With undeveloped land shrinking, Town to update CLUP

Town of Farragut leaders are looking to better make use of increasingly scarce undeveloped land in an affordable way, while providing better ways to interconnect Town businesses, subdivisions and pedestrian foot and bike travel.

The goal is to update the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, last updated in 2012 after having been formed in 2001. A committee including three members of Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Farragut Municipal Planning Commissioners plus Mark Shipley, Community Development director, had its first meeting on the subject Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 12, in Town Hall community room.

“We don’t have much land left to develop in Town,” said David Smoak, Town administrator who is not on the committee. “I think it’s important we get it right, whatever that may be. That’s why we have the Future Lands Plan in place, Future Lands Map particularly, so if we want to go make adjustments, make changes to that.”

In regard to developing a so-called downtown Farragut “as something unique to our community,” Smoak said, “I think what I’ve found trying to find people who want to develop something like that, that there may be somewhat of a separation between what is our vision and what’s financeable, what they can actually do.

“It may be worthwhile to determine what we think mixed use [zones] should look like,” he added. “Should we go vertical, should we do more horizontal?”

“It takes a long time, we have to be really patient,” Shipley said. “We all kind of want it to happen tomorrow. … It’s figuring out what would be workable. … A prioritization of what we need to be doing in terms of land use to make this community something that is very unique and separates us from other areas around up.”

He pointed to the Town “architectural design standards” in helping make that separation, using the Dollar General Store under construction along Kingston Pike near the intersection with Old Stage Road as one example. “I think that is one of the best things that we’ve done as a community is to get those [standards] in place.

“It requires more masonry, more brick and stone. More traditional timeless-looking buildings that are more adaptable to changes in the future,” Shipley added after the meeting.

“A good example of what’s not connected is to go to the most recent stuff that’s been built in Lenoir City,” Alderman Ron Williams, committee member, said about that city’s commercial property after the meeting. “You go into one lot, but to get to an adjacent lot you have to get right back out on the road.”

Williams also pointed out Oak Ridge. “They’ve got that new strip center there, and you’ve got Aldi’s, and there’s a wall inbetween,” he said about the lack of lateral connection between the two.

“Lenoir City and Oak Ridge, they’re not connecting as they grow,” Williams added.

Another goal is to connect Town subdivisions without having to use the main road.

That’s unlike motorists wishing to visit adjacent subdivisions along Grigsby Chapel Road, Shipley said, “where they have to come out on Grigsby Chapel Road. They don’t have enough lateral opportunities,” therefore putting more traffic on Grigsby Chapel.

Shipley and other committee members said feedback from a questionnaire survey, in which residents responded with their views on land use, came back strongly in favor of expanding and connecting greenways and walking trails.

With these falling under the category of “rights-of-ways,” Shipley said, “Our most valuable public asset is our rights-of-ways, in my opinion. What we do with those rights-of-ways I think is very critical.”

Overall, “I don’t want to get bogged down at looking at too many things at once,” he added.

About formulating the new CLUP, “It’s going to take some time … I think several months,” Shipley said. “… This is a tough thing to tackle.”

“We need to be looking at these parcels and we need to be more purposeful about what we’d like to see and hold onto a vision,” Alderman Louise Povlin, a committee member, said.

Drew Carson, committee and FMPC member, said one key is “keeping the Town feel that we have now, but be sure to plan for the future in how we use our land.”

Povlin cited a problem concerning new development. “I feel like when new development comes in, we change our plan pretty easily,” she said. “We don’t take a birdseye view of what it is we are doing. My example would be Swan Farm [off Union Road].”

Shipley cited “aging shopping centers” the Town may have to deal with, adding “large big-box retail buildings are going to have to be repurposed. They are not the future.

“We’re going to have to figure out how we do that,” he added. “The [CLUP] really needs to be our guide. Maybe we consider mixed-used?

“… It’s very different than it was 10 years ago.”