Kingsport approves zoning code for apartment districts

Matthew Lane • Feb 18, 2014 at 10:20 PM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport is tweaking its zoning code to be a little more friendly to the developers of apartment complexes.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a change to the city’s zoning code for apartment districts (R-3, R-4 and R-5) during its regular meeting on Tuesday.

During a BMA work session Monday afternoon, city planner Corey Shepherd gave an overview of the measure, saying the change removes the floor area ratio method when determining how many apartment units can be built on a property.

“The intent is to create a more developer-friendly zoning code for these types of district,” Shepherd said.

Previously, the number of units a developer could build in a particular zone had to be calculated by its floor area ratio — the total square footage of the apartments by the lot square footage. Now, the maximum number is based on units by acre.

For R-3 (low density apartment district) the number is 15 units per acre; for R-4 (medium density) the number is 20 while in R-5 (high density) the number is 40. Other changes include removing the minimum dimension requirements for the development, such as lot area, frontage space and building height.

Shepherd said the density levels are consistent with virtually every existing apartment development in Kingsport.

In addition, Shepherd benchmarked the proposed changes with zoning codes from Bristol, Johnson City, Nashville and Knoxville.

Though the floor area ratio may be an old planning concept, Shepherd said it has now become obsolete and may have served as an obstacle for apartment development in the past.

Mayor Denis Phillips asked about the purpose of the change.

“It makes for a much easier calculation,” Shepherd said. “We’re not getting more or less restrictive, it’s just a different way to calculate it.”

Vice Mayor Mike McIntire, who serves on the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission, further explained the rationale behind the move.

“When developers would come in and ask if they could do this, our general answer was, it depends,” McIntire said. “We’re trying to be consistent and make it simpler for developers to understand.”

Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said the change specifically came out of the Bray property project (the redevelopment of Supermarket Row into high-end apartments).

“They asked how many units they could get, and we told them it’s based on design,” Fleming said.

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