Planning » FAQs


Planning Commission & Board of Zoning Appeals Questions  (5 Questions)

1.  When does the PC and BZA meet on agenda items?

They meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 9:30 am in the G. Thomas Board Room of Greeneville Energy Authority.

2.  When is the deadline to submit agenda items for PC or BZA?

Deadline is on the 20th of each month and must be submitted by 5:00 pm.

3.  Who do I contact to request a variance?

Contact the Planning Department at (423) 787.6199. Forms are on-line for variance request under Planning > Forms.

4.  Do I need to be present at a Planning Commission meeting if my item is on the agenda?

It is advisable to be present, but not required. If you are absent, the Commission will proceed with the consideration of the item based on staff presentation. However, if any questions arise that you need to answer and you are absent, this may affect the Commission's decision at that meeting.

5.  Do I need to be present at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting if my item is on the agenda?

Yes! You will present your appeal to the Board before staff can make any in put. If you are absent, your request will be postponed for one month to the next meeting. If you are also absent at the next meeting, the item will be rejected and you will have to reapply to be considered.

Site Plans  (5 Questions)

1.  What kinds of projects need site plans?

Site plans are required for all projects except single and two-family residential constructions on individual lots that are not part of a Planned Unit Development

2.  Can preliminary and final site plans be approved in one planning commission meeting?

If a development requires separate preliminary and final site plans, then the two will be considered by the Planning Commission in two separate meetings. The following developments do not require preliminary site plans: redevelopment of existing structures in which access points to the development do not change; addition of at most ten parking spaces; new developments on less than 1acre lot with the determination of the city engineer that stormwater calculations are not required. In these three cases, the professional simply submits a concept plan for planning staff review and feedback at any time, and then prepares a final site plan for consideration by the planning commission in one meeting.

3.  Are stormwater calculations required if commercial or industrial development expansion will affect less than one acre?

If the existing development does not have existing stormwater detention facilities approved by the Town and the development expansion will be on a lot of at least 1 acre, then a complete set of stormwater calculations is required. Furthermore, if the development expansion will create additional impervious area in a parcel that has existing stormwater detention facilities and the expansion was not considered in the calculations in which the facilities were approved, then the engineer must show scientifically that existing stormwater detention facilities will be sufficient for the development expansion.

4.  Does a property owner, developer or professional designer have to be present at Planning Commission meeting for site plan consideration?

It is not required that someone be present; however, we strongly advise that a representative attend the meeting. The property owner or professional designer does not make presentations to the Planning Commission - the planning staff presents the item to the Commission and make a recommendation. Usually, staff answer most of the questions because they have studied the site plan and have worked with the professional designer in the review process. Nevertheless, if some question arises that staff cannot provide a precise answer, it is advisable that the developer or representative answers it. If none  is present and the needed response does not significantly affect the decision of the Commission, then staff often informs the Commission that staff will obtain the information and provide at the next Planning Commission meeting. If the response significantly affects the decision, then the Commission may approve on condition – the condition related to the needed response. These situations are very rare. Furthermore, questions – not some non-conforming element in the plan itself – hardly affect decisions at preliminary site plan consideration because there will be a final site plan consideration/approval before permits can be obtained. THUS, IN SUMMARY, IT IS NOT REQUIRED THAT A DEVELOPER, PROPERTY OWNER, OR PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER BE PRESENT AT PLANNING COMMISSION MEETINGS TO CONSIDER SITE PLANS. HOWEVER, ATTENDANCE IS STRONGLY ADVISED, ESPECIALLY AT FINAL SITE PLAN CONSIDERATION.

5.  Who presents site plans to the Planning Commission?

Planning staff review, prepare, and present site plans to the Planning Commission for the Commission's actions. However, if a developer or professional designer wishes to make a presentation, then planning stuff should be informed two weeks before planning commission meeting and the presented will have at most five (5) minutes to complete the presentation

Subdivision  (4 Questions)

1.  How do I record the boundary of an existing lot or tract of land?

The procedure to follow is called Administrative Plat Approval, and administrative plats must be approved and recorded in order for you to record the boundary of an existing lot or tract of land.

1. Have a survey prepared by a registered land surveyor
Your surveyor is responsible for preparing a survey that meets both your specifications and all requirements of the Subdivision Regulations. It must be in 18" x 24" format.

