Advance Knox is advancing – with you or by going around you!
The dual foghorns of Knox County’s development industry, the propagandists, oh sorry, we meant PR writers, of the Chamber of Commerce and The Board of Realtors are honking away loudly lately. Why? Looks like they want to be able to say they have your approval of the outcome of Advance Knox.
Advance Knox? AK is allegedly, the visioning process that will codify what we Knox Countians want for our community in the coming decade. In the view of some close observers it is the County Mayor and development cabal’s million dollar planned end-run around Knox County’s zoning regulations, and they will prevail – unless citizens step in.
Here’s your choice. Be there (in person or online) and speak up or let the Mayor and team say what you want. Public sessions around the county begin next week. They are:
Sunday, Oct.2 at New Hopewell Elementary School, 2-4 p.m.; Monday, Oct. 3 at Gresham Middle School, 5:30-7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Cedar Bluff Middle School, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
A virtual session will be held at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
The Advance Knox process was forced on the County when it’s leaders systematically neglected and ignored the prior plan – The Knox County Growth Plan, until finally, community groups raised it from the dead and said hey, wait a minute. What about this master zoning plan? Didn’t we citizens clearly say, codified, in writing, with state approval that we wanted planned, controlled growth, not rampant profiteering and runaway bulldozers paving over of the entire County? Then there was a scrimmage.
The Mayor’s team lost that round and were left having to fight out every rezoning, parcel by parcel with public input before the Planning and County Commissions – the way the law intended. They don’t like that. Their top industry spokesperson, developer Scott Davis, complains again and again that it raises development costs and slows things down (translation: doing things properly cuts into profits).
If you can’t win playing by the rules, change the rules? The Mayor and team continually push to advance their plan by working to change how things work, jiggering the meaning of the law, the structure and composition of boards and staffs, who controls what. But we’ll get to that later.
You may recall that the Mayor’s previous major assault on zoning/The Growth Plan unexpectedly went down in flames when the Town of Farragut declined to sign on to the Mayor’s plan to chuck it. Now the Mayor and team intend to see that you and your neighbors sign off on their vision, or they can say you did, and that’s what matters. The State demands a publicly approved process. So either we show up and speak out loudly or give the insiders what they want.
How does the Mayor plan to get what he wants from you? By laying out for you in dreamy, aspirational detail how denser development and the paving of green spaces will improve your quality of life – and getting you to unwittingly sign off on his vision.
This is being orchestrated via a million dollar consultancy contract. The earlier Advance Knox public input sessions were embarrassingly poorly attended and they certainly did not give the Mayor the mandate he seeks to claim. The recent PR onslaught is designed to correct that – by driving people to the public sessions – but, judging from their PR placements, only the right people – realtors, developers and their kith and kin along with young professionals who presumably want to see a more urban, dense, entertainment and nightlife oriented Knox County.
The insider-preferred vision touts more Northshore Town Center type development (never mind the sordid multiple failures along the way that left a stalled, blighted parcel for years as multiple developers failed to fulfill the vision presented and stranded the early purchasers in homes they struggled to re-sell). In the Chamber’s PR piece, community groups that question carte blanche development, those who have organized to preserve existing zoning (their property rights?), are criticized as only focusing on preserving farmland and green space. Those of us on the front row of many of those zoning disputes beg to differ! Overwhelmingly, the greatest concern has been for transparent advance planning and fair cost sharing of the impact of development on roads, sidewalks, schools, utilities and fire and police.
You can attend the Advance Knox actual meetings or weigh in online at https://advanceknox.org/schedule.