Ordinance allowing apartments in Town Center gets nod
Following more than two hours of discussion — which included reading 50 overwhelmingly negative and mostly off-topic e-mails into the record — Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved on first reading a new ordinance allowing High-Density Residential (apartments) as part of a physical Mixed Use Town Center development.
Currently, there are several areas designated Mixed Use Town Center where apartments could be located under current Town ordinances — including alongside Park Place, Glen Abbey, Village Green and West End Center, as well as along Brooklawn Street, which is the location currently pinpointed for The Farragut Town Center at Biddle Farms development.
Developer Budd Cullom has received conditional approval from Farragut Municipal Planning Commission for his concept plan of the Biddle property, which formerly housed Kroger.
Plans are still being developed, but early renderings have shown a main street entrance across from Farragut High School, an Aldi’s, several commercial buildings, a great lawn, sidewalks and plans for high-density apartments behind the development itself. No site plan has been approved, and Cullom currently is overseeing several studies regarding the property and traffic before moving forward.
The ordinance would amend the text of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan as it relates to Mixed-Use Town Center land use descriptions.
“This is designed to afford residents more protections from high density residential,” explained Town Community Development director Mark Shipley. “A number of areas could be proposed and be consistent with text of the plan, but we are wanting to focus it in an area where there are no existing residential areas.”
While the ordinance only dealt with changing the wording, the 50 e-mails sent to BOMA primarily complained about the proposed Biddle Town Center development itself, with most taking issue with the possibility of 280 apartments, citing overcrowded schools and a potential for crime and increased traffic, among their reasons.
Jim Froula of Concord Hills stated, “I do not want the ‘Town Center’ if it includes a 280-unit apartment complex that will be four stories high. The additional traffic this would cause in the middle of the most congested intersections of our area would be a major negative impact. All I ask is for our elected representatives to seek significant community feedback, honestly and without bias, instead of telling us what they want/need.”
Five letters did not oppose the development, but praised officials and the developer for the plans discussed thus far.
“The Farragut CLUP is being discussed to death on social media; the NextDoor site; and even in my own Concord Hills neighborhood, with a flyer containing ‘information’ illegally stuffed into our post boxes,” Victoria Kwasiborski stated. “Much of the commentary, unfortunately, is speculative and factually untrue.
“If thoughtfully considered and data-driven, the Town of Farragut will succeed with this development and create a gathering place for our community,” she added.
Povlin, Burnette, Williams
After the e-mails were read, Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, who took the opportunity to present a brief primer on the CLUP, said, “There seems to be a lot of confusion about this agenda item and the text amendments we are discussing tonight.
“So before I begin my discussion … I want to make this clear: tonight’s discussion concerns the Comprehensive Land Use Plan; a high-level, visionary document developed with extensive public input in 2012,” she added.
“This discussion is not about 280 apartments, building heights, traffic, sinkholes, flood zones, stormwater management; student populations or building codes; those specific concerns are about a specific project that has only been conditionally approved by the Planning Commission.
“The developer has a lot to work out before he can apply for rezoning; many of the issues listed above can be discussed during that time or during site plan review approval.”
Further clarifying the situation, “The text amendments we are discussing tonight are intended to protect the residential neighborhoods, which directly abut land designated for the Mixed Use Town Center on our Land Use Development Plan,” Povlin said.
“This is not about the Biddle Farm, it’s about protecting existing neighborhoods,” she added.
“We have heard a lot of things (tonight), but we didn’t have a lot of input on the Land Use Plan itself.”
“I only see benefit from this protecting residents of Glen Abby and Park Place,” Alderman Drew Burnette said. “There are no negatives whatsoever.”
Town Mayor Ron Williams said, “First off, to all my Farragut neighbors, I’ve heard you opinions and now I have a request — instead of depending on fear and false narratives, which seems to be the goal of a few on social media, please take the same amount to time that you spend for tonight’s meeting to e-mail me your questions.
“I spent this past week (replying) to as many request as I could possibly get out, and will continue to do so,” he added.
After making a motion to re-insert “Mixed Use under Town Center Development” within the ordinance, the motion unanimously was approved.
It must be voted on and approved a second time to be official.