FCRGD-led 244 ‘table’ demands, requests fall short

A last-minute push by Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development flooded the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s Thursday, Jan. 28, meeting with 244 e-mails asking, or demanding, BOMA table a second-reading vote on final approval the Farragut Town Center at Biddle Farms project.

It did not affect the vote.

BOMA voted 5-0 to approve three ordinances pertaining to the project, which allows it to move forward (see related story starting on this page).

Led by Farragut residents Michael Wilson, Patrick Lee and Mike Mitchell, the FCRGD group held a rally Sunday afternoon, Jan. 24, at Mayor Ralph McGill Plaza asking the Jan. 28 vote be tabled, accusing BOMA of “not listening to residents,” “not conducting significant public outreach” and asking officials to meet with them to discuss changes to the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan instead of voting to approve the Ordinance amendments.

The Town also was awash in fliers in the days leading up to the vote — some handed out in Farragut schools’ car drop-off lines — and FCRGD members took to social media — with several asking that “2,000 e-mails be sent” asking residents to voice their concerns by the Board’s public comment deadline, which was noon, Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Most e-mails voiced concerns that have been repeatedly emphasized, from school overcrowding to traffic issues to possible flooding concerns.

But overall, most residents responding indicated they didn’t want apartments — especially not at that location.

Wilson said he was “disappointed” by the BOMA vote, but at the same time “encouraged” by the turnout via e-mail, a change.org petition garnering more than 1,400 signatures, and 129 signatures from the rally, representing 29 neighborhoods.

“Well, folks, we put up a good fight,” Wilson stated on the group’s Facebook page after Thursday’s vote. “Never have we had this much support against a given project in the Town. While this is not unexpected, it is disheartening that so many people spoke up and the Town refused to pause and listen. This is the problem when people run unopposed and the local community is apathetic. This we must change!

“On behalf of all of us at FCRGD, we appreciate your support. From this point forward we all should hope and pray that the concerns we raised regarding flooding, school crowding and traffic do not come to pass, or at a minimum are mitigated. These actions have disenfranchised all of us, including those who might want more apartments.

“For me this is a sad day in Farragut. It is the birth of the ‘Farragut Folly,’” Wilson added.

“Just know you fought the good fight and tried to get our Town leaders to do the right thing. We will regroup and determine our path forward.”

Regardless of Wilson’s conciliatory tone, many officials and Town residents said they have experienced verbal and online attacks and accusations from those representing themselves as FCRGD, even through some of the e-mails sent in over the past several months for Citizen’s Comments and meeting agenda items.

Mayor’s response

Farragut Mayor Ron Williams used his “Mayor’s Report” to call out these individuals. “One item that has not helped is a campaign, which some might more accurately call harassment, by a group of citizens who do not want any change to our Town and who believe they have a monopoly on what is the correct vision for the future of the Town of Farragut,” he said.

“This group has turned to social media and has handed out flyers and has even taped flyers to people’s mailboxes,” Williams added. “This would be fine, and frankly appropriate, were it not for the fact that the information being published is misleading, inaccurate and incomplete, and is intended for the purpose of spreading their contrived, false narrative.

Moreover, “They have chosen to interpret the Town’s CLUP to suit their point of view and mis-stated facts for their purpose, in their own words, of ‘starting a revolution,’” Williams said.

“I used the word harassment to describe this campaign. I did so because from the beginning, this group, rather than debate the issues using logic and reason based on the actual facts to support their views, have used threats, bullying and attempts at intimidation in order to get their way,” the Mayor added. “So far in the process, all five elected representatives of the people on this Board, as well as all of the members of the Planning Commission — not to mention the Town staff — do not believe that the views of this relatively small, vocal group accurately reflect the views and desires of the vast majority of the 23,000 residents of this Town.

“Your elected and appointed representatives have spent countless hours, before, during and after numerous meetings studying and debating the issues that they are called on to make on behalf of the citizens of this Town. As part of that process, they welcome, hear and consider the views of all sides of each issue that comes before them. We all, each one of us, value the reasoned input of all citizens even in disagreement, but we can do without threats, attempts to intimidate, the spreading of inaccurate information and statements that we, as volunteers, are dishonest and ‘on the take.’

In conclusion, “In the spirit of civil public discourse, I have and will continue to reply to every personal e-mail question sent to me with facts as we know them,” Williams said.

Following the meeting, which concluded at 12:55 a.m., Williams remarked, “I want to thank all of our citizens with the fortitude to send in their thoughts even with the fear of retribution due to the fact that their name and address is read into the record,” concerning 19 favoring the Town’s approach.