Meyer suggests other funding to nix TDOT mandates
For nearly two hours last Thursday, April 18, a number of Farragut residents voiced opposition to proposed Union Road construction during Farragut Municipal Planning Commission’s regular monthly meeting.
The project, which will cover less than a mile of roadway, was on the agenda as a discussion of the preliminary road design, which has not yet been approved.
According to current design plans, the historically narrow roadway would be widened starting just west of Fox Run subdivision to include two 11-foot lanes with curbs and gutters on each side, along with an 8-foot grass strip and a 10-foot shared-use path allowing for pedestrians and bicyclists.
It would extend on the south side of Union Road in front of Saddle Ridge subdivision, cross over Union Road and run along the north side of Union to Everett Road.
Charlene Troutt, who has lived along Union Road for 44 years with her husband, Jack, said that in addition to her own property, 13 others and “hundreds of residents in Saddle Ridge” will be impacted by the project.
She said more discussion was needed, and asked that the Commission delay its vote on approving the project.
Troutt said she believed the proposed changes could contribute to speeding issues, among others, that have been prevalent on Everett Road, which intersects the east end of Union Road.
“We don’t need or want another Everett Road,” she said.
While referring to future Farragut citizens who would be moving in as the Ivey and Swan properties continue to be developed, Troutt added, “We have made our home here for years, and we are Town residents, too.
“We have rights and we should be considered. You represent us, too.”
Her remarks were applauded by the crowd, as were statements made by many of the Union Road-area residents who spoke.
Several questioned the specific parameters of the project, from the multi-use path to the grass strip, featuring tree plantings.
Jeff Kendall of Saddle Ridge wondered about the need for Union Road itself to “go from a 15-foot to a 50-foot footprint.”
“We would like to keep it rural,” Kendall added. “It is why we moved there.”
He acknowledged the importance of the Town moving forward, but also stressed the importance of the current residents’ perspectives.
“I hope that is not lost as you make upcoming decisions.”
Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, also an FMPC member, explained that prospective homeowners are looking for bike- and pedestrian-friendly trails, along with neighborhood connectivity, which is one of Farragut’s planning cornerstones.
Town officials have entertained upgrading Union Road since 2006, when it was first placed on the Capital Improvements Projects list, explained Town administrator David Smoak as he introduced the topic on the agenda.
The majority of the project’s $4.5 million cost will be funded by Tennessee Department of Transportation, with which Town officials have been working for some time to hammer out the agreement.
Because the Union Road project funding is primarily coming from TDOT, many of the project requirements to which residents objected are tied to TDOT regulations and specifications, Town officials explained.
“The reason we got funding is that it is a multi-modal project,” Povlin said.
“We were able to reduce the bike and pedestrian facilities — from the originally proposed 4-foot bike lanes, 8-foot trail on one side and 5-foot sidewalk on the other — to one 10-foot multi-use path.,” she added.
“The multi-use path going from 21 feet to 10 feet, and received a design exception to reduce the design speed limit from 40 to 30 (mph), which is unheard of for TDOT to agree to.”
Povlin also said she “fought like hell to get the design exception” that was granted.
“I just think we are moving too fast,” Fox Run resident Russ Buchanan said. “I appreciate the changes that have been made, but more work needs to be done.”
Several residents — including Alderman Scott Meyer, who also lives in Fox Run — then suggested other alternatives.
“I would argue we don’t have to be tied to the TDOT money,” he said. “We don’t have to be constrained in a way that impacts our lives.”
Later in the meeting, Meyer suggested “thinking outside the box” on what and how to fund Union Road improvements.
Charles Landon, also of Fox Run, agreed that looking at funding alternatives should be considered.
“I just think this is overkill. I think there can be exceptions and alternatives,” he said of the plans, recalling an unspecified project in which a developer offered to help pay for road widening.
“Maybe we could widen it 2 to 4 feet on each side, without doing all this other, and the developer could add a few hundred to the (cost of the) homes,” Landon added. “Let put ourselves in the position of, ‘What if this was our property?’ and do the right thing.”
No decision was made on the issue, but it is to be on the May agenda as a workshop item and a public hearing, which, according to Town officials, could also include a vote.