Year in Review: beauty in gowns, in deeds, in free speech

A look back at top stories in the Town of Farragut and immediate area — in photo and print form — from 2021:

Biddle Farm Town Center

• From early in the year, Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen began clearing the way for a town center on the Biddle Farm property, which included the old Kroger location near Kingston Pike and along Brooklawn Street.

Facing organized opposition from leaders of Farragut Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development, which met with roughly 135 citizens in attendance Sunday, Jan. 24, in Mayor Ralph McGill Plaza — and hearing from group members in the Opinion page of farragutpress and on social media throughout most of the year — BOMA did not accept their plea to at least delay Biddle Farm approval until the public has “a better opportunity” to be heard concerning the matter. The Board vote to proceed was, in fact, 5-0.

“So what happened is the Town pushed through changes in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for that Mixed Use (Biddle) Town Center area,” Mike Wilson, FCFRGD co-founder, announced at the gathering. “And what that change essentially said is, ‘We intend that the only high-density residential area will be kind of in this area back here’ (pointing to) the Biddle Farm.’”

By springtime, the old Kroger building was demolished as the future Biddle Farm property was being groomed for the Town Center.

Another Center

• Meanwhile, an alternate Town Center was being proposed on roughly 60 acres fronting Kingston Pike about one mile west of Biddle Farms.

Familiar to many Town residents as the property of former Farragut Mayor Eddy Ford, where the original site for a Town Center was hatched in 2008 before a sharp economic downturn killed the proposal.

With Ford’s blessing, prominent developer/businessman Doug Horne — owner of Republic Newspapers, Inc., parent company of farragutpress — sought to revive this location as a Town Center.

However, BOMA ultimately shot down the plans of Horne and Ford — while the developer also failed to get approval for a senior living facility from the Board.

Plaza Dedication

• With all BOMA and other top Town brass on hand in addition to family members of the late honoree, Dedication of Mayor Ralph McGill Plaza took place May 7.

Virtue Road-Concord Road

• While Concord Road widening/improvements would continue until late November before finally being completed, Virtue Road was closed for major upgrades from early February until late fall — and then only partially opened for through traffic (closed at the roundabout at Brookmere subdivision about one mile south of Kingston Pike). Final completion is tentatively set for spring 2022.

Farragut Pointe proposal

• Knox County officials, led by Mayor Glenn Jacobs, supported development of a 124-unit low-to-moderate income apartment complex — Farragut Pointe — adjacent to the east of Concord Hills subdivision along Loop Road just beyond Town limits.

This apartment proposal has faced serious pushback from Town leaders and John Schoonmaker, 5th District Knox County Commissioner, citing Loop Road is inadequate for such a housing complex. Construction was supposed to have begun in April.

TopGolf makes it official

• Town leaders and TopGolf officials worked out plans for a TopGolf location along Outlet Drive, and by December building framework was well under way with a late spring to early summer 2022 projected opening.

Overpass above Interstate?

• In addition to this unique golfing attraction, which also could include adjacent restaurants and a hotel, a proposal was hatched to examine the possibility of directly connecting Outlet Drive to Parkside Drive/ Turkey Creek with a special walking overpass above Interstate 40/75.

Title IX softball lawsuit

• A parent of a Farragut High School softball player took FHS and Knox County Schools to federal court — and won — concerning what was characterized as a Title IX violation: facilities for the Lady Admirals program were not as advanced compared to those of the FHS Admirals baseball program located down the hill along Lendon Welch Way.

Although FHS baseball supporters and parents argued their facilities — locker rooms, indoor batting cages, etc. — were paid for by fundraising and not by taxpayer dollars, a federal judge ordered upgrades of roughly $1.5 million to FHS softball program facilities in April.

Beginning work in the summer, those facilities were well on their way toward completion by the end of 2021.

Anti-mask madate/schools

• Susan Horn, 5th District Knox County Board of Education representative and former Board chair (district includes Farragut) and Betsy Henderson, 6th District rep (includes Hardin Valley), both voiced anti-mask mandate opinions for Knox County Schools.

Those opinions turned into critical votes in late summer, as the pair were two of five votes against the KCS mask mandate, a 5-4 vote seemingly killing the mandate.

But by late September, a federal judge reversed that decision and ordered a mask mandate for KCS. The resulting parent/student outcry came in the form of on-campus protests, most notably at Farragut High School in early fall.

Lafferty’s 180 turn

• Only a week after being praised by fellow GOP colleagues in Tennessee General Assembly for his conservative principles, state Rep. Justin Lafferty (R-District 89, which includes Hardin Valley) made national headlines with controversial comments about the “Three-Fifths Compromise” concerning U.S. slaves, which he shared on the Assembly floor in early May.

Pete Rose at HVA

• Former Major League Baseball great Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader in MLB history, was guest speaker at Hardin Valley Academy Saturday, May 20. Rose highlighted the baseball program’s banquet.

New elementary school?

• With overcrowding at Farragut Primary and Farragut Intermediate schools, talk became widespread during the summer about the need for a new Town elementary school.

TDOT-Town at Watt Road

• Tennessee Department of Transportation officials and Town officials worked together to improve the intersection of Watt Road and Kingston Pike, construction of which began in the fall.

New event rules

• After an entertainment controversy where a singer allegedly performed in a manner not suitable for a family atmosphere during a LawnChair Series event in late summer, Town leaders came up with new requirements for event entertainment.

Williams lawsuit

• Citing their property rights are being violated, Farragut residents Steve Williams and his wife, Virginia “Ginny” Williams, filed suit in Knox County Circuit Court in October 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 by BOMA and Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

The couple is seeking what is required to subdivide their property along Evans Road into estate-sized lots, asking for a amendment to the Town’s subdivision regulations. However, at issue 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.

Town grows by 900

• Farragut grew by about 900 residents, as compared with a special Farragut census taken in 2016, according to Town administrator David Smoak.

Lighting fears revisited

• Belleaire subdivision residents revisited an issue with First Baptist Concord/Concord Christian School that it faced, in part, in the late 2000s.

With FBC/CCS proposed upgrades to include lighting on poles of up to 80 feet, residents spoke out beginning in early fall against the proposed installation of these lights.

Farragut Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said she uncovered legal documentation pertaining to an agreement in 2008 between FBC and nearby residents that she said 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.”

USS Farragut in Town

• During what became a roughly five-day stay in Farragut in mid-October, dozens of naval crewmen who served on any of the USS Farragut ships meet somewhere in the nation each year where there is some connection to the USS Farragut. In 2021 they chose the Town named after the famous 19th century Civil War hero and first commissioned admiral in the U.S. Navy, David Glasgow Farragut. They were recognized at halftime of the Farragut versus Bradley Central Bears high school football game at FHS Friday, Oct. 15.

No. 2 ‘livability’ in state

• Town of Farragut ranked No. 2 in Tennessee, just behind Brentwood, as the most desirable place to live in the state.

Data analysis from Stacker, created a top 10 livability list, with Farragut’s 25 miles of walking trails, a park in all four geographical sections, highly-ranked schools and no Town property tax among the positives cited.

Town to get $7 mil by `22

• In total, Farragut will be receiving a little more than $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, it was announced Nov. 11. Town administrator David Smoak reported Farragut’s portion from a nationwide $350 billion Congressional appropriation. Required uses include providing premium pay to essential workers and improving water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Farragut received $3,527,626 late in 2021. The rest will be disbursed in 2022, Smoak said.