Search This Blog


Please call your senators and legislators TODAY!

These bills are coming to a vote possibly this week.
Send a message to your state senators and representatives that a vote for the four bills described below is a vote against historic preservation!

(to find your senator and legislators contact information, visit:

All of these bills would severely affect the ability of Tennessee local government to create historic districts and to make and enforce zoning decisions. All are opposed by the Tennessee Municipal League, city mayors, city legislative bodies, preservation organizations, and city planning departments. Those who support them argue that they are good for economic development and protect absolute individual property rights. But we live in communities and know that our communities are strengthened by good land use tools that balance the public good with individual rights. We've seen the evidence that good zoning and historic districts make our communities more attractive to desirable businesses.

This bill virtually eliminates the creation of any more historic districts.

HB1345 (Casada) / SB1272 (Ketron)

It would prohibit the rezoning of property without the express written consent of all property owners subject to the rezoning. This would essentially prohibit any overlay or large area rezoning (including a county-wide comprehensive rezoning) unless all property owners agree.

We all know that no historic district has 100% support. We also know that not all owners will go to the trouble of writing their approval. And we know that out-of-town owners can be difficult to track down.

This bill was introduced last year and went nowhere because preservationists and planners across the state let their representatives know of their opposition. Let's do that again!

The three other bills attack other long-standing statutes and practices that protect neighborhoods by changing the law applying to non-conforming uses.

The first, HB3694 (Gotto) / SB3646 (Ketron), is a complete re-write of the state non-conforming use "grandfathering" statute. It would allow grandfathering protections to apply to residential property, not just to businesses and multi-family developments, and it allows the non-conforming use to continue forever unless the property owner "intentionally and voluntarily relinquishes" it. It also expands those protections not only to the use of the property and operation of the business as is now the case but also to principal and accessory structures, materials, and equipment. A local government could not deny a building permit for expanding or rebuilding a non-conforming property, period.

How would this affect a non-conforming building in a historic district? An expansion of a non-conforming property would only have to comply with the current setbacks but not design standards put in place by any zone change such as historic zoning.

HB3696 (Gotto) / SB3648 (Tracy)

This bill grants vested rights to a developer at the moment that a development permit, including building and stormwater permits, is issued. The developer would not have to comply with any changes in building and stormwater regulations that are enacted even if substantial construction has not begun. This would override 70-plus years of common law in Tennessee. The Tennessee courts, as well as courts in other states, have consistently ruled that there must be substantial construction or liabilities directly related to the construction in order to have vested rights.

Its other provisions tie the hands of local governments after preliminary plans are approved. Any changes made between a preliminary plan and a final plan – changes having to do with storm water, lot size, construction standards – would be unenforceable.Another effect would be to nullify the Tennessee Supreme Court-recognized "pending legislation doctrine." This doctrine basically prohibits the issuance of a permit that would be contrary to legislation that is actively moving through the local planning and legislative process.

HB3698 (Gotto) / SB3651 (Tracy)

This bill grants the broader nonconforming use protections enjoyed by billboards to on-premises signs. The protection would apply to both the sign face and the sign structure. Other structures would have to comply with the setbacks and height standards when rebuilt, but this would not apply to business signs. Billboards have height and bulk regulations under state law that do not apply to on-premises business signs. It is unclear what bulk and setback standards would actually apply to these protected on-premises signs. Business signs on protected nonconforming property could feasibly be built as high as is physically possible.

Please call your senators and legislators TODAY!

These bills are coming to a vote possibly this week.

(to find your senator and legislators contact information, visit: