Separating the Belleaires now official: FBC in charge

First Baptist Concord received the green light from Farragut Municipal Planning Commission, during FMPC’s meeting Thursday, March 21, on its proposed site plan to remove the old Belleaire Drive access to the church on 11704 Kingston Pike, and relocate it.

FMPC approved the site plan with a unanimous vote, with three subject to’s, that depicts replacing the old church access onto Kingston Pike with a new one that lines up with Russgate Boulevard to the north.

The church will be financially responsible for the construction of that relocation.

“I feel great,“ said Mark Stooksbury, FBC director of business administration. “I’m glad that we can have an approval and move forward.”

After a motion from Vice Chairman Ed St. Clair and a second from Commissioner Jon Greene, FMPC voted unanimously for approval of the site plan.

“I appreciate the fact that they did extend the decel lane (on the existing Belleaire Drive),” said David White, Belleaire subdivision resident and Town alderman. “That’s very helpful, and we’re very happy with everything that’s going on.”

However, he added, “I think it’s important there should be some note, which lets everybody know — the church, the contractor and us and keeps us informed — that if something happens — construction has a lot of problems, doesn’t get completed on time — that the old Belleaire entrance is still to close Dec. 21.”

The site plan shows removal of a playground and a portion of an existing building to accommodate the new access, and it shows how the remaining building would be re-faced.

“This project has a long background, which began in March 2008, when the First Baptist (Concord) Church came to the Planning Commission to request approval of a master site plan for future development of the church property,” Town Community Development director Mark Shipley said. “At the time, there was significant discussion of relocating Belleaire Drive to the east, where it is now located, and eventually lining up the access of the old Belleaire Drive with Russgate Boulevard to the north.”

In previous Town meetings, residents have stressed the current Belleaire Drive and old Belleaire access are too close to each other, causing a traffic hazard.

Shipley said the existing Belleaire Drive is 188 feet east of the old Belleaire access.

“During discussions with the Planning Commission in 2008, the old Belleaire Drive access onto Kingston Pike was to be a temporary condition — though no specific deadline was established — and would be relocated with anticipated development on the church property,” Shipley said.

“Over the years, the specific development that would trigger the access relocation, as memorialized from Planning Commission approvals, did not occur, but the church did request approval for other projects involving its campus,” he added.

“As these projects have been reviewed, residents — particularly in the Belleaire subdivision and other surrounding communities — have increasingly raised the question of the temporary access and its need to be relocated due to its proximity to the current Belleaire Drive and the safety concerns the residents have in trying to pull out onto Kingston Pike. They have been conveying, ‘It’s been there long enough.’”

In response to residents’ concerns, with FMPC “guidance” according to Shipley, “Town staff met with church representatives to initiate work on a time frame of when the alignment of this access would occur with Russgate Boulevard,” he said.

“At the Aug. 10, 2023, Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, the church submitted preliminary plans that were approved by its membership to begin construction of the relocated entrance as soon as the 2023-2024 school year ends, but no later than July 1, 2024.

“Construction would be completed by Dec. 31, 2024,” he added. “This proposed arrangement was accepted by (BOMA) with the understanding that the more detailed site plan set would be presented to the Planning Commission for their approval once those plans were ready.”

In addition to lining up the new entrance/exit with Russgate, “The existing deceleration lane for (the newer) Belleaire Drive will also be extended slightly as part of this project,” Shipley said.

“As mentioned to (BOMA), the church plans to initiate construction at the end of the school year and complete the project before the end of the year,” he added. “… This new access will be 435 feet from (the existing) Belleaire. On a road like this, the accesses are required to be at least 400 feet apart.

“This is, obviously, a much better condition than what we have now.”

Additionally, “the plan has an extension of the deceleration lane for (newer) Belleaire Drive and a deceleration lane for the new dedicated driveway,” Shipley said.

“Both of these decel lanes are 260 feet in length, and all this still has to be formally approved through (Tennessee Department of Transportation) because Kingston Pike’s a state route,” he added.

However, he said Town staff is “very comfortable with what the applicant is proposing with this site plan. (The church) is also adding back a little bit of the landscaping that’s being taken out on a portion of this drive.

“We’re certainly appreciative of all the parties working together to bring this to fruition,” Shipley added. “There are only three remaining subject to’s on the site plan.”

Of those, “One is just a clerical matter,” he said. “There will be an erosion control (condition) and a letter of credit (requirement) for $9,000, and then the TDOT access permit will still have to be obtained before we can issue a permit through the Town.

“They have applied to TDOT,” Shipley added. “I think they are on Stage 3 of 7 at this point. I feel personally comfortable that TDOT’s going to be generally receptive to this because, as I mentioned earlier.

“It’s a much better situation than you have out there right now.”