Lots of problems with flooding, roads, zoning in late ’70s
Given the lion’s share of credit for being the most persistent and outspoken voice in the late 1970s favoring incorporation of the area now known as Town of Farragut, Betty Dick was then a member of Village Green subdivision’s homeowners “board.”
“It was my responsibility to keep up with what was happening out here; zoning and things like that,” said Dick, a Town alderman between 1981 and 1987 and current member of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission, while recalling the many grievances these rural southwest Knox County residents had with county government in 1978 and 1979.
Farragut Community Group leaders hit brick wall approaching Knox County government
There was an occasional victory when citizens in southwestern Knox County, in what is now the Town of Farragut, battled Knox County Commission, then known as “County Court,” and Municipal Planning Commission in the late 1970s.
Gene McNalley, then a Tennessee Highway Patrolman living in Kingsgate subdivision, was chosen to be its homeowners association leader to fight developer plans to build an unwanted — and allegedly dangerous — road through this subdivision in 1978.
Farragut Community Group decides its time to begin incorporation plans with a pair of new leaders
A retired engineer from what is now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Eric Johnson was on board early on as a Farragut Community Group member. Having moved to Kingsgate subdivision in 1974, which remains his home, Johnson was among residents there dealing with various topographical issues — some dangerous — in the mid-to-late 1970s based on poor developer planning and alleged county indifference.
Enough with agenda delays, insults and turning a blind eye to illegal developer activity from Knox County government — a handful of southwest Knox Countians were ready to do something that, looking back, even amazes some of them 40 years later.
With the majority of these Farragut Community Group activists in their 30s, some admit, “We were too young to know any better” when deciding to take government into their own hands.
In the fall of 1979, after roughly six months of failure dealing with Knox County government, “We said, ‘Let’s go and incorporate,” said FCG member Eric Johnson, a retired engineer at what is now ORNL and who served as one of the Town’s first aldermen. He has lived in Kingsgate subdivision since 1974.
One of the more amazing aspects of incorporating what is now the Town of Farragut, “The whole thing came together in 26 days,” said FCG member Betty Dick, an alderman from 1981 to 1987 who currently is a member of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.
With the first two FCG meetings at the home of members George and Julie Dorsey, “George and Julie and (the late) Jess (Campbell, an attorney) had already been talking somewhat about incorporation for about a year off and on,” Dick said.
Another motivating factor: “They had heard Knoxville was getting ready to annex a bunch of land,” said FCG member Ron Simandl, a semi-retired chemist at Y-12 in Oak Ridge after moving to what is now Farragut from Wisconsin in 1977.
Knoxville annexation plans, ‘takeover northerners,’ fear of devalued land among cited examples
Opponents of Farragut Community Group’s effort to incorporate in fall 1979 formed a passionate, though unsuccessful, roadblock — with at least one trying to intimidate FCG members with threats.
But a powerful, and legal, threat came from then Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree: annexation.
“The World’s Fair was coming and Knoxville was looking to annex more property,” said Eric Johnson, a retired civil engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and FCG member. “They had a big bill coming for the World’s Fair and they needed a larger tax base.”
For that reason, FCG members feared Tyree would act quickly to annex areas of what is now Farragut if he knew the Town was planning to incorporate.
Therefore, “A good time to file our petitions was when he went off on vacation,” Johnson said about a period in late October of 1979. “So we filed the paperwork and proceeded to work on incorporating the town.”