2017 City Council Candidate Survey

As we have seen over the last decade, an overwhelming majority of Knoxville residents support historic preservation and understand the value it can bring to our community. As these candidates are pursuing a position that is directly responsible for the governing of our city, the Board of Directors and membership of Knox Heritage are interested in your thoughts about historic preservation in Knoxville.

All responses will be shared with our members and posted on our website to provide information to city voters. Check back for more responses as the elections comes near.

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1st District

Rebecca Parr – No Response

Stephanie Welch

Are you a member of Knox Heritage or other historic preservation organization?

No. I have served on host committees for two Knox Heritage Summer Suppers.

Please describe any experiences or information you have about Knoxville’s Historic Overlay districts and National Register Districts.

I lived in an H1 District, Old North Knoxville, for five years. We bought our home in part due to our love of the character and culture of preservation in the neighborhood. Recently, I have followed the process to expand the H1 overlay in Parkridge, and support the compromise that addresses community concerns regarding design guidelines, while also addressing the need to preserve historic structures and the character of the neighborhood.

There are several National Register of Historic Places in District 1, including structures such as Candoro Art and Heritage Center and neighborhood districts such as Fort Sanders, Lindberg Forest and Island Home Park, the location of my current home. These National Register Districts do not have protection from alteration or demolition by privately funded projects, unless they are also under the H1 district overlay, and this is of concern. Property values have risen across District 1, increasing the risk of tear-downs for new buildings.

What specific events or actions have you supported or undertaken in the last 5 years to support historic preservation, downtown development, neighborhood revitalization or rural preservation?

Although my work in the last 5 years has not been in specific, direct support of historic preservation, over the course of my career I have engaged in work that supports these goals. For example, I facilitated a community meeting on behalf of the East Tennessee Community Design Center as part of the planning process for reuse of the Old Knoxville High School. I served for several years on the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council, and supported planning and assessment processes that identified the need to address preservation of agricultural land in Knox County. I served on Plan East Tennessee, facilitating regional meetings to engage stakeholders in the identification of priorities for the future of our region. I currently serve on the advisory committee for ReCode Knoxville, and will strive to ensure that the new zoning ordinance encourages thoughtful redevelopment while preserving the character of our existing neighborhoods.

Will you support increase of city funding of period appropriate infrastructure improvements in historic neighborhoods such as lighting, signage and sidewalks?

I understand the value of these public investments, which result in a return in property value increases, private investment and economic development, in addition to the social value of neighborhood character. City Council does not have the ability to vote on individual line items in the administration’s budget, and all budget-related votes must weigh multiple factors, including the overall fiscal context at the time of the vote. I will support funding for period-appropriate infrastructure improvements, given these constraints and context.

Will you support funding, laws, policy and appointments that encourage historic preservation?

I understand and support the role of these resources and tools to historic preservation. Any vote must take multiple factors into consideration, and will be dependent on the larger context at the time of the vote. In general, given these considerations, I will be supportive of funding, laws, policy and appointments that encourage historic preservation.

How do you propose to work with the University of Tennessee to protect and revitalize historic buildings and neighborhoods adjacent to the UTK campus?

The appointment of Chancellor Davenport is an opportunity, and she should be intentionally and directly engaged in conversation about the protection and revitalization of the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood. If I am elected to represent Knoxville’s First District (which includes Fort Sanders and a portion UT), I will be in a unique position to initiate, support and/or facilitate this connection.

How will you work with local community groups to maintain and preserve historic cemeteries, many of which are neglected or abandoned?

I am eager to learn more from Knox Heritage about the ways City Council can support the maintenance and preservation of historic cemeteries. I welcome opportunities to work with community groups on this issue.

Will you support increased funding for the City of Knoxville’s Demolition by Neglect Ordinance and the City of Knoxville’s Historic Preservation Fund in order to stabilize historic structures?

Through my work on the Better Building Board, I am familiar with these tools and their use and value to the preservation of historic structures. City Council is not able to vote on individual line items in the city’s budget, and any budget-related votes must take multiple factors – including the overall budget and fiscal context at the time – into consideration. Within these constraints and given these considerations, I will support increased funding for the Demolition by Neglect Ordinance and Historic Preservation Fund.

