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Rochelle challenges in Ward II

In his bid for alderman, Ron Rochelle’s campaign slogan is: “All I want to do is make Farragut friendly.”

Rochelle looks to defeat incumbent Mike Haynes for the Ward II seat up for grabs Election Day, Tuesday, April 5.

Rochelle, a certified financial planner, has been a business owner for 20 years. He and his wife, Suzan, operated Parkway Galleries, a chain of three high-end furniture stores in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities. The Rochelles have lived in Knox County since 1984 and moved to Farragut in 1996. Since retiring from the furniture business, Rochelle assists son Brandon in his Knoxville-based Internet consulting company, Design Sensory. Suzan is a freelance interior designer and real estate agent at Gables & Gates Realtors.

Rochelle said he would use what he’s learned in business as alderman. While he said he is, “on the outside looking in,” Rochelle outlines problems with the current administration and suggests changes, especially relating to town development.

“We need to streamline the approval process,” he said.

Rochelle disagrees with the current number of members who sit on the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission and said he would support reducing it to five members, two being the mayor and an alderman.

“Have you ever tried to please nine people at the same time?” he asked.

Rochelle questioned area developers that told him it cost 20 percent more to build in Farragut, “just for the hassle,” adding “a project seems to go on forever from conception to when actual dirt is moved.”

The town, Rochelle added, needs to avoid “damaging public relations episodes” such as the recent re-painting of the Icearium from its former blue color to beige.

Why couldn’t the town, he asked, have worked “within our codes and ordinances and just [gotten] this over with, realizing we may have to set a variance on it and might set a precedent but … that’s what the job’s about, taking the heat.”

He also pointed to Europa Café’s owners, who by parking a non-functioning vehicle on the property’s parking lot, were violating a town ordinance — when owners began using the truck for deliveries, it was no longer considered a billboard or out of compliance.

“When you open a new business, believe me, you’ve got enough headaches without the city coming out and telling you, ‘we need you to move this truck around.’”

Restrictions, Rochelle said, are a reason “Farragut’s business district is not strong. … We need to portray an upscale look, I think our shopping centers don’t really portray the wealth that we have.”

Rochelle questions whether existing businesses resist remodeling because of town restrictions.

“Our sales tax base has been stagnant at best for six years,” he said. “We’ve got to encourage businesses to build here to supply our revenue needs.”

Rochelle cites Mike Edwards, president of the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership, in a December 2004 issue of MetroPulse: “The enigma to me has always been Farragut’s position.

In and around Turkey Creek, (the town) has office zoning, when it is 100 percent reliant on sales taxes. This is at a time when the retail corridor in Farragut is (struggling). It’s an economic model that has to change in the next 30 years.”

As to the type of development Rochelle hopes to bring to the area: “I’m looking for quality and upper end. … The demographics of Farragut say we are that, without question.”

Conversely, Knoxville, Rochelle said, “is building a retail mecca around the city limits of Farragut. … You could throw a rock … and hit Proffitt’s where they’re getting ready to build… How much do you think that’s gonna generate for the city of Knoxville? … There are great ideas in this world that Farragut should be exposed to and we’re letting someone else develop. We should really be the leaders in Knox County. We should be in the forefront, not dragging along behind.”

Rochelle suggests increasing the number of town employees to add “personnel to their engineering and planning departments. … They don’t have the opportunity to follow through and sit with a developer and describe to them, ‘this is what you’ve got to do.’”

Rochelle also finds fault with some of Farragut’s roads. He pinpoints Thornton Drive, Concord Hills’ subdivision entrance, and Virtue and Everett Roads as problem areas. He stresses the need for a red light on Kingston Pike at Old Stage Road.

As for the town’s current financial status as debt-free, Rochelle said he would normally agree with operating on a cash basis, but that because of recent low interest rates, argues instead for an “aggressive pursuit of land.”

“If we were ever going to borrow, buy more land [for] anything that we needed to do to prepare for this massive growth that’s coming at us, we probably should have been doing it.” To residents who want more parks, Rochelle said, “we better be buying that land now because it’s not gonna be here in another ten years.”

As to turning to government funding to help pay for increased town services, he said, “If there’s a buck to be found that will help the city of Farragut, I’m gonna find it, that‘s the bottom line.”

Rochelle graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. He is an ambassador with the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership, attends Concord United Methodist Church and is a member of Fox Den County Club, where, as an avid golfer, he is a former club champion. The Rochelles live in Wentworth subdivision with Lucy, their west highland terrier and Nellie, their cat.


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