Ask your surveyor what administrative services that he or she provides (such as submitting the survey for review, obtaining certification signatures, preparing easement documents if necessary, and recording the survey). Some surveyors will include these tasks in their standard fee, while others will charge extra. You must determine whether you or your surveyor will be responsible for the necessary administrative tasks, and what the associated costs will be.

2. Submit the survey to the Planning Department for review
Submit four paper copies of the survey, one PDF copy, and a Subdivision Application to the City Planner. Pay the application fee at the Building Inspector's office. 

3. Corrections
The Planning Staff will contact the applicant on the application form with any comments and corrections that they identify. Your surveyor must make all needed corrections on the reproducible original copy of the survey.

4. Ownership and Survey Accuracy Certifications
After the surveyor makes all corrections, a PDF copy of the corrected or copy can be sent to the City Planner for a quick verification before print. This is optional. The surveyor should print six copies of the plat. After the owner(s) sign the certificate of ownership and the surveyor signs the certificate of accuracy, bring the six printed copies to the Planning Department. 

5.  Certifications
The Planning Staff will make a final review. If everything is okay, then you or the surveyor as the case may be can take the plats to the different departments for signatures.

6. Final certification
Bring all seven copies back to the Planning office for certification. Staff will inform the secretary of the Planning Commission to sign the plat as "Approved" for recording. When this approval is granted, staff will inform you to take the plat for recording. The Planning Department will keep one copy of the approved plat.

7. Record your survey
Take your plat to the Greene County Register of Deeds office for recording. They will charge you a fee, and record the plat.

8. Return City Planning copy
You can bring a recorded copy with the stamped page number and deed book number of the plat on it. This is optional but advisable. A recorded copy in the Planning Office can spare you a lot of time wasted on all kinds of verifications and issues that can arise in the future. The Planning Office will likewise store a soft copy of this recorded plat.

9. Keep final paper copy for your records
Keep the last paper copy for your records ­— you will need it to show where the plat is recorded, to obtain building permits, or for your attorney’s use in deed preparation.

2.  How do I divide one lot into two?

The procedure is the same as in question 1 above.

3.  How do I combine two lots into one?

This is also an administrative approval process. Therefore, the procedure is the same as in question 1 above.

4.  How do I adjust lot lines between two lots?

You simply need to follow the administrative plat approval process. Therefore, the procedure is the same as in question 1 above.


Zoning  (12 Questions)

1.  Can I request a change in the zone of my property?

Yes. Contact the planning staff at (423) 787.6199 to discuss the request. Submit a complete application file that consists of an application, a rezoning fee of $100.00, a copy of your deed for the property, and a site plan (concept or preliminary) of what you want to use the property for when the zone is changed.

2.  Can I purchase a property and change the zoning?

Yes, it is possible - not guaranteed. You will need to apply for rezoning of the property and follow the rezoning process.

3.  What does the Town consider in determining whether my property should be rezoned?

Planning Staff consider many factors in determining whether a property should be rezoned as requested, and most of the factors are a function of the existing zoning and the proposed zone. Some of the review points include:

- Provision of the Comprehensive Plan with respect to the request

- Requirement of the Land use plan. This is the key element: if a rezoning request is contrary to the land use plan of the area in which the property is located, it is almost certain that the request will not be granted. If the request, however, is in line with the land use plan of the area in which the property is located, then it is almost certain that the request will be granted.

- Consistency of request with the development trend of the area.

- Accommodation of proposed use in current or proposed district

- Appropriateness of current or proposed zoning relative to zoning pattern of area

- Compatibility of allowed uses in the proposed zone with environmental (physical, geological, hydrological, etc) features of the property

- Compatibility of potential uses in the proposed district with surrounding uses and zones

- Capacity of public utilities and services to serve permitted uses in the proposed zone district

- Capability of street system to safely and efficiently accommodate traffic flow with the proposed zone in place

- Apparent demand for type of uses permitted in the current district relative to the proposed district, and vice-versa

- Reasonableness of boundaries of the proposed district in relation to surroundings and on-site construction regulations

- Amending permitted or special land uses in current zone versus rezoning

- Unplanned spot zoning elimination

- Current applicability of reasons for previous denial, if the request had been made in the past

- Reasonableness and rational relationship of property to conditions submitted with the request

4.  What do I need to apply for rezoning?

Rezoning Application- In addition to the information contained on the application form you must submit a copy of the recorded deed of the property and a sketch or concept plan of what the property will be used for if it is rezoned. A recorded plat or any instrument clearly showing the exact acreage and boundaries of the property is also necessary. Furthermore, you need to pay an application fee of $100.00

5.  What is the deadline for submitting a rezoning application?

Applications received by the 20th of the month shall be heard at the next regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting. If the 20th falls on a non-working day, the deadline shall be the last working day preceding the 20th. 