Please share other thoughts you have about the role of historic preservation in creating a vibrant and successful 21st century city.

I am very interested in engaging in the conversation about the role of historic preservation in housing affordability. Many believe that historic preservation contributes negatively to “gentrification.” I believe that preserving historic single-family homes can actually promote housing and income diversity in neighborhoods.

I would also ask for help from Knox Heritage. If elected to represent the First District, I would love to actively support efforts to stabilize and revitalize Historic Fort Sanders. I’m also concerned that property values have risen to the point that tear-downs are going to continue to expand beyond Fort Sanders and into other First District neighborhoods such as Island Home and Lindberg Forest. Historic preservation is not my area of expertise and I will seek advice and support in navigating these issues to preserve the character of these historic neighborhoods.

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2nd District 

Wayne Christensen – No Response

Andrew Roberto – No Response

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3rd District 

James Edward Corcoran – No Response

Seema Singh Perez – No Response

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4th District

Lauren Rider

Are you a member of Knox Heritage or any other historic preservation organization? If so, please list.

Yes, we’ve been a member of KH since 2005. Past member of National Trust. And, proud to have been the 2011 Knox Heritage Preservationist of the Year, in addition to a KH Mayor’s Preservation award and a Fantastic 15 award.

Please describe any experiences or information you have about Knoxville’s Historic Overlay (H1) Districts and National Register Districts.

As past president of Historic Old North Knoxville (ONK), I’m fairly familiar with our districts and neighborhoods with overlays in Knoxville. I’m most familiar with ONK’s H-1 overlay that was passed in 1992 after a door-to-door knocking campaign with support of property owners. The effort stopped tear-downs of the historic properties and helped create stability for the district. Many residents had lived there since birth and had seen the area in its early days through decreased popularity and a period of neglect. Many houses were demolished over the years and not replaced. The overlay stabilized and minimized future demolitions.

As past-President of ONK, I worked with neighbors (of all income levels) and prospective new neighbors on the COA process.

What specific events or actions have you supported or undertaken in the last 5 years which support historic preservation, downtown development, neighborhood revitalization and rural preservation? Please be specific.

I served 4 years as President of ONK, 2005-current as a Board member. I’ve worked with Historic Zoning staff, our board members and other neighborhoods on guidelines updates and recommendations. My family rehabbed a condemned property in ONK for our primary residence. I also formed two community-based LLC’s to save two condemned historic homes for demolition, putting those properties back on the tax rolls. I presented to neighborhood groups and at conferences this model for community-based intervention, which includes sweat-equity and cash shares.

I worked with neighbor’s, Congressman Duncan’s staff and Fannie Mae to retrieve and return 7 stolen mantels to a foreclosed historic house in ONK. Additionally, I chaired ONK’s Annual Holiday Home tour for 10 years, promoting preservation and our history in one of Knoxville’s earliest neighborhoods. I’ve assisted with KH fundraising, serving on many KH summer supper committees, including four event in 2017.

Will you support increase of city funding of period appropriate infrastructure improvements in historic neighborhoods such as lighting, signage and sidewalks.                                             I do support this as financially possible. ONK has been able to fundraise and apply for grants that fund lights and signage. I would support similar efforts to complement our historic neighborhoods. I support efforts to pursue grants as well. Examples are past efforts to pursue and use state grant funding for window preservation training.

Will you support funding, laws, policy and appointments that encourage historic preservation? Please list any specific initiatives you would propose.

Preserving our historic culture is a critical building block that makes Knoxville unique and attractive to new businesses, residents and visitors. The Mayor’s demolition by neglect ordinance has been key to stabilizing endangered structures since it was funded several years ago.

I support continued and increased funding as possible for program’s like the City’s Owner-Occupied Home Rehabilitation program. This program has enabled low-income owners to make repairs to at-risk houses. I’ve seen three long-time owners repair and stabilize properties through this program, enabling older, low-income residents to stay in their homes.

