It was hot and it was heated.
More than 75 North Knoxville/Fountain City residents sweated through an outdoor meeting May 14 to voice their opinions of a proposed residential development on Beverly Road.
Only three of the speakers – the aspiring developer who has purchased an option on 88 acres of hillside land, the property owner who wants to unload it and the Realtor who is selling it – supported the project. Everyone else gave it a thumbs-down, citing flooding and traffic problems that will only get worse if the 169-unit subdivision is built on the side of a steep hill with a flood-prone creek at the bottom.
In March, the Metropolitan Planning Commission approved Randy Guignard’s request for rezoning and a sector plan amendment. In April, Knox County Commissioner Michele Carringer asked for a postponement so the aspiring developer could meet with the neighbors.
At the end of the meeting, Carringer, who represents the affected area, announced that she will vote against the rezoning requested by Guignard, owner of Four Seasons Heating and Air.
“I cannot support this,” she said. “I’m not against development. I ran on good development, but we cannot cause harm on our neighbors. … I support what my people believe in, but I have to have five other votes.”
She asked attendees to call her commission colleagues, “So they know that it’s not just Commissioner Carringer who opposes this.”
Guignard said the property is an eyesore and a dumping ground that he will transform into a community asset. His Realtor (most speakers did not give their names) said that thoughtful development could actually improve the flooding problem.
Jim Jennings, who lives on heavily traveled Tazewell Pike just west of the development site, said that area traffic is already unbearable.
“I left the house at 6:15 tonight,” he said. “And I had to let 52 cars go by before I could get out of my driveway (to make a right turn). There’ve been three people killed in front of my house, plus an untold amount of wrecks.”
He said the development, which will drain storm water runoff into White’s Creek – a major tributary of First Creek, which sometimes floods the Broadway corridor – will increase the area’s flooding woes.
“I’ve seen Litton’s under water,” he said, referring to the landmark restaurant in the heart of Fountain City. “And I’m a county resident that resides in the city. The city has spent a tremendous amount of money (on flood control). We have fought these battles and it’s always the same thing.
“It’s the water, it’s the flooding. I left work at 6 to come out in 90-degree heat to let people know that common sense needs to prevail.”
Other speakers shared stories of wrecks and near-drownings. One Beverly Road resident said she cannot even get to her mailbox safely.
“I have to get up at 6 and move my car across the street if I have an 8 a.m. doctor’s appointment. Pedestrians can’t even get across the street.”
She’s worried about increasing the already serious flood problem there, too.
“My youngest son was in the flood and was rescued by (neighbor) Arthur Parris,” she said. “There’s just too much development. We need to leave a little bit of natural area – let us live the way it is and be peaceful.”
When Guignard said it takes development to get roads fixed, someone in the crowd said, “I don’t want the roads fixed so they can have more traffic,” and was followed by applause.
Toward the end of the meeting, property owner Ray H. Jenkins said it wasn’t his aim to offend the neighbors or to tarnish the legacy of his grandfather, from whom he inherited the property. He said he’d be glad to consider a suggestion that the city and the county should get together and purchase the property for flood control.
To contact Knox County Commissioners regarding the rezoning of the 88-acre parcel on Beverly road, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Include name and address, as well as your opinion of the rezoning.
The rezoning meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, Main Assembly Room, City County Building.
Why could residents not use the empty, air-conditioned community building? It was reserved from 4-9 p.m. Monday night by Buffat Trace Homeowners Association. HOAs typically reserve the center in the evening during the week, free of charge. Sometimes they don’t show up or they only meet for an hour, but since it’s a first-come, first-serve, they get the whole evening shift. The community center was available on Monday earlier in the day.