Decoding zoning in Chattanooga, TN

Raise your hand if you're guilty of ignoring these signs out of confusion. ✋ | Photo via Eric Myers 

Have you ever been walking down the street when a bright yellow sign caught your attention — then quickly lost it, because honestly, you have no clue what the letters + numbers on that sign mean?

Welcome to a new NOOGAtoday series where we work to decode zoning codes. In each segment, we’ll break down info on zoning + what those yellow signs mean.

But first, let’s start with a bit of zoning history…


  • In 1926, the US Supreme Court decision in Euclid v. Ambler established the constitutionality of local zoning ordinances. In this case, the village of Euclid adopted an ordinance that prohibited Ambler Realty Co. — which owned 68 acres of land in this village — from developing a part of the land as industrial.
  • Here in Chattanooga, “Euclidian” zoning was officially adopted on June 20, 1961.
  • Euclidian zoning “is characterized by the segregation of land uses into specified geographic districts and dimensional standards stipulating limitations on development activity within each type of district” (in other words, each piece of land has a single, specifically allowed use).
  • These regulations began as a means to keep homes and residential uses far from factories and other “undesirable” land uses.

Modern day

Through zoning, the city and county are divided into districts or zones that regulate building size, location, population density, and the way land is used in general.

Chattanooga still utilizes Euclidean zoning codes outside of downtown, in addition to Form-Based codes. FBC was created as an alternative to conventional coding + is often used by cities to promote growth “that is urban, mixed-use, walkable, neighborhood-friendly, and contributes to a high-quality public realm.” 

So, about that sign

  • Where | South Broad District, 2378 Chestnut St.
  • Who | Jefferson Holley (a local realtor) + RFM Development Co.
  • What | The developer plans to turn the site into a 7-story apartment complex
  • M1 | Within city limits, this refers to manufacturing-zoned land that is intended for a wide range of intensive manufacturing uses
  • UGC | Refers to Urban General Commercial-zoned land intended for commercial + mixed-use development 
  • UGC Deviation Height + Mass | Refers to a deviation from the standard UGC regulations — in this case, the developer wanted to build larger than UGC codes typically allow.
  • The result | Both the M1 to UGC + UGC Deviation rezoning proposals were approved, so now you know — South Broad will likely get a new development