Despite a plea from Farragut businessman Doug Horne and two Farragut residents who continue alleging “illegal” and improper procedure by Town officials, the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously passed Ordinance 20-20 on second reading Oct 22.
The ordinance amends the text of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update as it relates to the Mixed-Use Town Center land use descriptions and will now only allow high density residential (apartments) to be located on a parcel of land across from Farragut High School, known as the Biddle Farm, and currently under option by developer Budd Cullom, who has an approved concept plan for a Town Center development.
In previous meetings and statements, officials explained the changes would protect existing neighborhoods from abutting high-density residential development. Previously, high density residential could have been located in as many as five Farragut MUTC designated locations including on property owned by former Farragut Mayor Eddy Ford and his wife Linda, along Kingston Pike. In asking BOMA not to approve the ordinance, Horne said he had the Ford property under contract and intends to build his own Town Center (see separate story starting on page 1A), which will feature a high density residential component.
In voting for the Ordinance, Alderman Scott Meyer said, “My decision on this vote is not based on any plan by a developer. I have not seen Mr Horne’s plan. I am vaguely familiar with other plan, but the basis of my vote is the CLUP itself and the strategies included in it.”
Town administrator David Smoak read a statement from Alderman Drew Burnette, who was unable to attend, due to attending his son’s middle school football playoff game.
“This (Ordinance) will limit the HDR impact to this area, and require it be part of a MUTC development,” Burnette’s statement read. “It protects our current residential areas, and puts limits on future HDR in MUTC areas.”
However, others in the community against approval via citizen’s comment e-mails were about a dozen residents who primarily opposed high density residential construction in general, seemingly unaware the structures were already allowed on the Biddle Farm and the other MUTC designations.
Farragut residents Michael Wilson and Mike Mitchell both alleged the Ordinance changes were “major” and should have had “significant public outreach.”
Wilson asked that, “the Board table this item until such time as the appropriate significant public outreach has been completed and incorporated into the amendments.”
“The Farragut Planning Commission ignored Farragut law,” Mitchell stated in his e-mail. He also later accused officials of “Violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Town Attorney Tom Hale responded to the allegations yet again, for the third consecutive BOMA meeting.
“I guess the third time’s the charm,” Hale said. “I have spoken at last the two meetings, about suggestions by citizens who have made a point of suggesting that somehow the process used by the town in dealing with this comprehensive land use plan amendment was illegal, unlawful or somehow inappropriate. I have reviewed the circumstances [and believe it has been] I think we completely handled this in the appropriate way — and feel no differently about it tonight.
He said he specifically wanted to address, “One of our citizens — who first claiming we were violating open meetings law, but has shifted focus because there is no violation. Nowhe is focused on language of the land use plan.
“This particular land use plan provides the language you’ve heard read, ‘when there is a major change in land use plan, there is a suggestion there be substantial outreach to the community. You are dealing with adjectives that have relative meaning. What is a major change or upgrade? I can make a pretty sound argument that these changes are not major. What does substantial pubic outreach mean? When I look at what has been written, and what the Mayor has put in the paper, I would say there has been substantial public outreach, maybe more than substantial.
“All we are talking about is the amendment to the land use plan,” Hale added, noting the irony of the overwhelming public input so far when “we are at the very beginning of a long process … with a project being studied and developed on the Biddle Farm, that is not even zoned yet. That will still need multiple layers of study. We don’t even have final plan … and now we have a potential other plan — that will have to be studied and vetted, and that property isn’t zoned yet either.
“What I want people to understand, is the Town doesn’t have the luxury of telling people — without studying what their proposal is — ‘You can’t develop your property the way you want to.’
Hale also advised residents to, “Get off the name calling, and get on to the planning.”