The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Zoning

Reference Number: MTAS-228
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: August 14, 2017
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A municipality’s "chief legislative body" is empowered to adopt and amend a zoning ordinance. The adoption process requires a public hearing preceded by a newspaper notice of at least 15 days. T.C.A. § 13-7-203.

Pursuant to T.C.A. §13-7-201, the zoning ordinance may "regulate the location, height, bulk, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures; the percentage of the lot that may be occupied; the sizes of yards, courts, and other open spaces; the density of population; and the uses of buildings, structures, and land for trade, industry, residence, recreation, public activities, and other purposes ..." and establish special districts or zones "subject to seasonal or periodic flooding ... and such regulations may be applied therein as will minimize danger to life and property." Zoning regulations may provide for the transfer of development rights under procedures and restrictions set out in T.C.A. § 13-7-201(a)(2).

The municipal planning commission is responsible for certifying to the governing body a zoning plan, the text of a zoning ordinance, and zoning maps. Any change in the ordinance, including the zoning map, must be referred to the planning commission for approval. The planning commission’s disapproval may be overridden by a majority vote of the entire legislative body. The same procedure applies to any zoning ordinance text amendment. T.C.A. §§ 13-7-201–204.

The chief legislative body may create a board of zoning appeals of three, five, seven, or nine members; or it may designate the municipal planning commission to act in this capacity. The board is authorized to grant exceptions to the zoning ordinance, in such matters set forth in the ordinance, that are "in harmony with [the] general purpose and intent" of the zoning ordinance and "to interpret the zoning maps and pass upon disputed questions of lot lines or district boundary lines or similar questions as they arise in the administration of the zoning regulations." Appeals to the board of appeals may be taken by any person aggrieved or by any officer, department, board or bureau of the municipality affected by any grant or refusal of a building permit or other act or decision of the building commissioner of the municipality or other administrative official based in whole or part upon the provisions of this ordinance  T.C.A. §§ 13-7-205 - 207.

These general law provisions supplement, but do not supplant or modify, any private acts for a particular city. General law provisions regarding zoning powers and procedures apply to the extent that they are not in conflict with such private acts. The most restrictive regulations control any conflict with respect to width or size of yards, courts, or other open spaces; height and number of stories or buildings; and density. T.C.A. § 13-7-209.

Under T.C.A. § 68-221-415, advanced treatment systems for the treatment and disposal of sewage under a pilot project study conducted by the state are subject to zoning requirements established by the municipality for the parcel of property.

Condominium Ownership
A zoning or land use ordinance may not prohibit the condominium form of ownership or impose any requirement on a condominium that it would not impose on a physically identical development under a different form of ownership. T.C.A. § 66-27-206.

Zoning and Subdivision Regulation Outside City Limits
If a municipal planning commission has been designated as a regional planning commission, the city may exercise zoning powers beyond its boundaries up to and including its growth boundary if the county is not exercising such zoning power. The state code specifies procedural requirements for public hearings and notice to the county of its intent to exercise zoning authority outside its corporate limits. City zoning is nullified when the county exercises its zoning powers. T.C.A. §§ 13-7-302–306.

Several sections of Public Acts 1998, Chapter 1101, affect municipal zoning and subdivision authority outside municipal limits. T.C.A. § 13-3-102 and T.C.A. § 13-3-401(2), which are part of the statute that governs the authority of regional planning commissions, when read together appear to limit the jurisdiction of regional planning commissions outside municipal limits to the territory within the urban growth boundary (when one has been established by adoption of the growth plan). Another is codified in T.C.A. § 6-58-106(d), and provides that

Notwithstanding the extraterritorial planning jurisdiction authorized for municipal planning commissions designated as regional planning commissions in Title 13, Chapter 3, nothing in this chapter shall be construed to authorize municipal planning commission jurisdiction beyond an urban growth boundary; provided, that in a county without county zoning, a municipality may provide extraterritorial zoning and subdivision regulation beyond its corporate limits with the approval of the county legislative body.

Disagreement exists on the effect the last clause in T.C.A. § 6-58-106(d) has on the authority of municipal planning commissions designated as regional planning commissions to adopt zoning and subdivision regulations outside their municipal limits but within the urban growth boundary, absent the approval of the county legislative body.

Prohibition of Rent Control and Long-term Affordable or Workforce Housing

Rent control - A local government is prohibited from enacting or enforcing any ordinance or resolution that has "the effect of controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential or commercial property." T.C.A. § 66-35-102(a).

Long-term affordable or workforce housing - "A local governmental unit shall not enact, maintain, or enforce any zoning regulation, requirement, or condition of development imposed by land use or zoning ordinances, resolutions, or regulations or pursuant to any special permit, special exception, or subdivision plan that requires the direct or indirect allocation of a percentage of existing or newly constructed private residential or commercial rental units for long-term retention as affordable or workforce housing." However, a local government is not precluded from creating or implementing "an incentive-based program designed to increase the construction and rehabilitation of moderate or lower-cost private residential or commercial rental units." T.C.A. § 66-35-102(b) and (c). 

Temporary Family Healthcare Structure.  

A zoning ordinance may consider a temporary family healthcare structure as a permitted accessory use in any single-family residential zoning district on lots zoned for single-family detached dwellings when the structures are being used by a caregiver in providing care for a mentally or physically impaired person and the structure is on property owned or occupied by the caregiver and his/her residence.  A temporary family healthcare structure is defined as a "transportable healthcare environment that is specifically designed with environmental controls, biometric and other remote monitoring technology, sensors, and communication systems to support extended home-based medical care, rehabilitation, and the provision of home- and community-based support and assistance for an older adult or person with a disability on the property where family members or unpaid caregivers who participate in the person's care reside."  The structure is (1) primarily assembled as a location other than the site of installation; (2) is limited to one occupant who shall be the older adult or person with a disability; (3) meets the accessibility guidelines of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act; (4) has no more than 500 gross square feet; and (5) complies with applicable provisions of title 68, chapter 120, part 1. The placement of a temporary family healthcare structure on a permanent foundation is neither required or permitted. T.C.A. § 13-7-501.

All temporary family healthcare structures must comply with all requirements for accessory dwelling structures of this type and all setback requirements that apply to the primary structure. Only one structure may be placed on a parcel.  The structure must also comply with any applicable requirements of the department of health and any local codes and ordinances related to connecting to any water, sewer and electric utilities serving the the primary residence on the property. T.C.A. §§ 13-7-502, 503.

A permit to install a temporary family healthcare structure must be obtained from the local government and a fee of no more than $100 may be charged.  The permit cannot be withheld if the applicant provides sufficient proof of compliance with the act.  Ongoing proof of compliance can be required by the local government on an annual basis as long as the structure remains on the property and may involve the inspection of the structure at various times convenience to the caregiver.  T.C.A. § 13-7-502. The structure must be removed within 30 days from which the mentally or physically impaired person is no longer receiving or is no longer in need of assistance. T.C.A. § 13-7-505.

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