6.  Who can apply for rezoning?

The owner(s) or an appointed representative shall submit an application to the Planning Department.

The appointed representative is a person authorized by the legal current property owner to represent the case as the applicant.  As part of the application, the representative shall submit a SIGNED document by the current property owner stating knowledge of the request and acknowledging that the applicant is representing the owner.

7.  Are surrounding property owners notified of my request for rezoning? 

We do not send special letters notifying surrounding property owners. However, staff will post a sign on the property visible to persons in the neighbordhood and indicating that the property is being considered for rezoning. Furthermore, the request will be published in Greeneville Sun - a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality - at a cost that the newspaper shall bill directly to the applicant. Lastly, all public utilities and the fire department are informed of your rezoning request.

8.  Who pays for the newspaper publication cost for rezoning request?

The applicant pays the publication cost directly to the newspaper. Staff will send a notice to the newspaper, and the newspaper will contact the applicant directly. The publication cost is not included in the application fee.

9.  What happens at the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission meeting?

  • Staff will present the request to the Planning Commission
  • All applicants will be given a public hearing.
  • The applicant and interested citizens will be given an opportunity to express their feelings on the proposed change.
  • Following the public hearing on each case, the Planning Commission will act on each application.
  • The Planning Commission may recommend either approval, approval with conditions, denial or deferral of an application.


10.  Will my application be considered if I do not pay the newspaper publication cost?

No! The public must be informed through that one-time publication at least fifteen (15) days before the Planning Commission can consider the application

11.  What will happen to my rezoning request after the Planning Commission makes its decision?

  • A resolution of the Planning Commission’s action will be sent to the City Council.
  • The applicant will receive a letter informing him of the Planning Commission’s action and what, if anything should be done to get the application heard by the City Council.
  • Where applicable, a legal notice will be published in the newspaper  (As required by Tennessee State Law.) 
  • A complete rezoning procedure can be seen here.

12.  What happens at the City Council meeting?

  • Applications are given another public hearing.  The applicant and interested citizens will be given an opportunity to express their feelings on the proposed change.
  • The legislative body will act on the application and the decision rendered is final.  In some instances, the Council might postpone action until a later date - however, this is very rare.
  • If an application is heard by the Planning Commission and denied by the Board, that application can be eligible for another rezoning request only under terms as outlined in the zoning ordinance.

Variance and Special Exceptions  (6 Questions)

1.  When do I need a special exception or conditional use instead of a variance?

To apply for a special exception, the reason and merit of your request must be explicitly stated in the zoning ordinance or any other applicable ordinance or regulation of the Town. That is, the ordinance must state that if you meet conditions prescribed in that ordinance, then you should be given the special exception that you are requesting. For a variance, that explicit provision is absent

2.  When do I need a variance?

You need a variance when a construction development cannot strictly adhere to the requirements of the zoning ordinance including but not limited to setback requirements

3.  Which body considers special exception?

Only the Board of Zoning Appeals can grant a special exception. Even if your request is based on a special exception clearly stated in the ordinance, the building official cannot issue a building permit to you until the Board of Zoning Appeals grants the special exception

4.  Which body considers a variance request

A variance request is considered only by the Board of Zoning Appeals

5.  Can I get a variance?

  • To be granted a variance, three standards must be established. These standards are established by state law and are as follows: (1) There must be an extraordinary or exceptional situation or condition pertaining strictly to the property considered (generally due to narrowness, shallowness, unusual shape or some exceptional topographic condition); (2) Strict application of the Ordinance would result in practical difficulties to, or undue hardship upon, the owner of the property; and (3) The relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and without substantially impairing the intent and purpose of the Zoning Ordinance If these standards are established, the Board of Zoning Appeals may grant the variance request.

6.  When can my property get a special exception

A special exception, also called conditional use, can be granted when a property is a lot of record as in cases when the lot is smaller than the required size. To be a lot of record, the lot must have been subdivided, the subdivision plat must have been approved by the Planning Commission, and the plat must have been recorded at the register of deeds office.

