Growth Plan amendments fail 3-2; Knox affected

In a 3-2 vote, Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen shot down amendments to Knox County’s Growth Policy Plan during its meeting Thursday, March 28.

While Aldermen David White, Scott Meyer and Drew Burnette voted against approving the Growth Policy amendments, Mayor Ron Williams and Vice Mayor Louise Povlin voted for it.

“I’m not an engineer, but I know a pig in a poke when I see one,” White said about the amendments. “The purpose of this is to advance Knox County’s economy … the more houses you can get on a piece of property, the better your economy is. What I want to talk about is the traffic and safety. … I’m not falling for this (plan).”

“The rural areas of Choto and Knox County, in particular Hardin Valley, need to be preserved as it’s developed,” Meyer said.

Although the amendments would have reduced density in rural areas with three units to two units per acre and remove the light industrial use of the rural area, he said what he did not like about the plan is in the planned growth areas. “Density is not addressed. Density’s not reduced or controlled.”

“I appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into this process,” Burnette said, but added there are parts of the plan that trouble him.

“While there are very good merits to this Growth Policy Plan — we need a good Growth Policy Plan in place that encourages smart development — but it must be one that supports smart and reasonable planned development in areas that can safely handle the density and traffic it allows for,” Burnette said. He warned the Northshore and Choto areas are at the breaking point in regard to traffic and safety.

“The transportation plan has listed only minor improvements planned for the area, leaving residents in a very tough spot,” Burnette added.

Pro Amendments

Povlin said BOMA rejected the amendments in 2019, in which the development community “sought to eliminate protections of rural areas of unincorporated Knox County.

“What is before this Board is simply the amendment to the Growth Policy Plan,” Povlin added. “This Board has no business considering Knox County’s Comprehensive Land Use and Transportation Plan in its decision making.

“Further, our concern should be limited to the areas that impact the Town of Farragut directly,” she added. “The amendments in the plan, in my opinion, serve to better protect Farragut, including Choto and areas around the Interstate, than the existing plan does.

“If we do not pass this, sprawl will continue to happen.”

The Growth Policy Plan, with the proposed amendment, would be “in better shape than it is currently,” Povlin said. “If we don’t vote for this, we’re allowing Choto to be a sacrificial lamb.”

Not approving the amendment would result in “more of the same” for Choto, she added. “I don’t see how this is positive for Farragut.”

“If we vote this down, it will be business as usual,” Williams said. “We’re voting tonight on the Growth Policy Plan (amendment). Granted the transportation plan, the road plan all have to be fixed … but that’s not being voted on tonight. My concern is what affects us.”

Later in the meeting, Povlin again pled her cause, saying, “That Land Use Plan is not perfect, but it’s better than what we have now.”

As she talked, White interjected, “This is out of order. The vote’s over.”

“I don’t care,” Povlin retorted. “I’m going to speak my mind because …”

“Well, I’m going home,” White said. With that, he walked out of the meeting.

The Board will convene at a special called meeting starting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, in Farragut Community Center, 239 Jamestown Blvd., to provide reasons for not passing the Growth Policy Plan resolution and recommended changes. That meeting will be followed by a workshop regarding a matter on the Town’s Capital Improvement Plan.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-58-104 (b)(1), in the vote to reject the recommended changes to the existing Knox County Growth Policy Plan that were proposed by the Knox County Growth Policy Coordinating Committee at a committee meeting on Jan. 10, 2024, the Board is directed to provide objectives and reasons for their vote against the plan.

“What the law requires us to do, if we’re going to reject what has been recommended, is we have to submit back to the coordinating committee the objections and the reasons therefore,” Town attorney Tom Hale said. “I sat here and heard some pretty rational people talking about some pretty rational concerns they had.

“I think (Vice Mayor) Louise (Povlin) is right; we can’t go say you don’t have enough trees, so we want you to adopt an ordinance to put more trees in the county,” he added.

“This is about looking at the plan and the things that are required in the plan and proposing changes that would make it acceptable.”

“Your collaboration has been vital throughout this entire planning process,” said Chris Caldwell, Knox County chief of staff and chief financial officer. “As you are aware, the Growth Policy process is complicated … After an attempt to amend the Growth Policy Plan in 2019, Mayor (Glenn) Jacobs heard the concerns and began the process of creating our first Comprehensive Land Use and Transportation Plan.

“We have spent the last two years working with Kimley-Horn, committee members, stakeholders — and heard from over 4,000 residents to assist us in developing a draft plan,” he added.

After it was created, Caldwell said Jacobs reconvened the Growth Policy Committee with the proposed amendments in October 2023, then met in January 2024. There were four public meetings. The final amendment was approved at the Jan. 10 County Commission meeting.

“This (plan) is an important step in the process to help guide where growth can be accommodated and aligns with our shared vision for a thriving community that balances economic progress with preservation of our rural areas,” Caldwell said.