More than an hour and 30 minutes into the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting, Sue Stuhl, Town’s Parks & Leisure Services director, took to the podium to talk about the McFee Park masterplan — but it was not without controversy.
“McFee Park is a 61-plus acre site,” she said, “with approximately 35 acres left for future development.”
The plan was last updated five years ago, she added.
With the site projected on the screen, she enumerated the proposed amenities: six tennis courts, four pickleball courts, hitting wall and restroom, destination playground geared for older children and young teens, dog park with large and small dog areas, amphitheater with restroom, storage and small meeting or prep room, wooded disc golf course with 18 holes and a small pavilion, large lawn area with two pavilions and restrooms, maintenance building, small pavilion and small lawn area near current splashpad, about 230 additional parking spaces, additional ADA walking trails, and additional natural walking trails plus a variety of picnic tables throughout the park.
“These elements have been very well-vetted,” she said, “and are the result of surveys, public hearings, workshops, and the Parks and Athletics Council has reviewed and approved this masterplan.”
The development of the park would need to occur in phases, she said.
“I wish I could snap my fingers and it would be done,” FMPC member Noah Myers said. “What a great asset for us and all of Knox County.”
“If we’re going to invest in an amphitheater,” Alderman Louise Povlin said, “I think it should be in our Town Center to bring people in. Hopefully, they come in early, park their car, go to dinner, go to whatever event you’re having at the amphitheater, then go back out to whatever nightlife we have going on. That’s the only concern I’ve ever had about McFee Park.”
Village Green resident Kelly Clancy went to the podium to speak.
“I came specifically for this item,” he said. “First, thank you all for your service. You do a fantastic job. The parks we have are absolutely wonderful, thanks to the people in the past who have developed those.
“At some point though, you need to go ahead and take care of the current infrastructure, specifically roads, also maintaining the parks we currently have,” he added. “You just stated it will take a pretty penny to maintain this.
“I’m not saying never do it. Now’s just not the time to do it. My analogy is that if the roof is leaking, you don’t put a swimming pool in the backyard. … Roads need to be the first item for our community. Ms. Povlin mentioned earlier developing Union Road … that would give us 155 new property owners which will help develop the community. And I’ve heard it’s going to be $4 to $5 million just for that. I’ve also heard the development of the park is going to be $12 to $15 million. I’m all for parks, but at some point, you need to get meat and potatoes before you have ice cream and cake.”
“Mr. Clancy, I think we have some of the best roads in the county,” Myers said. “I’m not saying there’s not room for improvement … Union Road, we’ve figured out a way to fund it concurrently with the project on this [McFee Park]. I agree with you — obviously if we had holes in the dam, or the roof’s leaking — but I quite frankly don’t think the roof’s leaking. If you’re observing things we’re missing in the Town about where would be best to spend our taxpayer dollars, your dollars, then I’d like to hear about it.”
“Number one, you don’t have to spend every dollar you have in the bank,” Clancy said. “Does that make sense?”
“Sure,” Myers said.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road,” Clancy said. “I live in Village Green subdivision and they did resurface some of our roads; and no, not all our roads are that great. We need to expand some roads. Look at Virtue Road. It’s a terribly dangerous road. It should be expanded.”
He said he attended an impact study where it was said Farragut needs $40 million for roads.
Myers said he was at the same meeting and that Clancy was right, it was a “significant” amount of money.
“We need to sack away some money,” Clancy said. “Hard times could be coming.”
“One of the things Sue hasn’t mentioned is the grants,” FMPC chair Rita Holladay said. “Sue and the engineering department both do an excellent job of getting grants for the Town of Farragut.”
“We will definitely keep moving ahead on that,” Stuhl said.
Stuhl also said since additions to McFee Park will be made in phases, by the time everything is done in 12 years changes will be made that can’t be anticipated now.
“One of the things the staff would like to see is some venue,” she said, “whether it’s the amphitheater or another thing, that we could rent for weddings. We’ve had a ton of requests for that, and we’re just not set up for that. It could be a nice little revenue source. … It does bring people into Town.”
Myers said rather than working on the next phase, he’d like for the Board of Mayor and Alderman to “get the road through the park … Get the hard part done. It would make visualizing a little easier.”
“There’s a lot of grading with this site,” Stuhl said. “It’s not going to be cheap.”
Myers said he’s happy about all the parking McFee Park would offer for events.
Holladay asked for a recommendation on the masterplan. FMPC members voted to approve.