Penny Pawn rezoned, Norwood withdrawn and budget discussed at city council


By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

While much of the meeting was interrupted by yells and taunts from a group protesting the killing of an Austin-East student by a city policeman, the Knoxville City Council proceeded with its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The empty lot along Broadway in Fountain City will apparently soon be the home of another oil change business. A split vote by city council approved a zoning change from CG-2 to CTG-3, which gives the developer more flexible use of the space.

Fifth District Councilman Charles Thomas, who represents the area, led the opposition and promoted increased “walkability” along the busy route and said the size of the lot isn’t large enough to be used as an auto service station. The zoning change passed 5-4 with council members Gwen McKenzie, Seema Singh and Tommy Smith joining Thomas in a “No” vote.

The zoning change passed its second and final vote. Thomas had successfully moved to postpone the matter in the council’s last meeting over confusion over whether the old Penny Pawn building had been demolished or not. The lot is now vacant and dragged down.

In an unexpected move the final vote on a zoning change in the Norwood neighborhood for an apartment and retail development was withdrawn from consideration. Local residents have opposed the change from Neighborhood Commercial to General Residential. The hilly site, along 2400 and 2600 Merchant Drive and 5291 Oakhill Drive, was planned for development by Hilton Capital Group.

The city council voted 7-2 to approve the first reading of the Mayor Indya Kincannon’s budget proposal for next year with Councilwomen Singh and Amelia Parker voting “No.” Two budget hearings are scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week. The mayor noted that the proposed budget does not include any federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Councilwoman Singh asked the law director if the council voted “No” on the mayor’s proposed budget would it still go into effect July 1st. Attorney Charles Swanson said “Yes” and read from the city charter. Singh commented on the city’s “Strong Mayor” system and said adjustments are needed in the proposal. Parker said she plans to introduce an amendment to the charter during the next fiscal year to put the budget issue on the ballot.

“We’re having a vote that doesn’t matter,” Singh said.

The council approved amending the charter portion of the city codes to establish the “Knoxville Affordable Housing Fund.” Kincannon thanked all those involved with that effort and specifically Justice Knox and Councilwoman Lynne Fugate. Fugate said creating the fund was a six-month effort and a “wonderful example of people who cared, dug in, and did the hard work.”

Elizabeth Johnson, co-president of Justice Knox, reported that 1,500 people came to the World’s Fair Park Monday evening to support the funding, calling the effort “a victory for families struggling to make ends meet.”

The council also voted to allocate $575,000 to purchase right of ways and easements on twelve tracts of property as part of the Lancaster Drive Sidewalks Improvement Project and authorized funding of the Boyds Bridge Pike Bridge and the Woodlawn Avenue Bridge Repair Projects.