One of the most interesting aspects of the adoption of the Tennessee Zoning Enabling Statutes, Tenn. Code Ann. §§13-7-101 (county zoning) and 13-7-201 (municipal zoning) is the differences between the Tennessee legislation and the so-called Standard State Zoning Enabling Act of 1924 (and revised in 1926) promulgated by a Blue Ribbon committee, under the supervision of the federal Department of Commerce. Interestingly, the Blue Ribbon committee included Ed Bassett and more importantly to Tennesseans, Alfred Bettman, who drafted the legislation which was to become the Tennessee Zoning Enabling Statutes.
Although Bettman felt that the Standard Act was reasonably well done, he had a number of significant concerns with its formulation. As a result, the Tennessee provisions are something of an amalgam of the Standard Act, the Bettman proposal, and some native Tennessee provisions tossed in for good measure.
I thought that I would discuss some of the differences over the next months in installments of my little writings here. I have copies of many of the original documents prepared by Alfred Bettman and much of the discussion will be based on those documents. Those are available, thanks to the archives at the University of Cincinnati, where there is extensive amount of material devoted to the Bettman family.
In addition, and of some significant interest, Bettman was involved in writing a book along with Ed Bassett published in 1935 and entitled Model Laws for Planning Cities, Counties, and States. The book was published by Harvard University Press. The format is broken basically into two parts: first, Ed Bassett discusses his thoughts and concerns regarding planning and zoning, followed by a group of legislative forms drafted by him which are suggested as model laws for states to adopt. The second part of the book is authored by Bettman, with a similar brief recitation of his thoughts and concerns, followed by the legislative forms authored by Bettman.
The Tennessee statutory provisions were based largely on Bettman’s model forms, although as I have mentioned above, several changes were made, sometimes to more closely correspond to the Standard Act, and sometimes to provide greater protection to property owners, particularly the agricultural exemption in the county legislation.
Hopefully, over the next several weeks, we can discuss these proposals and distinguish them from the final Tennessee versions.
I might finally add, that Bettman was hired to draft the Tennessee legislation, and the terms of the agreement included not only zoning legislation, but also planning and subdivision legislation as well. I’m not going to discuss the provisions dealing with planning or subdivisions, but will limit myself to what became the Tennessee Zoning Enabling Statutes, passed in 1935.