The first in a series of articles from neighborhood historian and board member emeritus Andy Anderson.
Acquiring H-1 Historic Overlay Zoning
The Old North Knoxville neighborhood association first applied for H-1 overlay zoning (historic zoning) in November 1979. A few members of the H-1 committee canvassed the neighborhood (the original triangular boundaries of Woodland Avenue, Central Street, and Broadway). The canvassers were Paul Thornton, Sam Peake, and Jo Ann Anderson. They went to every home and business explaining what H-1 was and they had cards for them to sign showing whether they were for or against the overlay. Many of the homes had absentee landlords and ONK had to get their addresses to send them a card by registered mail.
A meeting was held in October 1980 with ONK members, Knoxville City Council members, and other city representatives to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the H-1 zoning. ONK then had meetings discussing the zoning and voted to go forward with trying to get the H-1 designation.
In October, 1981, after many months of work on fulfilling the requirements for the zoning, the application was completed. Neighborhood members could purchase a copy of the application that was to go to the Metropolitan Planning Commission (the organization that is now Knoxville–Knox County Planning). During the time leading up to the MPC meeting held on November 9, 1981, a lot of false information on what you could or could or not do with the H-1 zoning was being spread through the neighborhood. This resulted in several neighbors and absentee landlords contacting their City Council representative.
The first reading for H-1 was heard at City Council on November 24, 1981, and was approved; however, the second reading on December 8 was turned down. ONK’s first attempt at obtaining an H-1 overlay was not successful.
In May of 1991, the H-1 historic overlay was addressed at an ONK meeting by Ann Bennett of the MPC and Historic Zoning Commission. A motion was made and passed for work to begin on another application for H-1 zoning.
In August a draft for an ONK design guidelines application was started. Drawings, diagrams, and photos were needed for this part of the project. These were completed by several neighbors and nonprofits donating their time and efforts. The Historic Zoning Commission met with ONK members to discuss the H-1 overlay application. If it was approved, ONK would become a part of the Knoxville Landmarks Register.
In April and May of 1992, draft copies of the design guidelines were approved by the Historic Zoning Commission. With this accomplished, the first hurdle was cleared for ONK to receive the H-1 overlay zoning.
The next step was a meeting with MPC, and the final approval was granted by City Council on October 13, 1992.
It took a lot of time and effort by the neighborhood; however, ONK finally received the H-1historic overlay zoning. ONK was among the first neighborhoods in Knoxville to receive the designation.
ONK presented Ann Bennett with a certificate of appreciation for all her hard work in helping the neighborhood receive the H-1 overlay.
National Register Designation
In September 1987, the Metropolitan Planning Commission released survey results for areas of Knoxville that might be eligible for local, state, and national historic district designations. A score of 45 meant an area would have a chance of success. Old North Knoxville had a score of 55.
Early in 1991, the East Tennessee Community Design Center was commissioned to help ONK on historic register research. In February and March, street streetscape photos were taken for National Register nomination. The homework for the Historic Register was finished in mid-April and turned in to Ann Bennett of the MPC. Once everything was accomplished, she turned in the application to the state for approval.
In November of 1991, the application for the National Register of Historic Places was to be voted on by the Tennessee Historical Commission. In early January 1992, the state advisory committee reviewed and approved the ONK nomination to the NRHP. On January 22, the state review committee of the Tennessee Historical Commission reviewed and approved the nomination, which was then sent to the National Park Service for review.
On May 14, 1992, ONK was approved to be a National Register Historical District.
This was another great effort accomplished by a lot of neighbors, Ann Bennett of the MPC, East Tennessee Community Design Center, and many local, state, and national committees.
1987 Zoning Changes
In 1987, Old North Knoxville asked City Council for a general neighborhood rezoning from R-2 to the more restrictive R-1A. The city started working with the Metropolitan Planning Commission to define the boundaries of the proposed new zoning.
The MPC met on February 12 and approved the boundaries. The City Council met on April 7 and passed the request on first reading. The measure did not require a second reading.
As part of the change, some ONK areas that were previously R-3 were changed to R-2.
For background on zoning designations, see the city’s web page on land use classifications.