Floodplain  (16 Questions)

1.  Who in Town Hall can I contact for FEMA Floodplain issues related to my property?

The Town's Planning Director is the FEMA Floodplain Manager staff point of contact for Floodplain issues in Town. He can be reached at (423) 639-7105 Ext. 6503 or [email protected]

2.  How do I obtain or review the flood map for my area?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as part of its administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), publishes flood hazard maps, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs. The purpose of a FIRM is to show the areas in a community that are subject to flooding and the risk associated with these flood hazards. You can research and view FIRMs for free at the FEMA Map Service Center. You can also create a customized FIRMette: a paper copy of a user-defined portion of an effective FIRM, produced and saved on your computer. The FIRMette is true to scale and includes title block, scale, and north arrow. It can be used to help determine the location of a property or structure relative to the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

3.  I have looked at the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for the area of my property and think the map is wrong. How can the map be changed?

A Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) changes flood insurance risk zones, floodplain and/or floodway boundary delineations, planimetric features, and/or Base Flood Elevations (BFE) shown on a FIRM. Homeowners, community officials, and others who have adequate scientific and/or technical data may submit those data to FEMA to support a request for a Letter of Map Revision to revise the flood hazard information shown on the effective FIRM. Individuals, who would like changes to non-technical information, such as road names, road configurations, and corporate limits, should submit the required information to support a map change request to FEMA. Please contact our Town's FEMA Floodplain Manager at (423) 639-7105 Ext. 6503 or write to [email protected] for advice and assistance.

4.  What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

The SFHA is also known as the 100-year floodplain. It is more precisely defined as the floodplain associated with a flood that has a 1% annual chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. Therefore, the SFHA is not a flood event that happens once in a hundred years, rather a flood event that has a one percent chance of occurring every year.

5.  Is the Town responsible for my home builder or my neighbor's home builder altering the drainage paths in my subdivision.

No, the subdivision was built and checked according to a grading and drainage (G&D) plan designed and certified by the developer's engineer. This plan takes into account all flow onto and off the property as well as flow to street drains and inlets inside the development. Unfortunately, after a subdivision has been checked and accepted, the individual builders and/or subsequent property owners may take it upon themselves to make changes. If this happens, the builder must be contacted or the homeowner must make corrections themselves. The Town cannot work within private property unless the work is within a recorded drainage easement.

6.  My lender says I need to buy flood insurance, but my lot is not shown in the SFHA.

For virtually every mortgage transaction involving a structure in the United States, a lender reviews the currently effective FIRM for the community in which the property is located to determine its location relative to the SFHA. In some cases, a lender incorrectly determines that a property is in a SFHA. If you would like FEMA to make an official determination regarding the location of your property relative to the SFHA, you may apply for a Letter of Determination Review (LODR). The LODR process does not consider the elevation of the structure or property. Rather, it considers only the horizontal location of the structure relative to the SFHA shown on the FIRM. FEMA reviews this information and issues its finding of whether the structure is located in the SFHA according to the currently effective FIRM. While this determination cannot consider the elevation of your structure or property, it can be useful if you feel the lender's interpretation of the FIRM is incorrect. Please contact the Town's FEMA Floodplain Manager at (423) 639-7105 Ext.6503 or write to [email protected] for advice and assistance.

7.  If my house is within the SFHA, but it was built at an elevation above the required Base Flood Elevation (BFE), what can I do?

Depending on the specific circumstances, you may apply for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA), or a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F). The application forms for LOMAs and LOMR-Fs can be found on the FEMA Forms webpage and provide comprehensive, step-by-step instructions for requesters to follow ensuring that your submittal is complete and logically structured. Upon receiving a completed application, FEMA reviews property-specific information including surveyed elevation data (typically the elevation of the lowest adjacent grade of the structure in question) and makes a final flood zone determination for the property. The homeowner may be required to hire a licensed land surveyor to perform this elevation survey if this data is not readily available. If the LOMA or LOMR-F removes the SFHA designation from the property, it can then be presented to the lender as proof that there is no federal flood insurance requirement for the property. Please contact the Town's FEMA Floodplain Manager at (423) 639-7105 Ext.6503 or write to [email protected] for advice and assistance.

