Second community-visioning meeting turned testy

The second of two community-visioning meetings on the Kingston Pike/Smith Road/Boring Road corridor turned testy Wednesday, March 23, in Farragut Town Hall.

Town Community Development Director Mark Shipley led both it and the identical March 22 meeting, which were follow ups to a Nov. 15 community input workshop to help in updating the Town’s future land use map.

About 30 residents attended each meeting.

By way of introduction, Shipley explained since the Town adopted its Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 2012 — which included eight key town strategies on which to work, along with mapping out future land uses — “We [realized] the plan needed to be looked at, revisited and certain aspects would need to be revised.

“The [Farragut Municipal] Planning Commission appointed a steering committee to work with staff, to work with the plan,” he continued. “I open that plan almost every day. It is a living document for the Town; it is not static. It needs to be modified and revisited to reflect the community and changes our citizens would like to see.

“It has been updated a number of times. It is all part of making sure we are doing what the community wants us to do.”

Shipley pointed out the difference between zoning and future land use.

“Zoning is what you can and cannot do with a property,” he said. “Every property in this town is zoned something. Zoning has teeth to it and is regulatory in nature. Future land use is not regulatory in nature but rather a vision the community has provided for a desired future condition. This is something that is constantly evolving, dynamic in nature, thing — a visionary document that reflects how the community is growing.

“Future land use and is one of the tools a community can use for planning. Key to a good plan is that it is actively used and for a plan to be a good plan, it needs to recognize the growth, and reflects what is happening in the community.

“Community input is part of that process.”

Shipley said the steering committee has previously evaluated Watt Road, Outlet Drive and McFee Road, and the Kingston Pike/Smith Road/Boring Road corridor is the next focal area.

“This area … has a lot of undeveloped land in it — about 130 acres,” he said. “It is a central part of Town and already a mix of lot of different land usage, residential, commercial and office space, for example.

“It also became pretty apparent, the study area has so many variations, and we created four different subareas in the larger area,” he added.

“We provided images of what people might like to see in the future during the November workshop and [are] trying to determine if the feedback we received in November is representative of what the community wants.

“I don’t have an agenda one way or another. We are just presenting the information,” Shipley said. “We are not going by existing conditions — we are going by what might be in the future if it might be developed.”

One area discussed is what is now zoned a buffer zone area in front of and adjacent to NHC.

“We know it is zoned buffer, but if that area should be rezoned, is there any usage you would be okay with?,” Shipley asked.

“Why in the world are you showing us pictures with the assumption that one day it’s going to be rezoned?” Farragut resident Kim Sprague responded. “Why aren’t you showing us what could be done in the buffer zone, according to the current zoning?’

“I think if that’s what you want to say, then you’ve got [a slot] at the bottom …” Shipley began.

“I will, like I did in November,” Sprague interrupted. “But why are we talking about assumptions? Why are we jumping ahead and wasting our time? I was there in November. Why were we not offered the option, ‘Would you rather keep it a buffer zone?’

“This whole thing feels deceptive and a waste of my time.”

“Again, that was the assumption we made,” said Shipley. “If you want it to remain buffer, then I’d write that down.

“Obviously, if the community doesn’t want to change it, then we won’t change it.”

“I fully understand what this is,” commented Farragut resident Michael Wilson. “What we are doing is looking at that future land use map, and we are trying to figure out if what is currently planned — [for example] medium density residential — is that still the right call?”

While comments continued, some loudly and argumentatively, Shipley remarked several times he needed to move through the meeting, as he had another meeting later in the evening, but would be glad to talk to anyone separately about their concerns.

“We’re not trying to deceive anybody, I promise you that,” he added, noting staff would be compiling the input received.

“We value citizens comments and we will be assessing whether additional meetings will be needed,” he said.

Farragut resident and developer Doug Horne (who owns Republic Newspapers, parent company of farragutpress), was also present at the meeting, as he owns 50 acres in the sub area being discussed.

“When discussing these issues, the Town needs to listen to the property owners first, then everyone else last, not the other way around,” Horne said. “It’s not fair to the landowners to change the land use plans that have been in effect since 2012 and 2018 based on a very few comments from a very few people.

“Landowners have made development plans based on the long standing Land Use Plans currently in effect.”