‘Bedroom communities’ must evolve
In a previous life we purchased a home in a 1940’s “Bedroom Community” not too dissimilar in demographic from the Town of Farragut. For at least 30 years prior to our purchase, the city considered proposal after proposal to develop a Mixed-Use Town Center, a destination development at the major intersection to include residences, dining and shopping.
Proposal after proposal failed because of the NIMBY trinity: “traffic;” “crowded schools;” and “crime.” Over the 16 years we lived in that city, communities around us planned and built Town Centers while ours dragged feet over the trinity. The Town Center concept eventually gave way to “Planning Opportunity Areas (POA);” that is, parcels built out piecemeal and with little to no walkability between them. Fifty-four years since the Town Center idea was first pitched the city is a patchwork of POAs and largely a cut-through for others on their way to walkable Town Centers.
One POA in particular, the proposed development in 2007 of a 250-unit mixed-use luxury apartment complex, drew extensive criticism for the assumed “crowded schools” and “increased crime.” We soft-landed in our former city last summer after nearly a decade overseas; specifically, renting an apartment in that complex.
The “Student Ratio per Dwelling Unit” data for that complex ranges from 0.4 to 0.56, depending on the year; and contributes approximately 8 percent of the total pre-K to 12 student population in a desirable and certified IB school system.
Crime? The lot upon which the mixed-use apartment complex and adjacent trail was where the privileged brats from the city would go for underage drinking and drug purchases. The adjacent trail now free of the drug dealers provided me and our doggo (and many others) a space to enjoy walks.
Traffic? No need to get into the car unless we desired. We could walk to a grocer, and to the diversity of restaurants and shops that now surround the complex.
The CLUP is being discussed to death on social media; NextDoor; and even in my Concord Hills neighborhood. A flyer containing “information” was illegally stuffed into our post boxes; and two neighbors abused the resident directory with blast e-mails of their opinions. Much of the commentary is speculative and lacking evidence but is solid NIMBY trinity.
Some of the commentary is outright uncharitable. A resident in my own development remarked, “If you can’t afford to buy a home in Farragut, then you should live somewhere else.” That comment so begs the question, “What if one can afford to purchase a home in Farragut, but does not want to?” We moved into Farragut one year ago as empty nesters; quite simply, our priorities are no longer a large home with an expansive yard. A luxury apartment in a walkable environment with amenities would have been an ideal alternative.
Overseas we owned one vehicle and a Vespa. I would not dream of driving a Vespa along that soulless beast, Kingston Pike, out of fear for my life. Concord Road and Campbell Station are not much better, thanks to those drivers for whom the posted tempo is merely a suggestion. But to think about hopping on a Vespa or bicycle over to a Town Center makes me hopeful.
“Bedroom Communities” like those in Farragut must evolve lest they become irrelevant pass-throughs that ultimately lower property values. With many of us balancing reimagined office lives and school days; and new schema for accessing goods and services, a sense of community space is more important than ever.
If thoughtfully considered and data-driven, the Town of Farragut will succeed with this development and create a gathering place for our community.
Victoria Kwasiborski, Farragut