letters to the editor

Canton Hollow Road issues

On the 13th of July this year the [Knoxville-Knox County] MPC approved a change of zoning and increased density for three lots on Canton Hollow Road. The change of zoning from Agriculture to Planned Residential was less of a concern as it was not currently being used as a farm and many lots throughout the county are designated with that zoning designation despite the obvious. The change in density from LDR (low density residential) to MDR (medium density residential) represents a potential increase from 1-5 residential dwellings per acre to 1-12 residential dwellings per acre, and all the other regulatory nonsense that goes with it. The applicant was clear in his desire to bring low income housing and mobile homes to not only this property but the one he owns across the street. The MPC, despite paid county professional recommendations to the contrary and their own Sector Planning Document, paid for by our tax dollars, approved the application.

This occurred after the chairwoman had just admonished a resident for having been unaware of this sacred document and not having participated in its creation on a previous application. The chairwoman of the MPC displayed a great deal of personal preference for sidewalks during the 3-plus hours I spent at the MPC meeting, having mentioned it several dozen times. Another member became giddy with the idea of low-income housing in the area full of houses that currently cost in excess of a few hundred thousand and sidewalks because not everyone can afford a car. The idea of “tiny houses” (mini mobile homes) was met with glee. The Knox County Engineering department was on hand to lend their support by indicating that they are currently working on plans to bring walkable communities to the 5th District, specifically Canton Hollow Road. They made it known that the County would be conducting a hearing at [Farragut] High School the following week. As a result, I asked that the decision before the Planning Commission be delayed until such time the public could attend that hearing and get further details that the engineering department did not have available at that meeting. It was at that meeting that things started to get murky. It was not in fact a hearing as publically noticed; more an opportunity for the engineering firm to display aerial maps of the proposed project. Canton Hollow Road was determined by the County to be the No. 1 most dangerous road in Knox County (for 2015). Now we want to put pedestrians and bikes on it. There are basically 2 relevant documents that dictate the standard road width in Knox County. The Knox County Ordinance and the Knox County MPC Transportation Planning Organization Design Standard for Subdivisions both identify road widths greater than the proposed plan. Within the MPC document two standards exist, one for normal development and another within the “Hillside Ridgetop Protection area.” Portions of Canton Hollow fall within both. The proposed road improvements for Canton Hollow do not meet the minimum design standards in any of the three standards held in Knox County. It is clear that the effort is being driven by a desire to add bike and pedestrian traffic. The increased speed, narrow road and lack of buffer between the travel lane and people will actually create a greater hazard than currently exists. There are calming measures that could be employed beyond what has already been attempted at a far less expense. The estimated cost for the current plan is 6.7 million dollars of borrowed money. That does not include utilities and is unclear if it in fact includes sidewalks and bike paths. It does include the repositioning of two intersections. One of which by engineering standards would in fact become more dangerous. I encourage the local media to consider a real investigative review of this situation. I am available to assist you in getting started and happy to provide any background data that I have. I have communicated with the developer, the MPC, The County Commissioners, local residents and HOAs. Knox County Commission meets on the 28th of August to approve/disapprove the MPC decision regarding the change of zoning and density on Canton Hollow Road. [It starts at] 7 p.m. in the City-County Building. The video of the MPC meeting on July 13 is on the MPC website.

Randy Pace

West Knox County