Erwin officials to revise 49-year-old thoroughfare plan

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 22, 2017 at 8:45 PM

ERWIN — It’s been nearly 50 years since the town of Erwin adopted its Major Thoroughfare Plan, a state-mandated map of of the town’s street designations that predates the construction of Interstate 26.

A revision of the map as well as an update of the Erwin zoning regulations could come as early as April.

The Erwin Planning Commission met Wednesday for a more that two-hour workshop that included a review of recommended updates to the 1968 thoroughfare plan and multiple revisions of the town’s 52-page zoning ordinance presented by a Cory Osborne, a municipal and transportation planner for the First Tennessee Development District.

Osborne asked commissioners to study the recommendations and bring their thoughts on their implementation or revision for discussion at their next regular meeting in March.

“Take it home. Look at it. Think about it. If there’s anything you want to change, we can do that,” Osborne said.

According to Osborne, implementing the changes will require public notice and a public hearing that could put the changes up for a vote as early as April.

As is, he said, the thoroughfare plan’s arterial and connector street designations that establish right of way widths key to development do not reach Erwin’s corporate limits and in several instances do not line up with existing traffic patterns.

“Traffic patterns have changed from 1968. The interstate is the major one,” he said. “Municipal boundaries have changed. Streets have changed. Needs for rights of way have changed. It needs to be updated.”

According to Osborne, none of the recommended street designation amendments — recommended in keeping with average daily traffic counts recorded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for 2015 — will increase existing right of way widths and in some cases will lower the widths.

Osborne said recommendations for revisions of the town zoning regulations are to better comply with state and federal guidelines and to do away with provisions that no longer make sense.

The recommendations include a deletion from the official title of the Planning Commission, which would change from the Erwin Regional Planning Commission to the Erwin Planning Commission.

Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said the removal of “regional” is the result of a 1965 state act that took away the regional planning commission designation in municipalities where no enforcement of zoning regulations is observed outside the municipality’s corporate limits over period of time. “The state took it,” Rosenoff said.

In response to Mayor Doris Hensley’s concern that the regional title and the authority to regulate zoning within a set distance of the town limits could be beneficial to planned growth, Osborne said there is a process for regaining the regional title that the commission can consider.

Other recommended zoning ordinance changes include an extension of the site plan expiration period from six months to an almost two-year period set by the state to be more development friendly, and numerous sign regulation amendments stemming from by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on neutral sign content.

In a discussion of revisions mandated by that Supreme Court that Osborne said are creating headaches in municipalities across the country, several commission members expressed concern about the impact on the placement of campaign, special event and other temporary signs.

Osborne said many municipalities are waiting for a court challenge before implementing the content neutral sign regulations and the town could follow that path as well.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.