The Farragut Insider confesses divided loyalties

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

When I first considered applying for my job as PR and marketing coordinator for the town of Farragut, my surprised husband’s response was, “If you got the job, it would be the most ironic thing ever.”

I didn’t disagree. I grew up in Oak Ridge, and the Farragut Admirals were competition in the classroom as well as on the football field. Such rivalries aren’t easily forgotten, so when my family returned to East Tennessee, I refused to shop for a house in Farragut. My children became Bearden Bulldogs and the deal was sealed.

I never imagined becoming a fan of town of Farragut government, of all things. As a reporter for the Shopper News, I covered the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Municipal Planning Commission meetings and got schooled in planning and zoning. In spite of my biases, I came to respect the idea that development standards result in a more attractive community with higher property values. I also appreciated that Farragut government is small and lean, and those who make development decisions are volunteers.

That respect made it easy to say yes to the job of becoming a spokesperson for the town of Farragut. While my primary audience is the media, I sometimes find myself defending the town’s development standards to citizens. This happened recently after listening to a business owner complain about the complexities of doing business in town.

A few days later, I sat in on a staff-developer meeting at Town Hall and wished that business owner was there. These meetings are an opportunity for developers to sit down with staff and elected officials to discuss their project, and the goal is for both parties to walk away satisfied. This requires flexibility from the developer, in the form of meeting zoning restrictions or architectural standards, and from the town, in the form of modifying zoning or even ordinances to make the project possible.

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss an ordinance change to allow microbreweries in Farragut. It was held on behalf of Carlos Cortez, one of the developers of 35 North at Admiral’s Corner, which is currently under construction at the corner of Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road. The concept is an indoor food truck park, and Carlos hopes to ultimately include a brewery in the development. This isn’t the first time a developer has wanted to build a brewery in Farragut, but it may be the first time the request is followed through to completion.

The meeting was attended by development staff, planning commissioners and board members. After a primer on the definitions of industrial breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs and a review of ordinances from other municipalities, the group discussed how and where breweries could work in Farragut. Ultimately, Vice Mayor Louise Povlin asked Carlos what scale of brewing he imagined and his timeline for buildout.

Like any other project completed in the town, a brewery will require numerous conversations and approval from both the planning commission and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. But this meeting demonstrated that town leaders are open to working with developers, even on new concepts. This is especially important as Farragut’s town center is developed.

I probably won’t ever cheer for Admirals without gritting my teeth. But I will cheer for town staff and volunteer leaders who work together on responsible development that makes Farragut a better place to live, work and play.

Town of Farragut public relations and marketing coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut Insider.

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