By Mike Steely
Over the past few years Knoxville neighborhoods and businesses have become more and more concerned about the rapid growth of alternative financial service locations. Back in February the city council asked the Metropolitan Planning Commission to look at the problem and set new regulations.
Thursday afternoon the planners adopted staff recommendations that now go to the city council that will allow these stores only to operate in certain commercially zoned areas. The “alternative” services stores include pawn brokers, title pledge lenders, deferred payment service stores, and check cashers.
The quick-cash type stores will be permitted in retail and office park districts if they pass a use-on-review hearing. The stores must be located no closer than 1,000 feet from similar businesses or residential property. Obviously the existing alternative services stores are grandfathered and protected from the new regulations.
The MPC handed Mayor Madeline Rogero and the city a defeat by rejecting a request of placing the Cal Johnson building on State Street in a historic overlay classification. Deputy Mayor Bill Lyons led the city’s position and said he had tried to work with the owners, the Dance family, to try to work out an understanding to protect the historic building, the last remaining structure built by a former slave, but the two parties could not reach an understanding.
Jed Dance told the planners that the building already falls under the Downtown Review Board, which has similar regulations as the Historic Zoning Board, and that he has no plans to demolish the historic old structure. Kaye Graybeal, Principal Planner for the city, said that the city wants to provide stewardship and preserve the building in the future.
Denying the city’s request a stricter classification of the building came in a split vote with 9 members voting to deny and 6 voting for the request.
The planners also voted to deny a zoning request from Quin Bourgeois to rezone 4.73 acres on Bruhin Road for apartments. Local homeowners spoke against the request, which was the second attempt made to build several apartments there.