letter to the editor

Town leaders ignored ‘significant citizen objection’ with Town Center plan; ‘broke trust’ of 2012 CLUP

In 2012, the Town, working with citizens, businesses and others, created the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) to guide our growth and development. The Town government also agreed that major changes to the CLUP would be done through the Significant Public Outreach process ensuring citizens’ desires were included.

The Mixed-Use Town Center (MUTC) portion of the plan was later adopted into the Commercial Zoning Ordinance due to its importance.

During the Biddle Farm discussions from September 2020 to January 2021, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) ignored the most significant citizen objection to a development action in a decade. Over 1,500 petition signatures and 244 e-mails against approval of the Zoning Ordinance changes to allow the free-standing apartments were submitted to BOMA.

Prior to these changes, high-density residential was only allowed above the commercial property in this area to provide a high-class walkable area.

Our chief call was for BOMA to conduct the Significant Public Outreach called for in the CLUP. This outreach would have allowed for citizens, business, developers, landowners and Town professionals to provide input on redesigning the entire MUTC area to something that worked for all of us.

Had this been done, we might have decided Biddle Farm was the best place for apartments, another MUTC location was better or we didn’t want apartments in the Town Center at all.

Why did they not conduct this outreach? As discussed in January 2021, it was not done because they had to pre-emptively stop a known development deal of two long-term Farragut residents.

In essence, BOMA changed the ordinance to support the Biddle Farm development while changing the CLUP to target another known development.

It doesn’t matter if you were pro-apartments, against apartments or ambivalent, the actions of this BOMA disenfranchised you and supplanted the BOMA members’ desires over yours. It was clear the Town, working through the Farragut Business Alliance, sought to redevelop the old Kroger building.

The cost to do so was to rewrite our ordinances to allow the developers’ desired apartments. It did not matter how valid the objections were; this administration was adamant to move this project forward.

These actions broke the trust established in the 2012 CLUP. It is a significant failure of political leadership and not how representative government should work.

None of this is illegal under Tennessee law or our local ordinances. There is no legal action available to us. Our only remedy is the ballot box this Aug. 4.

We need to put the citizen’s voice back in the center of the development and other Town discussions.

To do so, we need new leadership that is willing to listen and act on our desires. We need all voters to turn out this year and let your voices be heard at the ballot box – don’t let it be disenfranchised again.

Michael Wilson,