Northshore neighbors sound alarm on Tooles Bend development

Tracy Haun OwensFeature, West Knoxville

No one expected the Bailey Farm to stay undeveloped forever. The 415-acre property, off Tooles Bend Road and Tedford Lane in Southwest Knox County, is a pristine lakefront jewel. It has been owned by the Oliver and Bailey families for 75 years and was first zoned Planned Residential in 1993.

But a plan to put 622 residences on the land far exceeds what neighbors expected for development – and is out of the bounds of what many people consider safe. Post Oak Bend would include 260.51 developed acres, with 198 detached residential lots, 184 attached residential lots and 240 multi-dwelling condominium units. There would be four miles of sidewalks and trails and 11.75 acres of parks and amenities. Safe Harbor Development of Knoxville and Goodall Homes of Gallatin are behind the development.

Supporters of a movement to lower density for the subdivision are expected to gather in large numbers at a Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 1 p.m. at the City County building. The Concept Plan Application is on the agenda for the meeting, although staff has already recommended a postponement to Sept. 13.

The density for the property as proposed is 2.39 du/ac. That falls within the original 1993 zoning, which was 1 to 3 du/ac. However, road access into and out of the subdivision is a major concern. Northshore is already packed with traffic at peak times, and Tooles Bend Road, Tedford Lane and Keller Bend Road, all of which could be used to reach Northshore, are all narrow, curvy “pioneer” roads, according to Diane Montgomery of the Northshore Corridor Association.

“Our greatest concerns are safety issues due to the concentration of density,” she says.

Tooles Bend Road is already barely adequate for school buses and emergency vehicles, according to numerous residents who have publicly commented on the plan. For fire response, the larger ladder trucks that serve multi-story housing would find the road impassable. There are also concerns about utilities and construction disruptions, including concerns that large construction equipment will not be able to travel on Tooles Bend.

Although the developer is targeting the development to ages 55 and up, and so doesn’t expect much increased school enrollment, there is no guarantee that the subdivision won’t produce a number of students greater than what the zoned schools can absorb.

The Northshore Corridor Association has mobilized at least 12 homeowners associations to express opposition to the development as it now looks. As of Monday afternoon, a petition to lower density had garnered more than 1,000 signatures and numerous comments, almost all of them calling out the treacherous conditions of the roads.

The property belongs to the family of David and Jane Bailey, well known philanthropists and benefactors of the University of Tennessee. David Bailey passed away in 2017 at the age of 90. In a letter to commissioners, daughter Keith Bailey said the family is aware of the special potential of the property and so engaged with a highly respected development team. She said those involved with the project have been open to questions from residents, citing in her letter a meeting held on June 21 at Northshore Elementary. She said 270-plus invitations were sent out but only about 50 people attended.

Montgomery said many discarded the invitation without reading it because it looked like marketing material. She said some of those who did attend the meeting came away more concerned, not less.

“Residents report that the developer stated his meeting with them was simply a courtesy” and that the needed zoning approvals and financing were already in place, Montgomery said.

“There remains no sense that community input was welcomed or needed,” Montgomery said.

In her letter, Bailey said that following the June meeting, the developer, with the help of consultants CDM Smith, committed to working with Knox County Engineering and Public Works to improve the intersection of Northshore Drive and Tooles Bend Road. A revised traffic plan was submitted to the commission but the Northshore Corridor Association and other interested residents had not had an opportunity to view it.

Because of the delay in reviewing the revised master plan and traffic impact study, MPC staff is recommending the Concept Plan application / Use of Review be postponed until Sept. 13. The agenda notes that the applicant was fine with the delay.

Montgomery says the rapid chain of events has been a wake-up call for residents.

“The citizens are at a large disadvantage dealing with the MPC process and experienced developers,” she said. A postponement is just step one for her group in “a long process of information gathering and citizen response to challenges to the safety and quality of life of our community.”

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