SoKno residents pack meetings on Ancient Lore Village

Betsy PickleOur Town Leaders

The gauntlet was thrown down and it was picked up at Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow this week.

Tom Boyd poses prior to the presentation; he did not speak at the session Tuesday.

Oh, wait. Ancient Lore Village hasn’t been built – yet – and it’s supposed to be a place of peace, not war. Businessman Tom Boyd’s vision of a $40 million fantasy-themed resort getaway in South Knox County prompted two back-to-back meetings on Monday and Tuesday, drawing 100-plus to each one.

Full disclosure: I was not able to attend Monday evening’s meeting at Ye Olde Steak House. But the image I have from what I’ve been told is of a saloon fight in an old Western. It was described as raucous and emotional as opponents of the project viewed slides of the neighborhood where the resort is planned and where the environmental impact is of foremost concern.

People stood on chairs and yelled to be heard in the crowded room.

Tuesday’s meeting at SoKno Market was a different story. You know how Mary Poppins believed that a spoonful of sugar helped medicine go down? Well, Boyd’s team was in charge of this meeting, and there was free ice cream for anyone who wanted it. (For the record, SoKno Market makes its own ice cream, and it’s delicious.)

Most of the crowd, estimated at well over 100 people, seemed to be supporters of Boyd’s project, or at least undecided about it. SoKno school board rep Kristi Kristy said afterward that she came to get more information, and she did.

The presentation was helmed by Matthew Cross, who set a courteous tone that most of the attendees matched. Cross went over several common concerns that had already reached the team, including one “personal” one: If Boyd, 81, should not live to see the project’s completion, what guarantee is there that it will follow through on his vision?

It’s a question many have asked, and although it could be considered rude, it’s admittedly practical. Cross had a satisfactory answer: Ancient Lore Village has a board of directors that is “invested” in Boyd’s creation and dedicated to seeing it through.

There were questions about crime (they will have a security chief and team), rezoning (they are trying to complete every test and study they can anticipate Knox Planning – formerly known as MPC – requiring of them), traffic (they can control only the access to the property, not the nearby Chapman Highway commercial area), drinking at their restaurant (most diners will be guests staying on site).

Matthew Cross and architect Daniel Levy seem upbeat after the meeting.

Cross noted that there’s been quite an uproar over having a “theme park” in SoKno. It’s a “themed park” – not Dollywood, he said. There are no rides, and there will be no fireworks. The concept comes from a novel Boyd recently self-published, “The Bobbins: Outcast to the Inner Earth.” It’s about denizens of a mystic land who live in peace and serenity.

The 150 units can accommodate up to 450 guests; architect Daniel Levy and Cross discussed aspects of the rooms. The “entry-level” rate is $200 a night, while the maximum rate is $2,500 for a five-room suite (two will be available). They anticipate 200,000 visitors a year.

After he went over questions already raised, Cross took questions from the audience, compiling them all and then answering them one by one.

He said the amphitheater so many were worried about would not have an amplification system. The 500-person-capacity event center would be under the restaurant and mostly would be used as a wedding venue. There are to be no asphalt roads on the property, only decorated golf-type carts using specially built trails.

There will be opportunities for locals to stay at the resort as it is being constructed to get an idea of how it is built and what it will offer. Locals can also dine at the restaurant when it is completed, but resort guests will have first priority.

Cross said they would be hiring about 150 employees. They are looking for local businesses to help bring the resort to life – woodworkers, landscapers and more. They want local artists to demonstrate crafts on site.

He also said there would be more community meetings to keep residents in the loop. They have postponed making a presentation to Knox Planning until they have more concrete info to provide.

Cross described Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow as “Knoxville’s project.”

“It’s a little project with a big heart.”

More info here.

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