How do you propose to work with the University of Tennessee to protect and revitalize historic buildings and neighborhoods adjacent to the UTK campus?

It’s critical to negotiate a collaborative agreement between the Ft. Sanders neighborhood and UT. Past verbal discussions and agreements have been disputed and reasonably lend to fears of future encroachment and demolitions. Stabilization of the surrounding area adds character, preservation of history and variety to housing options. A master plan that respects the boundaries of the remaining neighborhood would be desirable, though all parties need to sign off and agree to it. Moving a structure is the last resort (far before demolition) and I would advocate for a reasonable planning period to negotiate moving structures when forced to that option.

How will you work with local community groups to maintain and preserve historic cemeteries in the city, many of which are neglected or abandoned?                                            Supporting advocates of these properties through the Office of Neighborhoods or the city’s Business Liaison is one possibility. As groups form, connecting them or helping through the process of setting up a new non-profit community group will enable them to develop and advocate for these properties. The city has offered workshops and FAQ/support for community groups to establish. We have many of these cemeteries scattered throughout the city and an inventory of them could be helpful as well. Cemeteries were our earliest parks and connecting them with walkways or greenways is one option to revive that original purpose and increase visitability. Connecting groups with volunteers to help with maintenance and revitalization is essential. One possibility – the many TN Promise students at Pellissippi State are actively looking for volunteer opportunities. That is a great source for community groups to recruit volunteers that can work on needed projects.

Will you support increased funding for the City of Knoxville’s Demolition by Neglect Ordinance and City of Knoxville’s Historic Preservation Fund in order to stabilize endangered historic structures?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As possible, I support and would advocate to the mayor for increasing these funds. In the past, we have lost buildings and endangered lives and other property through inability to stabilize properties like the Jackson Avenue Warehouses. After a 2nd fire, the city had the expense of demolition and clean-up of the unstable structures. Avoiding the too-far-gone condition is a benefit to both people and neighboring properties.

Please share any other thoughts you have about the role of historic preservation in creating a vibrant and successful 21st century city.

Through existing building inventory, we’ve created both a downtown and historic surrounding areas that serve both residents and visitors. Preservation has been an economic driver that has served us well. Key elements include our theatres on Gay street. It’s important moving forward that we don’t forget the buildings that we’ve lost.

Harry Tindell – No Response

Amelia Parker – No Response

I am not a member of Knox Heritage nor any historic preservation group. I became familiar with Knox Heritage when my lifelong best friend Ethiel Garlington worked there a few years ago. At the time, I was director of SOCM. We often had discussions about the tension between historic preservation and racial justice or environmental justice – two of my focuses. There is also symmetry among the topics when historic preservation challenges itself to have a broad focus that goes beyond items of economic benefit and includes those with purely cultural significance such as the preservation of cemeteries, etc. As someone who had a focus on cultural studies in college, I gravitate mostly towards activities that preserve culture and tell our history but I also recognize that I have so much still to learn. I believe Ethiel and I have been able to learn from each other throughout the years and be better people and advocates for our communities for it.

To be transparent, I believe the Historic Preservation Fund which has a 20 year commitment I believe has been a great resource for Knoxville. However, our priority must be to get everyone into housing first before we can commit further to supporting our neighbors efforts to accurately preserve their homes. We not only are experiencing a housing shortage but I would argue a homeless crisis. Too many families are sleeping on streets and in cars and winter is coming. We must, as a city, make that our top priority.

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6th District

Gwen McKenzie – No Response

Jennifer Montgomery

Are you a member of Knox Heritage or any other historic preservation organization? If so, please list.

I am a Sustainer of Knox Heritage, Inc. I have also provided a variety of presentations for the organization and supported a variety of other events. I have also provided on camera Local Lore presentations for WBIR about local history.

Please describe any experiences or information you have about Knoxville’s Historic Overlay (H1) Districts and National Register Districts.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology (Historic Archaeology) and Urban Studies (Preservation Policy) and a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. I have academic experience with the concept of H1 (Historic) overlays. I also have practical experience. I live in an H1 overlay in the Parkridge neighborhood. I am also the President of Parkridge Community Organization and have been very involved with the expansion of the current H1 overlay in that neighborhood. I support that expansion as a preservation and housing affordability tool.

