Hurdles before Hy-Vee becomes a Town reality

Hy-Vee submitted two requests for their development next to Kohls. Both were discussed at the Oct. 20 (Farragut Municipal) Planning Commission meeting. Their proposed store does not meet the current criteria for the Mixed-Use Town Center (MUTC) area, as it is significantly larger than 25,000 square feet allowed for commercial space.

Approval would require the Town of Farragut to remove the Mixed-Use Town Center overlay and increase the size of the portion zone as commercial. This approval would also eliminate the current Office zoning and add Open Space (park) and Low and Very Low Density residential.

It seems the first question is, should this property remain within the MUTC area? If the answer is yes, then Hy-Vee’s request cannot be approved.

Second, can a development meeting the current zoning be developed? Starting with the latter, last year Horne Properties submitted a plan to build-out the town center area with high-density housing (apartments) behind it. This plan was soundly opposed by residents and is not consistent with the language in the Commercial Zoning Ordinance. Mr. (Doug) Horne explained that the project was not financially viable without the higher density housing. Due to the dimensions of the land, apartments will never be approved. This is likely why 2008 town center plans for this property have never come to fruition.

Why were apartments needed? It is a matter of the cost of the land. To date, the owner has only entertained options to sell the entire acreage. This cost requires a substantial return on the investment, such as high-density housing or a large business like Hy-Vee.

It is likely that our desired town center will not get built as it was planned in 2012. That is, unless the owner opts to subdivide the land and sell only the Commercial and Office Space-zoned acreage. As these portions are already zoned, it would be difficult to stop any proposed development that meets the requirements of these portions of the ordinance.

It should be noted that a development under the current MUTC zoning has a bigger impact on both English Station Drive (Glen Abbey) and the Park Place neighborhood.

For English Station Drive, approximately nine homes will back up to the office space versus four or five homes backing up to the commercial property as proposed by Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee has also dedicated several acres of green space to help buffer their property from Glen Abbey.

Would a future developer include this kind of buffer? As well, the entrance to Park Place would be caddy-corner from the office space versus a large park as proposed by Hy-Vee.

While I personally believe this is the perfect area for our town center, I also understand the realities that it will likely never get built as currently planned unless (former Town Mayor Eddy) Ford opts to sell only a portion of the property.

If the Town opts not to remove the MUTC overlay, they need to address the types of development that are consistent with our desires and are financially viable to build in all areas of the MUTC.

The challenges of a vertical mixed-use development have been known for at least two years but have yet to be addressed.

To be clear, this is a major change that impacts all of us. I encourage all residents to watch the discussion from the Planning Commission meeting, become familiar with what is being discussed and engage in the process.

Michael Wilson,