Town Hall East hears from city officials

Nick Della VolpeNortheast Knox

Town Hall East hosted two city officials on Sept. 13, talking about issues of interest to East Knoxville: Development of The Ammons, an 80-unit affordable housing complex on Asheville Highway and road paving plans and speed control on neighborhood streets.

Five members of Knoxville City Council were present: Lauren Rider, Gwen McKenzie, Andrew Roberto and Tommy Smith, all running for reelection in November, and at-large council member Janet Testerman.

Becky Wade, director of Housing and Community Development, along with builder Jake Varner, addressed affordable housing questions. Harold Cannon, director of Engineering, tackled road issues. Some 45 residents attended the meeting.

The Ammons. While the project proponents originally wanted greater density, 80 affordable housing units are currently planned for the $20 million apartment project. It will include 52 3-BR units and 28 2-BR units. Developer Carl Lansden was awarded a $2 million grant from the city to encourage the affordable housing project, along with a grant of state tax credits to subsidize the low-rent units.

Demolition of the old Holiday Inn site is expected to start soon, with construction to begin in October. The number of units for the 7-acre site was scaled downward once a blue-line creek in the rear of the property emerged as an environmental concern. That area will serve as greenspace.

Questions included the deletion of commercial space on the Asheville Hwy frontage, and worries that the project could add bad conduct from some tenants. The developer’s rep, Varner, stressed there would be professional onsite management to screen applicants up front and root out wrong-doers. Another concern was how nearby grouping of recent low-income housing might affect commercial development on Asheville Highway.

Eligibility for affordable housing required residents earn less than 60% of the county average income, as determined by HUD. Section 8 housing vouchers will also be accepted. 10% of the units must be ADA accessible.

Roads and Traffic. Cannon addressed repaving of the western half of Holston Hills Road (from Owana Drive to Boyd’s Bridge Road), and concerns about increased speeding (speed bumps sought for Green Valley and Sunset Drive, east and west). He also discussed the 7,000-pounds weight limit on Holston Hills Road and Chilhowee Drive.

As a practical matter, repaving the final section of Holston Hills Road will have to await completion of planned KUB repair of old underground utilities.

Neighbors have been working with the city to address speeding on roads that affect residents who use the narrow roads for walking, biking and pushing baby carriages. A major consideration is for unobstructed access for first responders. Neighbors said all hurdles have been addressed to the satisfaction of the Office of Neighborhoods. The installation of speed bumps should occur in the next cycle of such work. Cannon noted that Engineering is ready to release a comprehensive Sidewalk Plan and a Greenway Plan. Potential costs for those desired facilities could run in the billions of dollars, however. The administration and council will have to tackle how much can be funded.

Cannon left a map of the Town Hall East service area and invited members to mark up and submit site-specific issues directly to Engineering.

Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer, a gardener and a former member of Knoxville City Council.

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