Moving mountains

The Knoxville Mercury rocks!Guidelines developed by the city of Knoxville and Knox County years ago to help regulate building on steep-sloping hillsides and ridge lines have gone underutilized and, at times, are not cited at all by local planning officials, a check of records reveals. Knox’s Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan (HRPP) proved controversial from the start, but it was ultimately adopted by both the city and the county. So why aren’t they using it more?

Now, four years after its passage, it’s worth looking back at the principles laid out in the HRPP to see how it has been put to work so far, the impact it is having on development, and if there is a need to do more to protect the natural environs that Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero says are critical for the region to develop into a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. But there’s more than just outdoor sports and tourism at stake. There’s the intrinsic value of unspoiled land and our quality of life, issues of pollution from runoff and erosion, deforestation and the potential implications of climate change, the delicate balance between property rights and government regulations, the influence of the local business community on politics, and fundamental differences between Rogero’s activist vision of government and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s anti-government philosophy—all conflicts and values wrapped up in this thick-bound book of standards and how they’re applied.

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Clay Duda is a freelance journalist specializing in investigative reporting, feature writing, editorial photography, and digital media.