Guignard finds six votes for development

Sandra ClarkFountain City, Let's Talk

Third time was charm for would-be subdivision developer Randy Guignard, who secured a positive vote from Knox County Commission 6-3-2 on Feb. 22 to build up to 2.51 dwelling units per acre on a 78-acre tract on Beverly Road.

Twice before, Guignard had withdrawn similar proposals when he determined he lacked a six-vote majority on the commission. This time, though, he had worked hard to secure his majority.

Voting yes were Dasha Lundy, Randy Smith, Terry Hill, Charles Busler, Carson Dailey and Larsen Jay.

Voting no were Courtney Durrett, John Schoonmaker and Justin Biggs. Passing were Kyle Ward and Richie Beeler.

Take-aways from Monday’s vote:

  • Folks say political parties don’t matter on Knox County Commission, but Durrett (D) lacked the stroke that former Commissioner Michele Carringer (R) had with her colleagues. Even Lundy, the commission’s other Democrat, inexplicably voted against Durrett.
  • Guignard brought a team to support his case – former MPC director Gerald Green, former MPC planner Michael A. Brusseau and former Knox County stormwater manager Chris Granju. Also, Guignard had taken many of the commissioners to tour the property ahead of the meeting.
  • COVID-19 really hurt the opposition as the meeting was held via Zoom. At previous meetings, busloads of people had attended in opposition, citing flooding and traffic concerns.

Commissioner John Schoonmaker said the neighbors were hurt by the Zoom format. He reminded commissioners that two previous meetings had brought “the largest crowd we’ve ever had for a zoning meeting.”

Commissioner Terry Hill said she had not expected to support the rezoning but changed her mind after touring the property with Guignard. “It’s a beautiful piece of property. It levels out after you get over the initial piece.” She said Guignard’s donation of 15 acres of flood plain and floodway to Legacy Parks Foundation could be a community asset, similar to the Roy Arthur Stormwater Park on Harrell Road.

Guignard told commissioners up to 252 apartment units could be built on the land under its current zoning. “Without a doubt it’s a challenging site,” he said, adding if he got fewer than 184 homes approved he would withdraw the item again.

Attorney Charles Taylor, representing neighborhood groups, called the property “basically a ridge line,” with “real flooding 2-3 times per year.” He asked the commission to limit development to 61 dwellings – one per acre on the developable land.

Granju called Guignard’s plan “the future of Knox County” development – concentrating land in buildable areas while staying off the slopes and out of the floodway.

Commissioner Richie Beeler asked Graju if the development plan would improve flooding on Beverly Road. Graju said a good development is one that does no harm.

A couple of weeks ago, I headlined the proposed development “Zombie Heights” on a story by Betty Bean. A zombie is a dead person who comes back to life through magic, so I’ll stand by that headline. But remember, the marketplace determines value. At least two more challenges remain. Guignard must do a “go fund me” or talk a bank into lending on this property; and he’s got to find 184 families willing to buy a house on a hill at the price he needs to charge to make a profit for himself and his team.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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