Saying she was curious following a Sept. 16 Farragut Municipal Planning Commission discussion on the neighborhood impact of ballfields First Baptist Concord might choose to build on campus for Concord Christian School, Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said she uncovered legal documentation pertaining to an agreement in 2008 between FBC and nearby residents.
Povlin, also an FMPC member, heard residents who believed an agreement had been made between the church and the community roughly 13 ago — but had no official documentation.
Povlin said she researched FMPC minutes going back to 2008 and did further research in Town archives, where she found two letters summarizing what took place during a meeting March 12 that same year attended by a number of Town officials and attorneys for both sides.
She went on to note specific numbered items within correspondences between the parties, including one that stated, “All organized outdoor athletic activities will cease at sundown on the ball fields shown on the Long Range Property Utilization Plan (those shown just to the west of relocated Belleaire Drive; there would be no lighting or sound systems utilized for athletic activities on the ball fields described above.”
Povlin shared her findings with several area residents, including Belleaire resident Jeanne Brykalski, who spoke against the potential lighting project on both social media and at the September FMPC meeting.
“Our Vice Mayor, Louise Povlin, stopped by our house and brought me a packet of copies of the minutes of the March 20, 2008, FMPC minutes, which include a letter from FBC confirming their agreements with the TOF and Belleaire and the adjacent neighborhoods,” Brykalski said. “I can’t thank Louise enough for compiling all this information for us.
“This was a lot of hard, tedious work that she did to get to the facts,” she added. “And she is not even our alderperson.
“Apparently, Louise does a lot of research in Town records, codes, regulations, etc. when questions come up from our residents concerning town or private projects.”
To effectively get the word out, “Please be sure to e-mail the Town Board and FMPC and remind them of this and ask them to vote NO, and deny FBC’s request for these lights (and eventual PA system),” Brykalski said.
“We need to make our voices heard for our neighborhood and the other subdivisions adjacent to and near FBC,” she added.
David White, another long-time Belleaire resident who spoke at the September meeting, said, “We are not at all opposed to having their fields or their games, nor are we opposed to their ministry,” he said. “We just want them to stick to their original agreements, that all games would end before dark, and there would be no lighting.”
Church leaders responded in a press release covering several paragraphs:
“Our desire to be a good neighbor and friend to all those in the neighborhoods surrounding the church remains strong today as it has always been. First Baptist Concord has gone to great lengths and expense to prove that over the years.
“FBC has even paid to relocate Belleaire’s entrance so it could have direct access to Kingston Pike. We also want to thank so many of you who have reached out to us directly while this has been openly discussed and voiced your support of our ministries and the impact they have had on your families.
“All planning is taking place on property that is owned by the church. While we will not be able to appease all, we will go to great effort to deliver extremely high-quality solutions that have minimal impact on our neighbors.
“It is important to note that we currently do not have a site plan in front of the Town for approval. We will be more than happy to address the Town and our neighbors when we have settled on a plan. It is also important to mention that there have been dramatic improvements in lighting and sound technology since 2008 thus changing our ability to minimize the impact to our neighbors.
“The Town recognizes the advancements in lighting and is currently researching to see if these lighting solutions could be a benefit across all of Farragut. Our research into this has proved useful, and we are pleased to be able to assist our Town in this way.
“This article references documents from March/April 2008. Full context of the discussions which took place cannot be understood from this document alone and we believe will be received differently once all information is known. In addition, the reasons that lighting was an issue in 2008 no longer exist in 2021.
“First Baptist Concord will be happy to further discuss our plan and position with the Town and neighbors as appropriate when we have a submitted site plan.
“FBC will continue to commit its energy and resources to inspiring people to follow Jesus by spreading the Gospel in every way possible. We believe that sports (and associated field use) are a key part of reaching the next generation.”
Key officials in 2008
At the 2008 meeting referenced, key officials attending included Town attorney Tom Hale; Gary Palmer, then assistant Town administrator; Darryl Smith, Town engineer; Ruth Hawk, then Community Development director; Arthur Seymour, attorney representing Shiloh, Derby Chase and Belleaire; John King, attorney representing First Baptist Church Concord; and neighborhood representatives.
“During this meeting several of the neighborhood representatives’ concerns were addressed,” Povlin stated in an e-mail.
“On behalf of the neighborhood representatives, Arthur Seymour (who has since passed away) memorialized the discussion and agreements that occurred during that meeting in a letter addressed to Ruth Hawk dated March 17, 2008,” she added.
On behalf of First Baptist Concord, John King responded to Arthur Seymour in a letter dated April 7, 2008: “the Planning Commissioners requested that both letters be included and made part of the minutes of the March 20, 2008, FMPC meeting.”