Tennessee: Ron Ramsey says two controversial local zoning bills need further study

Tennessee: Ron Ramsey says two controversial local zoning bills need further study

March 5th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is sending two of four controversial zoning bills he is pushing to a legislative study committee this summer after local government officials widely objected to the measures.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield recently said some of the bills "would severely damage communities'' ability to deal with "non-conforming uses" of property by business. Non-conforming uses allow existing commercial or manufacturing interests, no longer technically permissible under zoning changes adopted later, to continue operating for the time being.

Ramsey said he realized the proposals are "extremely controversial" and he hopes to find "common ground" between businesses and cities and counties.

"The two major ones aren't going to pass," Ramsey assured city officials attending the Tennessee Municipal League's legislative conference in Nashville. "But I do believe we at least brought this up for discussion, brought this up to try to find some common ground," but acknowledged that he doesn't know where that is.

One of the bills deals protects the status of preliminary approval from a local government for a subdivision, planned development or site plan for five years.

Ramsey said he plans to pursue legislation dealing with signs, complaining that unappointed local "bureaucrats" are going too far.

"When a sign gets knocked down because somebody had a car wreck and they can't put that sign and stand it back up, that's a problem," Ramsey said.

On the non-conforming issue, Littlefield said that, under current laws, "a non-conforming use over time would be expected to go away. The provisions in the [legislative] hopper would guarantee those uses eternal life."

He cited as an example an adult establishment "that everyone would like to see it go away. And you finally get it to go away - and maybe it's gone for years - and somebody finds out there was one out there one time and they go back and reestablish another one."