8.  Does my homeowner's insurance policy cover flooding?

Homeowners insurance usually does not cover flood damage. Many property owners discover too late that their homeowners insurance policy will not pay when their homes are damaged by common geological processes such as earthquakes, expansive soils, floods, hurricanes, or landslides. Most homeowners have the impression that their "all perils" insurance policy would pay for almost any type of damage that their home would experience, so it is important to read the exclusions statement on the policy or ask their insurance agent.

9.  Can I get flood insurance even if I am not in a floodplain?

Yes, you can! The purchase of a flood insurance policy is wise even if a structure is located outside the SFHA. More than 25% of flood claims are made by property owners located outside the floodplain. The issuance of a LOMA or LOMR-F does not mean the structure or lot is safe from all flooding; it means that the risk of flooding is not as high as it is in the SFHA. Events greater than the 1% annual chance event can and do occur. It is also important to note that the flood insurance premium rate for structures located outside the floodplain are lower than the premiums for structures located in the floodplain.

10.  How do I obtain a copy of the Elevation Certificate for my property?

The Elevation Certificate is one way for a community to comply with the National Flood Insurance Program requirement that the community obtain the elevation of the lowest floor (including basement) of all new and substantially improved structures and maintain a record of such information. The Elevation Certificate also is required to properly rate structures constructed after publication of the Flood Insurance Rate Map for flood insurance premiums.

Elevation Certificates must be prepared and certified by a registered professional engineer, licensed land surveyor, or registered landscape architect who is authorized by state or local law to certify elevation information. The Twon's assigned FEMA Floodplain Manager who is authorized to provide floodplain management information may also sign the certificate at his/her discretion.

Diagram indicating the location of a floodplain along a river.

11. What is a floodplain...and what should a person know about buying property within it?"


The floodplain is considered to be the land adjoining lakes, creeks and rivers that is covered by the "100-year" or "regional" flood. This flood is considered to be a flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.


Using sophisticated engineering and meteorological techniques, it is possible to estimate to an acceptable degree of accuracy the magnitude of such a flood along those water bodies where long-term flood records have been kept. Various government agencies conduct these studies, and as they become available, local communities adopt this technical data in their floodplain zoning ordinances.


The natural floodplain is an important part of our water system. It affects storm runoff, water quality, vegetative diversity, wildlife habitat, and aesthetic qualities of our rivers and lakes. Any alteration of the floodplain should be carefully evaluated. A persons intended use should be appropriate to the site selected. The following information about floodplains and local zoning codes deals with restrictions on developing in or near floodplains. However, remember that the least amount of alteration to the natural system is usually the most ecologically sound development decision.


If a person is buying or already owns property on a river shoreline in a community that has adopted floodplain zoning, they should consider the following points: floodway location, flood fringe location, flood protection elevation, flood proofing, and flood insurance.


Diagram indicating the location of a floodplain along a river.

12.  What is the flood protection elevation?

The flood protection elevation refers to an elevation 1 foot above the 100-year flood plus any stage increase due to the designation of flood fringe areas. The elevation of the lowest floor of a dwelling must be at or above the flood protection elevation. In most cases, the top of the access road elevations will also be within 2 feet of the flood protection elevation.

13.  What is Flood Insurance?

Flood insurance is an important consideration when buying floodplain property. A person should be aware of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides flood insurance coverage for structures and their contents, in communities participating in the NFIP. Under this program, federally insured or regulated institutions must require flood insurance policies on all new loans for structures in mapped 100 year floodplain areas recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A person can find out if a piece of property is located in the floodplain by checking with the FEMA Floodplain Manager (ask for the "Flood Insurance Rate Map" or the "Flood Hazard Boundary Map" furnished by FEMA). If a person is considering the purchase or development of floodplain property, their insurance agent can provide information on the cost and availability of flood insurance. Flood insurance is available for structures in our community because Greeneville participates in the NFIP. The structure does not have to be located in the mapped floodplain in order to obtain insurance.

14.  Does the Town of Greeneville participate in the National Flood Insurance Program?


15.  Where can I buy Flood Insurance?

Flood Insurance can be written by any licensed property and casualty insurance agent

16.  How much does Flood Insurance cost?

Flood insurance premiums are rated on various factors including: location of the building within the floodplain; the building's lowest floor elevation (including basement) relative to the 100 year or Base Flood Elevation(BFE) and policy value. The average premium nationwide for a homeowners policy is approximately $300.00. The premium is more expensive for structures located in the 100-year floodplain that pre-date the Town's floodplain ordinance and are not properly elevated or protected against flood damage.