It has been a major news week for NCA, with important meetings every day/evening. Apologies for so much content. We want you to know what we know. These are very important matters for our community.
Farragut Alderman and Mayor Vote Down Mayor’s Growth Plan Amendment!
Last night the Farragut Board of Aldermen and Mayor voted not to support County Mayor Glen Jacobs’ controversial proposed plan to amend the Knox County Growth Plan to allow development and greater density on protected remaining Knox County rural land.
Simply put, the Knox County Growth Plan legally controls where future growth can take place in our county – unlike the county’s General Plan, a vision statement that has little legal force or the sector plans which have been often ignored.
The Growth Plan is an irritant to developers who wish to push their projects into remaining rural areas and to the Mayor who is believed to be eyeing new developments for their revenue potential.
Developers have attacked the Growth Plan on the grounds that the county has failed to update it as required by law and therefore it should be set aside. However, the TN Attorney General has said that is not the case. Their lobbying efforts in Nashville have apparently not been fruitful. The Mayor, with strong encouragement from the development industry led by builder Scott Smith, sought to take out several important provisions of the plan.
Under state law the mayor was required to convene a stakeholder committee to revise the plan then submit changes for a vote to the three impacted county governing entities – Knox County, the City of Knoxville and the City of Farragut.
Mayor Jacobs has been criticized for filling the citizen representative seats on the mandated committee with development industry appointees and for not offering a clear understanding of its role and mandate to the committee.
The amendment narrowly received approval in the city and county but the Farragut aldermen and mayor, citing the impact of poor Knox County planning on traffic and school issues in Farragut declined the amendment. They cited as their reasons that they wish certain provisions to be retained, that density be limited and that no change becomes effective until the county General Plan is revised.
The Mayor has promised a General Plan revision as a remedy for weakening the Growth Plan. However, skeptics have feared that the gutting of important provisions of the Growth Plan before revising the General Plan would result in a wild, wild west of development activity and that later protections would come far too late while already lagging infrastructure would be overwhelmed at a catastrophic level in some areas. More than one alderman pointed this out and said they could not protect their constituents’ interest and support the amendment. Their distress was apparent.
Farragut Mayor, Ron Williams told the alderman he is a member of the Traffic Planning Organization’s executive committee and that new traffic projects such as Northshore Drive improvements are already backlogged all the way out to 2034. So no county promises of roadway improvements could possibly be fulfilled in a useful time frame to prevent major traffic problems for Farragut.
One Farragut alderman, reluctant to oppose the Mayor due to feared blowback on the small town’s budget and plans mentioned the potential for litigation or arbitration and the potential withholding of County cooperation. He commented that Farragut has worked very hard to have a positive relationship with the County, has achieved very positive momentum in their city and “now this; someone should be here from the County for us to discuss this.”
The Knox County Mayor now has two options 1) withdraw his amendment 2) re-craft his amendment and reconvene the committee.
Throughout the process, NCA and sister organizations Knox County Planning Planning Alliance and Hardin Valley Planning Advocates communicated our thoughts and stood by to offer education and clarification on the Growth Plan and its vital importance to the health of our county. Likewise, Commissioner John Schoonmaker helped guide the aldermen and Mayor through the complex matter.