Pending development, Fruit and Berry Patch seeks rezoning

Shannon CareyHalls

Almost everyone at the March 5 community meeting concerning rezoning of the Fruit and Berry Patch on McCloud Road in Halls said the same thing. They wanted owner Dennis Fox to be able to sell the property and use the proceeds for medical care for himself and his wife.

But one Berry Patch neighbor hit the nail on the head when she said, “We’re all telling him we want him to sell his property, but we’re trying to tell him how he can sell it.”

Developer Bryan Petett

Fox attended the meeting, as did potential developer Bryan Petett, Realtor Jim Staley through whom the property is under contract, and Knox County Commissioner Charles Busler. Berry Patch neighbor Tom Hollenbeck helped organize the meeting in advance of a rezoning hearing before Metropolitan Planning Commission at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8.

“The fact that this business needed to close was a very sad thing for me,” Hollenbeck said. “I have no objection, but as a Halls community member I want the people guiding the decisions to be informed of what our thoughts are. I just want to make sure we get heard going forward.”

Those concerns include increased traffic on McCloud Road, Hill Road, and through Temple Acres and Bonta Vista subdivisions that can be used as a cut-through to Maynardville Highway. The intersections of McCloud and Hill with Andersonville Pike are considered congested and dangerous without the 2,141 daily vehicle trips MPC estimates the development will add to local traffic.

Others spoke of stormwater runoff to nearby creeks and a rumor that apartments are slated to be built on the property.

Petett addressed the concerns, saying that the development will not include apartments.

“I can’t run water off,” he said. “These things have to handle their own water. I’m trying to pay Mr. Fox as much for his property as I can. I’m trying to build a neighborhood that’s conducive to the neighborhoods around it. If you all can give Mr. Fox a better deal than what I’m giving him, go ahead. I will step aside.”

Petett said he hopes to begin construction of roads and utilities through the development by July. Current recommendation from MPC is three units per acre, but Petett said the development will not be that dense due to topography and a sizable TVA power line easement.

Knox County Commissioner Charles Busler speaks to neighbors of the Fruit and Berry Patch.

Busler assured the neighbors present that their voices would be heard by MPC and Knox County Commission and encouraged them to contact him directly, too. He said the MPC recommendation calls for a traffic study, and every step of the process allows for community input.

“But this man gets to sell his property,” said Busler. “Improving infrastructure means people are going to lose property. There’s no such thing as a win-win.”

Fox also spoke to the group.

“There’s nobody sadder about closing the Fruit and Berry Patch than I am,” he said. “I’m going to miss you people. I’ve used up half my retirement taking care of my wife so far. I think there’s been some misinformation passed out. Possibly, if we don’t get it finished by the end of July, I may have some blueberries and peaches for sale.”

Click here for the MPC recommendations to be discussed at the March 8 meeting.

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