Land use

Zoning and planning permission

Which authorities regulate real estate zoning in your state and what is the extent of their powers?

Cities and counties (local municipalities) control zoning regulations. Local government bodies have broad discretionary power when making zoning decisions. Certain sensitive environmental parcels, such as wetlands, could also be subject to regulation by the applicable state environmental authorities. In general, these agencies and the individual municipality planning commissions exercise broad powers over what can be built or redeveloped.

What are the eligibility, procedural and documentary requirements to obtain planning permission?

The eligibility, procedural, and documentary requirements for obtaining planning permission will vary depending on the size of the project, its location, the applicable municipality, and whether a state government agency is involved. If planning permission requires a special exception, the local board of zoning appeals may make a decision, and the board may be required to hold a public hearing.

What is the appeal procedure for planning decisions?

Denials of building permits are typically appealed to a board of zoning appeals. County planning commission decisions are typically appealed to the county board of zoning appeals. The specific appellate procedure is dictated in the locality’s zoning ordinance.

What are the consequences of failure to comply with planning decisions or regulations?

Cities and counties can exercise their police powers and obtain injunctive relief against offending projects. Tennessee entities take zoning violations seriously.

Historical and cultural preservation

What state and local regimes govern the protection and development of historic and cultural buildings?

Historical review and preservation of designated resources involve overlapping spheres of influence at the national, state, and local levels. Cities maintain their own lists of designated historical resources, in addition to the Tennessee Register of Historic Places, and the National Register of Historic Places. Under Tennessee law, the legislative body of a county or municipality may establish special historic districts or zones and regulate the structures within those zones. Tennessee law determines whether property qualifies as a “historic district or zone” and specifies various criteria for assessing a property’s qualification such as whether the property is associated with an event or persons that made a significant contribution to local, Tennessee or national history, or if the property has yielded information important to prehistory. Properties can also be recognized owing to their distinctive characteristics representing a type, period, region or method of construction, the work of a master architect or builder, or even high artistry. In addition, properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places are considered part of a historic district or zone. Evaluating these characteristics will often require immense background research to understand and describe the biography of a property. Buildings, sites or districts receiving designation may trigger additional design review and other protections pursuant to local ordinances. Designated properties may also be eligible for property tax reductions.

State and local government expropriation

What laws and regulations govern the expropriation of property by state and local authorities?

In Tennessee, expropriation of property is called condemnation or eminent domain. The primary law governing eminent domain for internal improvements is the Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-16-101 et seq. Eminent domain by municipal and county governments is governed by the Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-17-101 et seq. Various other state agencies are explicitly given condemnation power by statute.

What is the required notice period for expropriation and how is compensation calculated?

Notice of the filing of a petition to institute condemnation proceedings must be given to each respondent at least 30 days prior to the taking of any additional steps in the case. Thirty days after the date of giving notice, if the right to take the property has not been challenged in an answer, the condemner may take possession of the property.

The Tennessee Constitution requires “(t)hat no man’s particular services shall be demanded, or property taken, or applied to public use, without the consent of his representatives, or without just compensation being made therefor.” Just compensation is determined by the “fair market value” of the property. Fair market value is defined as “[t]he price that a reasonable buyer would give if he were willing to, but did not have to, purchase and that a willing seller would take if he were willing to, but did not have to, sell.” Fair market value is determined as of the date of the taking. The amount of just compensation to which the property owner is entitled is a question for the jury or court, and the parties have the right to a trial by jury. Parties may use comparable sales or expert witnesses to establish value.