Saturday, July 23, 2016

The 1922 Memphis Zoning Code

I have been getting ready for a seminar which I am helping to present on August 1 here in Nashville, and while perusing some interesting zoning and land use topics on the Internet, I happened to bump across this interesting website which has a copy of the original 1922 Memphis Zoning Ordinance. Since Josh Whitehead, the Planning Director for the Office of Planning and Development in Memphis and Shelby County is interested in these historic documents, I'm sure he was involved in posting the copy of the ordinance.

The 1922 ordinance was the first one in the state of Tennessee. In addition, Memphis and Shelby County also had the first set of enabling statutes passed by the Tennessee General Assembly (Chapter 165 of the Tennessee Private Acts of 1921), well before the adoption of the public enabling legislation for zoning, which was adopted in 1935.  Tenn. Code Ann. § 13-7-101 et seq. It’s worth the trip over to take a look, as well as the other previously adopted versions of the zoning ordinances, including the 1955 Zoning Code and the 1981 version as well. In addition to the text, copies of the zoning maps are also available for review on the website.

While I'm at it, I should mention that Josh has a personal website which focuses on a number of different aspects of life in Memphis, but in particular often reviews properties which have an interesting zoning history. Just as an example, one of the earliest decisions involving variances in Tennessee, Reddoch v Smith, 214 Tenn. 213, 379 S.W. 2d 641 (1964) was an appeal from a decision of the Shelby County Board of Adjustment. Josh has a set of photos, not only of the property as it currently exists, but copies of the application to the zoning board, the staff recommendation, the minutes of the board granting the application, and the trial court opinion. If you have a minute, it's definitely worth a look. The web page is here.

I have to admit that Josh and I may be the only folks in Tennessee who actually have an interest in these bits of zoning memorabilia, but as Josh makes clear on his website, these early decisions often have a lasting impact on the future development of the property.

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