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FMPC takes ‘leap of faith,’ approves Parkside site plan

Pictured above is the future site of the facility on the south side of Parkside Drive at the town limits.- Preston Flanders/farragutpress
The Farragut Municipal Planning Commission took what commissioner Ed St. Clair called a “leap of faith” last week, but not without some insurance.

The commission voted 5-2, with Alderman Connie Rutenber abstaining, to approve a site plan for a 56,000-square-foot medical facility, Parkside Plaza, on the south side of Parkside Drive at the town limits. Commissioner Tom Rosseel was absent.

Many on the commission were concerned about the amount of trees that would be clear-cut to construct the development.

“We don’t want this type of scraping of the land,” said Commissioner Carol Evans, who voted in opposition of the plan along with Bob Hill, FMPC chairman.

“There has not been much effort to preserve the great trees that are out there,” Hill added.

Representatives of the firm that drew-up the site plan for the medical facility, Site, Inc., said every effort was made to try to preserve the trees, but due to the physical constraints of the land, it could not be done.

“The developer would love to take advantage of those trees, but it’s just not possible with this type of development,” said Kim Henry-Begg, director of planning for Site, Inc.

Once the site is constructed, many trees will be replaced to meet town requirements, Site, Inc., representatives said.

“I’ve been called a tree-hugger many times and I would love to show the board anytime how we tried to save trees,” said Ron Watkins, president of Partners Development, the firm constructing the plaza.

Another issue that was of concern for the FMPC was that Partners Development also proposed to clear all four lots for the site at once, while only the lot for the new medical facility would be developed in the near future.

“This can be done in phases,” Evans said.

Watkins said the only way the site would work is “to clear all four lots at once.”

Much of the FMPC’s concern centered around Lot D, located on the west side of the development, which is slated to be smaller condominium offices. The lot backs up to Sweet Briar subdivision and the FMPC was concerned that if that lot is not developed, 384 trees will be lost and intensify interstate noise for Sweet Briar residents.

“That is always a risk, but the likelihood is very strong that it will be developed,” Watkins said.

“If we don’t grate parcel D at the same time you’re going to have equipment and erosion at different times over the next few years.”

To ensure Lot D is developed, Partners Development agreed to set-up a $40,000 escrow account for the town and if nothing is done on the lot in eight to 10 months that money will be used for tree replacement.

“I think the escrow guarantees that (it will be developed),” Henry-Begg said. “The developer doesn’t want that money forfeited.”

The new 56,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to be completed in late 2005, Watkins said, and construction is slated to begin on Lot D in January 2005 and be completed March 2006.

“We are moving as aggressively as we can,” Watkins said. “We’ve had a number of physicians sign-on to locate there already.”

Commissioner Bob Edlund, a resident of Sweet Briar, said he “hates to lose trees like everybody else, but this seems to be a quality development.”

Lot A of the development will contain a detention pond and Lot B will contain “a similar office-type development,” Watkins said.

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