Hardin Valley resident Bill Nichols – also a member of the Rotary Club of Farragut – on Wednesday told Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs that he and others are aware that multiple $10,000 payments are being funneled through two local attorneys to influence votes before the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission (formerly known as the Metropolitan Planning Commission – MPC).
Jacobs was Farragut Rotary’s speaker Wednesday at a packed house at Fox Den Country Club and Nichols raised this volatile issue during the question-and-answer session.
“I and many others are wondering how so many zonings and rezonings are happening so fast and how so many homes are being built in new subdivisions and also how the new Hardin Valley Middle School was built in a flood zone that was rezoned and no one is paying any attention to this,” Nichols told the mayor. “No one!”
Nichols continued: “I’m not the only person who knows that this is going on, that construction people, developers and lawyers are involved in taking $10,000 to get these things done at the MPC (Planning Commission). I am asking you today if you would take this information that I and others know about to the FBI and the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) and ask them to investigate this,” Nichols said. “Some of this reaches across our state lines.”
Jacobs seemed surprised by the question, but did not duck Nichols.
“I hear you and I disagree with you. I do not believe that MPC is corrupt. I agree and disagree with the decisions of the MPC but that’s what we have in place,” Jacobs said. “You also have to remember that the ultimate decisions (for rezonings outside the city limits of Knoxville) are made by Knox County Commission.”
The Planning Commission has 15 members – eight appointed by the county mayor and the other seven by the Knoxville mayor.
Their terms run for four years (no compensation) and they can serve for two consecutive terms and can be reappointed after a one-year break.
Also at the meeting was Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker.
Hardin Valley is a high-growth part of Knox County. Earlier this week the Planning Commission released a study showing that approximately 1,800 people have moved into Hardin Valley every year since 2014. That would translate into 20,000 more new residents in the next 10 years – if that level of growth is sustained.
That would affect roads, infrastructure, the already crowded schools – not to mention traffic. Much of Hardin Valley traffic travels on two-lane country roads.
“I have had several separate conversations with others who know about this corruption and know it goes on and has been going on,” Nichols added. “This needs to be investigated and I plan on pursuing this.”
Jacobs also was promoting the literacy initiative “Read City, USA” – encouraging kids and adults alike to read more. He tied this literacy issue to economic development and how companies contemplating locating here are first and foremost looking for an educated workforce who have the skills for their jobs.
He talked about the issue of moving Knox County Schools administrative offices to the vacant TVA East Tower. Moving the schools would free up the Andrew Johnson building and the old Sears building on North Central for private-sector development.
“Dealing with the federal government is not fun, as you know,” Jacobs said about the TVA issue. “Even if the schools moved in, TVA would control the security. There’s also a chance UT would use the top seven floors of the building and lease them from Knox County.”
He also mentioned the possibility of purchasing the Summer Place Garage to use for parking.
If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email at email@example.com We meet at 12:15 p.m. each Wednesday at Fox Den Country Club. You also can call me at 865-659-3562.
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California. He started writing for KnoxTNToday in 2017.