-2009, the Vacant Properties Committee is composed of representatives from various city and county departments, the Knox County Trustee’s Office, KCDC (Knoxville’s Community Development Corp.), Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), and the Council of Involved Neighborhoods (COIN).

Rogero’s Power Point slides are available on the City’s Website, here.

For questions or information about the committee or the work that it is doing, contact David Massey, neighborhoods coordinator, at 215-3232 or

Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project

The City of Knoxville is still taking comments regarding the November 9, 2010 public meeting for the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project. All comments should be submitted by close of business on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 and can be sent via e-mail to Anne Wallace at The meeting information is in previous blog posts and in the Links Section of this blog page.

Weekend Opportunities

Knoxville Ice Bears vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm at the Knoxville Coliseum, ticket prices vary.

UT Ice Vols vs. LSU, Friday and Saturday nights at 11:00pm (for those with insomnia!), at the Knoxville Coliseum, general admission $5, or $1 with student ID.

Tennessee Volunteers take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville at 7:30pm. The game will be televised, Go Vols! Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to visit our Cumberland Avenue merchants!

As always, thanks for your continued interest in all things relating to Cumberland Avenue and the Fort Sanders District. There will be no blog post next Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. I wish you and yours a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

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