Biddle Center 2 steps closer

Farragut Town Center at Biddle Farms, proposed on 43 acres on the “old Kroger property,” took two steps closer to reality during a more than five-hour Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday, Nov. 19.

Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend amending the future land use map in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan update for a portion of the property to be changed from Medium Density Residential to Town Center.

In a related move, Commissioners voted 7-1 in favor of recommending amending the property’s zoning from General Commercial (C-1) and General Single-Family Residential (R-2) to Planned Commercial Development.

Developer Budd Cullom of CHM, LLC, is leading the project, and is expected to request PCD text amendments at the December FMPC meeting. If approved, all three requests will go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for further consideration.

Cullom has contracted both a traffic study and a hydrology study, results of which have been shared with Town officials, and is working with FEMA on some topography map amendments as well.

The traffic study, and a second report by Cannon & Cannon, did not report any major adverse traffic increases due to the proposed project, and information repeatedly shared indicates very little student enrollment impact would result from the multi-family units.

“I’ve listened to many negatives and positives about this, and what I’ve heard is not material evidence with the negative — just opinions,” Mayor Ron Williams saod.

He asked Cullom about “statements detrimental toward (Cullom’s) company” and about CHM’s past developments.

Cullom said CHM is comprised of partners “Cullom, Harrison and McGuffin … (we) came together for the Northshore Town Center project. What I read online is the Northshore Town Center project was a failure and caused flooding — I don’t think it’s a failure. It was bankrupt, we took it over and added the Target and Publix, and are adding a lot of other nice things. We’re very proud of it.”

He said the trio had worked more than 30 years in development with well-known and high profile clients such a Kroger, K-Mart and Walmart.

“We wouldn’t still be here after 30-plus years if we weren’t successful,” Cullom said

FMPC chair Rita Holladay asked why Cullom chose apartments to complete the project.

“I feel the need and the market is there for it,” Cullom said. “(It) will be the highest-end multi-family in Knox County. Rent will range from $1,200 to $2,500 per month.

“We are considering possibly adding town homes or attached dwellings for a potential second phase; but we will not, on any of the rest of the land, do more rental.”

Commissioner Michael Bellamy was the lone “no” vote on the PCD vote, and said his reason was “the traffic study” but didn’t elaborate.

The Farragut Town Center at Biddle Farms project has been discussed publicly since March, and a concept plan was approved by the FMPC in July.

According to recently provided renderings, the project would feature two iconic clock towers at its entrance along Kingston Pike, leading to a planned Town Center offering an anchor grocery store and 10 separate freestanding commercial/retail buildings.

The property also will offer walking trails, a great lawn to be shared with the Town and around 280 upscale multi-family housing units on the back portion of the land, facing Brooklawn and South Campbell Station Road.

A Town Center concept in Farragut has been a desire of many residents for more than a decade, according to surveys and information gathered by staff. In the late 2000s, plans to build a Town Center project on former Town Mayor Eddy Ford’s property along Kingston Pike were sidelined by the economic downturn.

But that idea currently is being re-considered by Farragut developer Doug Horne, owner of Republic Newspaper, Inc., parent company of farragutpress.

Officials took the plans one step further in 2012 by adopting the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update, which lists bringing about a downtown as it’s “No. 1 key strategy.”

Mark Shipley, Community Development director, said the Biddle Farms project would “meet six of eight key strategies from that plan in stating staff support for the changes.”

During FMPC and BOMA meetings over the last several months, a contingent of anti-Town Center at Biddle Farms e-mails on social media were submitted to be read into meeting minutes. While five letters supported the project, nearly two dozen others in opposition — many of those objecting to the apartment component — also voiced concerns about the fear of increased vehicle traffic and the Center contributing to school overcrowding.