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Regional Planning Commissions

Reference Number: MTAS-225
Reviewed Date: 09/27/2023

Single or Multi-County Regional Planning Commissions
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development may create and define the boundaries of planning regions. If a municipality elects to be included in a planning region, the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development shall appoint a regional planning commission of not fewer than five or more than 15 members from nominations by the chief elected officials of the county and the municipality. T.C.A. § 13-3-101

Members of the county and municipal legislative bodies may serve on the commission, but their number must be less than a majority. Such members serve during their respective elected terms, and other citizen members are appointed for staggered four-year terms. Commission members may be removed only for cause and only after a due process hearing. County and municipal governing bodies participating in this type of regional planning commission may establish the compensation for each member nominated by that local government. T.C.A. § 13-3-101.

Such a commission functions as a planning and advisory body for counties and cities within the region. A municipality’s legislative body may designate the regional planning commission to act as the municipal planning commission. A prime mission of the regional planning commission is to prepare and maintain a general regional plan. Any parts of such a plan adopted by a regional planning commission designated as a municipal planning commission have the same force and effect as a plan prepared by a municipal planning commission. T.C.A. § 13-3-301.

Municipal Regional Planning Commissions
At the request of a municipality, the Department of Economic and Community Development may establish a planning region composed of a municipality that has created a planning commission and a territory no more than five miles beyond the municipality, but no farther than the municipality’s urban growth boundary. It may designate the municipal planning commission a regional planning commission. At least one (1) member of a municipal planning commission composed of five (5) members, and two (2) members of a municipal planning commission composed of more than five (5) members but less than eleven (11) members must reside within the regional area outside of the municipal boundaries served by the regional planning commission; provided, that, if the regional area outside of the municipal boundaries is less than fifty percent (50%) of the entire regional area, then only one (1) member of the municipal planning commission shall be appointed from the regional area outside the municipal boundaries regardless of the number of members on the municipal planning commission, or, in the alternative, the municipal planning commission may be increased in size by the number of members who are appointed from the regional area outside the municipal boundaries. T.C.A. § 13-3-102.

Design Review Commissions
T.C.A. § 6-2-201(33), part of the general law mayor-aldermanic charter, allows municipalities incorporated under that charter to establish a design review commission. This commission would develop general guidelines for the exterior appearance of non-residential property, multi-family residential property, and entrances to non-residential developments. A property owner may appeal this commission’s decisions to the planning commission or, if there is not one, to the governing body.

T.C.A. § 6-54-133 provides similar authority for other municipalities to establish design review commissions, as well as an appeal process for property owners. Under this section, the municipal governing body may designate the planning commission as the design review commission. If the municipality creates a separate commission, the mayor appoints members from municipal residents and must try to include persons with architectural or engineering knowledge and persons with experience in non-residential building.