By Steve Hunley

On Friday, June 14, Knoxville city councilman and current mayoral candidate Marshall Stair was interviewed on the WETR 92.3 FM radio program “Knoxville Morning News.” A caller asked Mr. Stair to please find out how Recode would affect residential insurance claims for fire or water damage. The caller said they had an insurance adjuster explain to them their house may only be insured for the building codes on the date it was built. If those building codes had changed over time there could be additional out of pocket expenses unless the homeowner had coverage to cover the new building codes. The caller said a new building codes insurance rider to the homeowner’s policy might be required.

Mr. Stair replied to the caller, “You know, I think that sounds totally inaccurate. I don’t think this would affect insurance on your house or home or business property. I mean, I think…so you’re taking it from water damage to that Recode not going that your insurance that you purchased and pay premiums on…you know I do insurance law and also sit on city council…and you know if you’re paying your premiums you know you’ve got… you should have your insurance. You know, so I think that is totally misguided.”

In parts of the interview with callers interacting with Mr. Stair so there was some cross talk that made the conversation a little more difficult to transcribe. This entire interview can be heard here:

The insurance term for this coverage is “Building Ordinance or Law.” This is insurance that covers the cost to rebuild or repair a home that has been destroyed or damaged, as well as the cost to upgrade a home so that it meets the most up-to-date building codes after a covered loss. Many top tier residential insurance plans cover Building Ordinance or Law. For mid to lower tier homeowner insurance plans there are additional riders available to pay for this coverage. Many homeowner rental polices will require the extra rider to provide full coverage. In some cases it may not be available. Before Recode is passed it is important that residential property owners in Knoxville check with their home owner’s insurance agent to see if they are currently covered or need additional coverage to protect them from the building code changes in Recode. You need to inform yourself as this could be a pocketbook issue. Please know that some homeowner’s insurance policies have a clause that excludes Building Ordinance or Law payments without a specific rider. You should check on your policy. This is another example of how the unintended or overlooked consequences of Recode could cost you money.

What most people in Knoxville do not know is that Recode changes more than just zoning. It changes residential and commercial design standards and building codes too. It changes lot sizes and setbacks. If a person loses their home in a fire, flood, or natural disaster will they be able to build it back the way it was? Will they have the insurance coverage to do so? Again, these are potential cost issues that matter.

Mayoral candidate Stair was challenged by a previous caller on the now infamous Knoxville City Ordinance O-187-2018 which was passed unanimously after two readings on December 18, 2018 by city council and signed by Mayor Rogero which changed the law about notification on zoning changes in city of Knoxville. The caller said, “last December you voted twice not to have notification, is that correct?”

Marshall Stair replied, “Yes, I voted in favor of it (the O-187-2018 ordinance) for updates to the zoning code.”

The caller pressed on and said most people don’t know about Recode because of the poor PR puff piece Recode notice that was sent out after many citizens demanded proper notice.

Mayoral candidate Stair replied, “I think people are aware of it, that’s the point of notification, I think the caller is aware of it, I think all your listeners are aware of it, so this idea that nobody’s aware of it seems a little, uh, seems a little weird.”

Personally, I believe that today less than five percent of property owners in Knoxville know about Recode.

Prior to this new ordinance O-187-2018 the property owner and property owners adjacent to the property being re-zoned would be notified by mail and there would be small black signs with white ink from the MPC, now called Knoxville-Knox County Planning, which gave a specific number on the re-zoning and a brief explanation of the zoning change.

If a practiced insurance attorney and city council member like Marshall Stair is this unsure of the risk to property owners after having supported Recode for months now, there are probably thousands of people in Knoxville that don’t know anything about Recode. Another great question would be: are you actually more protected by our current zoning code with the sixty years of legal case law it has amassed? Recode, more than likely, will throw all that zoning case law out the window. Is this a risk, financial and otherwise, that the citizens of Knoxville are willing to take?

Something as important as a complete overhaul of zoning should be voted on by the citizens of the city of Knoxville. If you agree with this statement, call your city council representative and ask that they put Recode on the November 2019 ballot for the people of Knoxville to vote on. This is too important not to let the whole city to decide. If council will not put Recode on the ballot then ask them to vote Recode down.

Also please be aware that a new citizens group has recently formed called “Citizens for Knoxville Government Transparency” ( Should city council decide not to put Recode on the November 2019 ballot or simply vote it down, I believe it is the intention of these citizens to start a petition and ballot initiative so the people of Knoxville can vote on Recode. You can reach your city council representative at 865-215-2000.