Ed St. Clair first became interested in planning when Knox County approved plans for a Bread Box store at the entrance to his subdivision, Concord Hills. The neighborhood reacted by asking to be annexed by the new town of Farragut. The town annexed the subdivision, fought the new development and won.
“That’s why Farragut became Farragut rather than being ignored by Knox County,” he says. “We’ve shown that you can be pro-development and pro-residential at the same time.”
Ed is the longest-sitting member of Farragut Municipal Planning Commission (MPC). He began his service in 1990 after being recruited by Bob Hill, with whom he worked at Y-12 and who then chaired the MPC. Bob was very active in the community, and he’d already enlisted Ed to work with town staff to recommend a firm for the design and construction of Farragut’s new Town Hall.
The mayor serves on and appoints members to the MPC. Mayor Bob Leonard appointed Ed, who has now served with each of Farragut’s four mayors.
In the early days, planning commission met twice a month, and it wasn’t uncommon for meetings to go past midnight. The town was still developing regulations and didn’t yet have a smooth process for rezoning. Items often went before the Board of Zoning Appeals before going before MPC, he says. Maps and road plans had to be developed, along with a five-year plan for the town.
Zoning was mostly reactive because there weren’t enough zoning districts to cover development needs. There were also residents who were unhappy about incorporation and preferred to live by the county’s lack of rules.
“It was a maturing process for the town. So much went into establishing everything in those first few years.”
Over time, the planning commission’s workload decreased enough that meetings were held once a month. Most agenda items were routine, but Ed recalls a handful that drew considerable citizen interest at the time, like the rezoning and site plan for the Concord Baptist Church expansion.
In recent years, planning commission has been focused on developing a town center as envisioned in the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, he says. The redevelopment of the former Silver Spoon site, improvements to the Campbell Station Inn and the beginning of the redevelopment of the former Phillips 66 gas station site are all part of the vision for Farragut’s town center. There is also active discussion of the redevelopment of the old Kroger shopping center.
Ed says that giving back to the town has been one of the best parts of his life. No one has ever tried to take advantage of his position, and he thinks that those who come before the planning commission feel like they are heard.
“People don’t understand all the things that go into running this town. Nothing’s perfect, but I think the proof is in the pudding – what you see here versus what you see in other parts of the county.”
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.