Town sued by Williams couple over property rights

Farragut residents Steve Williams and his wife, Virginia “Ginny” Williams have filed suit in Knox County Circuit Court against the Town of Farragut and its Board of Mayor and Aldermen, asking a judge to review and intervene regarding a series of decisions made earlier this year by BOMA and Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

At issue specifically is the Town’s requirement for connectivity in neighborhoods with more than 30 dwelling units, and an initial suggestion that an area be reserved for a potential vehicular connection leading to the Williams property from the 113-acre tract where a new subdivision, The Grove at Boyd Station, is to be built.

While the Town typically grants requested connectivity variances in specific cases, Steve Williams said he asked for one in this case and the request was denied by FMPC and BOMA. He noted during the Town’s September Staff/Developer meeting “it is not always a guarantee” that one might be granted in the future and described the process as “begging.”

FMPC has previously waived requirements for vehicular connection in the following developments: Keeney property, Brass Lantern, Preserve at Turkey Creek, Sassafras Meadows and Old Stage Farms, all of which have 30 or less dwelling units.

The published Grove concept plan did not show a stub road through the Williams Farm, but Williams said one was added by the FMPC at a zoom meeting without any citizen input.

“The final FMPC-approved concept plan provides for and implies that a road leading through the Williams’ property to Evans Road would be required for development of [our] farm,” Williams added.

The couple appealed the FMPC’s decision to BOMA in June, with BOMA denying the appeal.

The Williams’ are asking that a “writ of certiorari” be issued — which is a court process seeking judicial review of a decision rendered by a lower court or government agency — and that ultimately, the actions of FMPC and BOMA be declared “arbitrary, capricious and/or illegal” in requiring a connection through the Williams farm “when others landowners were exempted from connection,” Williams said.

The lawsuit further asks that the matter be kicked back to FMPC for re-consideration and correction.

Additionally, the lawsuit asks that the Court “issue a judgment finding the actions of the Town with respect to the requirement of the stub out for both vehicular and pedestrian trail future connectively to and through the Williams property was illegal, void and unenforceable.”

The couple has repeatedly taken issue with the Town’s requirement for connectivity between neighborhoods, and, in fact, are asking the FMPC this Thursday, Oct. 21 to consider amending the Farragut Subdivision Regulations “to clarify existing language and exempt estate-sized lots in subdivisions of ten or less dwelling units from the requirement for vehicular and pedestrian/shared use path connectivity.”

The Williams’ lawsuit was filed Aug. 20, but was not served on the Town’s attorney, Tom Hale, until last Tuesday, Oct. 12.

“Once a lawsuit is filed, it is routinely sent to an office of the Sheriff that serves process for service,” Hale explained. “They get to it when they get to it. So it can take time if they are backed up.  

“The party filing the suit can have it served through a private process server if they wish. Apparently, the latter did not happen in this case.”

Hale said a response is required within 30 days of being served.

“That is routinely extended by agreement between the parties and probably will be in this case,” he said. “Also, the Town always submits lawsuits it gets to its insurance carrier to see if it will retain a lawyer and pay for the defense of the case.

“Sometimes the carrier does and sometimes they do not. Several years ago in a similar type case the carrier agreed to provide a defense of the Town. I am not sure how they will view this one.”

It is actually the second time Steve Williams has sued the Town, as in the early 1990s he successfully sued and won the right to fly an oversized American flag at a neighborhood center he owns at Patriot’s Corner, 10851 Kingston Pike.