Rezoning denied by FMPC, killing senior housing

Despite an impassioned plea from Farragut resident Michael Wilson, the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission voted 8-1 Thursday, July 15, to deny developer Doug Horne a Future Land Use map amendment and a zoning map amendment that would have allowed him to construct 240 senior living apartments on 20 acres behind Ingles grocery store.

Horne, who also owns Republic Newspapers, Inc., parent company of farragutpress, requested a future land map amendment within the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan from Medium Density to High Density residential, and the second request was to rezone the same parcel from R-1 rural single family residential to R-6 multi family residential.

Citing “inconsistency with the CLUP,” Vice Mayor Louise Povlin, also a commissioner, made both motions to deny the requests. Commissioner Noah Myers was the lone supporting vote.

Unlike previous meetings on the development, Horne was not present but sent Michael Patterson, Horne Properties executive vice president, and John Wright, Horne Properties Development manager, in his stead.

Patterson discussed the need for Horne’s multi-family project, and also said they would not be utilizing the rezoning, if approved, for more than 10 units per acre. The R-6 designation allows for up to 12 units per acre.

“If it was me, I would meet with some of the HOAs and see what they might support,” Myers said. “To me, it meets the transitional zone. But there is some fear here, by some of the residents, that this is just the beginning. Just food for thought that might make it more palatable for residents nearby.

“As a Planing Commissioner, its not about a popularity contest, its about what’s fair,” he added. “I’m one Planning Commissioner, and I don’t think the consensus of this Board will support what you guys are proposing tonight.

“Maybe you’ve got to give a little to get a little.”

Patterson said he was willing to meet with homeowners and HOA to discuss the development.

Jon Holztrager of nearby Baldwin Park wore a “No Apartments” decal on his shirt, as did about a dozen other citizens opposing the development.

“I’ll be ‘Captain Obvious’ tonight. With my sticker on, I think you know where I stand,” he said. “There are several other residents (here tonight) opposed to high density in this area.

“There are three elephants in the room,” Holztrager added. “The traffic studies we’ve seen are not very believable. If we were in a town where we were well under our capacity, I might believe that. Another one is, what Horne Properties is proposing doesn’t make sense — something very high density in an area surrounded primarily with low density.

“The last thing I want to say is the community is worn out over this topic. Horne Properties has been telling us for six years that we need multi-family in Farragut. We’ve played this back to BOMA and to the FMPC for many years now — we do not want multi-family in this area. You can deed restrict it, fancy it up and it will still be a property area not owner-occupied — which is what neighboring citizens are concerned with that I’ve talked to.

Based on his read, “No one it the HOA community (that I have talked to) is supportive of this,” Holztrager said. “I’m not saying they won’t listen to Horne Properties if they wanted to talk to us. Personally, … I would support a low-density single-family home development here, and if Doug were standing here I would tell him the same thing.”

Wilson — who as founder of Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development, noted he previously had fought against Horne’s multi-family rezoning requests citing inconsistencies with the CLUP — said he appeared at the meeting as a private citizen, not representing any group.

He argued the FMPC “approved similar transitions in density or no transitions in density,” as he made the case to approve Horne’s latest requests, and presented four handouts to FMPC members to accompany his remarks.

“In 2015, I led the arguments against the Smith Road apartments, namely (because of) the development’s inconsistency with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Ultimately that request was denied due to these inconsistencies. To me, the fundamental question is, ‘can this 20-acre parcel be changed to High Density Residential while protecting existing neighborhoods through the appropriate density transition?’

“Recent history shows that the FMPC and BOMA have liberally applied the transition requirements to different situations,” he added. “In January 2016, the FMPC approved a recommendation allowing 150 feet of open space and Union Road to be an appropriate transition between properties zoned Commercial (C-1) and very Low Density Residential (R-2). This recommendation was for a prior Swan Farm development that never came to fruition. …

“Second, the Overlook Apartment property was rezoned R-6 and is adjacent to an existing R-2 parcel that contains a private school.  Finally, the FMPC and Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the Kingston Pike Village request that placed a Planned Commercial Development District adjacent to property currently zoned very Low Density Residential (R-1).”

Based on those previous approvals, “It seems reasonable that surrounding this high-density residential development with a road and then a subsequent Medium Density Residential development is a suitable transition and consistent with the CLUP and recent FMPC decisions. Unlike 2015, I don’t believe that transition should be a reason to deny this request,” Wilson said.

Wilson also commented prior to the second vote, and said he was “disappointed” in the votes cast.

“I do believe if this vote had occurred three years ago, you would have approved it, because then it would have met the requirements,” he said.

He also said he believed Horne’s requests are consistent with the Land Use Plan and Town ordinances.