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Sequoyah Hills development not possible under Farragut’s regulations, Whitehead tells FMPC

A move to decrease the street design speed in the town’s new open space residential overlay district (R-1, OSR) appears to be gaining steam in the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

“I believe the things that have been submitted are rational things to consider,” said FMPC chairman Bob Hill concerning local realtor Gables & Gates’ request to decrease the street design speed in the new zone from 35 mph to possibly 30 or 25 mph.

Gables & Gates’ plans to build 450 homes on the McFee farm, recently zoned R-1, OSR.

Many of the other eight FMPC members shared Hill’s thought.

“I’m really tired of complaints from subdivisions as far as speeding,” said Alderman Connie Rutenber. “I think we need to incorporate something like narrower streets to slow people down.”

Jerry Whitehead, co-owner of Gables & Gates, said the town’s current residential design speed and wide street designs have caused safety issues.

“One of our problems is we’ve made them too fast … we’ve increased the comfort level,” he said.

Whitehead and his engineering team contend that if the design speed were decreased in the R-1, OSR zone the streets could be designed narrower, thus slowing drivers down and requiring less environmental disturbance during the construction of streets.

“The regulations are causing us to design cuts that are quite substantial,” Whitehead said.

Under the town’s regulations a relatively safe neighborhood such as Sequoyah Hills, Whitehead said, could not be constructed.

“Sequoyah Hills, probably one of the safest subdivisions as far as accidents, couldn’t be built here because of the cookie-cutter (regulations) we have,” he said.

Mayor Eddy Ford and town engineer Darryl Smith were vocal in opposition of decreasing the design speed in the new zone.

“My feeling on it personally, I cannot recommend reducing the design speed … that’s just my opinion,” Smith said.

Smith wrote in a memo to the FMPC, “Gables & Gates should be commended for considering ways to slow down motorists in the McFee Farm development, while also reducing the number of trees cut and areas disturbed by a development of this size. However, I believe this method of reducing the design speed may, in fact, provide more of a surprise for unwary motorists, and I cannot recommend it.”

Ford contended that the slower design speed relied too heavily on illusion to slow down drivers.

“We would sleep better at night knowing we’ve designed (safe) streets rather than depending on optical illusions to slow down these unsafe drivers,” Ford said.

Many on the commission questioned whether this issue should be considered as a blanket change to the new zone or as a variance.

“We’re in a unique overlay design where topography is a concern. What we ought to really be looking at is a variance,” said Commissioner Fred Jones. “I think there’s something that has to be done to deal with the topography and density … it can’t be uniform.”

Darcy Sullivan, the traffic engineer that helped write the town’s subdivision regulations, agreed.

“I wouldn’t recommend a blanket reduction of design speeds. I suggest selective reductions,” he said.

“I would like to encourage this track of looking further into it, maybe benchmarking and seeing where this is being done,” Jones said.

The FMPC instructed Whitehead to proceed with the concept plan for the McFee Farm development and to produce 3-D examples of developments that have used slower design speeds and narrower streets for their review.

In other news:

• The FMPC voted unanimously to approve resubdivision of parcels 132.01, 132.02 and 132.03, Tax Map 142, a variance from the requirement to designate 10 percent open space and a variance from the requirement to construct a sidewalk at this time at the Kmart shopping center.

• The FMPC voted unanimously to accept Anchorage Way, within Turkey Creek Harbor subdivision — Phases 2, 3 and 4, as a public street.


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