What specific events or actions have you supported or undertaken in the last 5 years which support historic preservation, downtown development, neighborhood revitalization and rural preservation? Please be specific.

I am a real estate agent that has spent my 15 year career heavily focused on historic, downtown, and around downtown properties​. I own a real estate company that is located on the north end of downtown and currently renovating a building on the corner of E. Magnolia Avenue and Olive Street in East Knoxville. I live in a historic house. I regularly provide presentations on history, including events for Knox Heritage, Inc. and the Local Lore segment on WBIR. I am developing a travel blog about small towns and cites along a historic highway route. I am very involved with the effort to expand the Parkridge neighborhood H1 overlay. I am currently working toward a project in Chilhowee Park that incorporates local history, especially Cal Johnson’s horse race track. I am very aware and interested in the proximity of South and East Knoxville to land and natute as an important asset to development.

Will you support increase of city funding of period appropriate infrastructure improvements in historic neighborhoods such as lighting, signage and sidewalks.             
I think an important practical and achievable goal in and around downtown, especially in East Knoxville, is a better sense of place and way-finding. Historic signage and lighting for way-finding and to create a better sense of place is a priority for me. Sidewalk improvement, such an important asset in historic neighborhoods and districts, as well as other improvements on walkability are also an important priority for me.

Will you support funding, laws, policy and appointments that encourage historic preservation? Please list any specific initiatives you would propose.
I firmly support the idea that the history of a city is an important contributor to the unique quality of a city and should be preserved as the city develops, modernizes, and creates more history. What could be more unique than that history for richer tourism and better sense of place? Funding opportunities like the Mayor’s Historic Preservation Fund, policies like historic overlays, and organizations like Knox Heritage, Inc., create important opportunities for promotion of and participation in a city’s history. I am also aware and support the idea that interest in history can often be helpful with the resolution of the important problem of, often historic, blighted properties around the city.

How do you propose to work with the University of Tennessee to protect and revitalize historic buildings and neighborhoods adjacent to the UTK campus?
I am disappointed that the University of Tennessee has historically shown such disregard for history and historic neighborhoods, specifically the Fort Sanders neighborhood. One of the many reasons that I support Knox Heritage, Inc. is for their advocacy role in preservation, including the area in and around the University of Tennessee and the Fort Sanders neighborhood.

How will you work with local community groups to maintain and preserve historic cemeteries in the city, many of which are neglected or abandoned?         

I am especially interested in cemetaries and commend and support neighborhood groups that adopt these important landmarks and resources for family history. I recently supported and was highly impressed by the Knox Heritage, Inc. Summer Supper in the Old Gray Cemetary.

Will you support increased funding for the City of Knoxville’s Demolition by Neglect Ordinance and City of Knoxville’s Historic Preservation Fund in order to stabilize endangered historic structures?
To continue with my response to the fifth question, this important program and law are important priorities for me. My neighborhood, like other neighborhoods in East Knoxville and around the city, includes an unfortunate inventory of blighted properties that are vacant, an attractive nuisance, in unsafe condition, and often owned by individuals with a history of demolition by neglect of other properties. Some of these properties and other blighted properties could be returned to good use for the neighborhood and city with the Historic Preservation Fund.

Please share any other thoughts you have about the role of historic preservation in creating a vibrant and successful 21st century city.
Attracting new people and creating a unique place for which citizens can be proud and in which they long to stay is, as in other cities. an important framework for how to proceed as we develop our 21st century city. Our history is an obvious asset in the effort. The identification of our historic resources is an important first step that requires support. Organizations like East Tennessee History Center and Knox Heritage, Inc., and programs like Paper to Pixels and Summer Suppers, and a variety or other historically inclined organizations and programs have provided me with endless opportunities to discover history. Advocating for development incentives for historic properties, the Demolition by Neglect Ordinance, the Historic Preservation Fund, and other historically inclined policies, laws, and efforts are valuable endeavors, especially when and where economic development, revenue, can be realized through improved tourism and citizen satisfaction.