Town Center: what is best for Farragut?

On Nov. 19, the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission (FMPC) approved the Biddle Farms property rezoning to the Planned Commercial Development (PCD) zoning district. This rezoning vote was in support of the proposed commercial and high-density residential (apartments) development in the Mixed-Use Town Center (MUTC) area.

This request directly contradicts the “Application for rezoning to Planned Commercial Development District (PCD)” requirements. Specifically, the ordinance states, “This statement shall indicate ... how the PCD district would be consistent with the Farragut Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update, Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan and all other adopted plans and ordinances of the Town of Farragut and any subsequent amendments.”

The Town’s comment that the applicant will be requesting changes to the text of the PCD Zoning District at the December FMPC meeting is a clear indication that this application was not consistent with the current PCD zoning district.

As well, the concept master plan section of the PCD zoning district states that the master plan “shall demonstrate compliance with the objectives of this district. ... PCD objective number 6 requires that the master plan be consistent with all adopted plans and ordinances of the Town.

The PCD District permits residential use in the MUTC provided it complies with Chapter 3, Section XII, Paragraph F of the Town’s zoning ordinance. Sub-paragraph m allows for “Residential, provided located in the upper stories.”

The developer provided renderings and building footprints showing apartments on the first floor. This is inconsistent with sub-paragraph m of Chapter 3, Section XII, Paragraph F of the zoning ordinance.

The FMPCs approval of a non-compliant rezoning request while knowing subsequent changes to the ordinance are required is analogous to shooting a deer and then going to get your hunting license.

While the above comments were provided during the Citizen Comments for Item 11, the FMPC failed to consider them as part of their discussion. The bottom line, the FMPC should not have recommended a rezoning request that is not consistent with current zoning requirements.

When modifying any zoning ordinance, the FMPC has a duty to consider the impacts on all vacant parcels. Specifically, the required PCD text changes will impact the entire MUTC area, which could end up resulting in multiple high-density residential developments within a mile of each other.

Last month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) passed amendments targeted to limit other high-density development in the MUTC area, particularly the (Eddy) Ford property. The amendment language “as intended” left open the possibility for two apartment complexes in the center of Farragut, one on the Biddle Farm and another on the Ford property.

This reality is highly probable as the Town cannot treat these two developers and landowners differently without the real concern of possible litigation. The BOMA should not approve the Biddle Farms rezoning request until such time that the developer brings their concept plan into compliance with one of the current multi-family residential zoning districts (i.e., C-1, PCD, TCD, R-6 or R-6 OSMFR).

As well the FMPC and BOMA need to carefully consider any proposed changes to the PCD Zoning Ordinance ensuring they are the best thing for the Town, not a specific developer.

Michael Wilson, Farragut