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Concord Park land battle continues

Discussion about the future of Concord Park drew quite a crowd, hundreds in fact, to West Valley Middle School Monday night.

The standing-room-only audience came to hear two presentations proposing two very different plans for a portion of the park that Knox County has considered redeveloping primarily its aging, expensive swimming pool that’s seen fewer and fewer swimmers in recent years. Knox County Mayor Michael Ragsdale will make the final decision.

On the table: a new 44,000-square-foot Farragut Family YMCA or a new dry dock storage facility for Concord Marina.

A third option not discussed at the meeting is that nothing is developed, according to Blaise Burch, Knox County/Knoxville Public Building Authority director of property development and information technology.

Following protocol, the meeting was held as an opportunity for decision makers to hear public opinion. Attendees were asked to fill out a comment sheet and specify a choice among the two developers, both developers or neither developer. They were asked to fill out their name and address in order to verify “so that we can get this community’s proper opinion of the projects,” Burch said.

“Once we go through and look at all of the public input, that has a certain value that is applied to the selection process,” he added.

Doug Bataille, Knox County director of parks and recreation, led the proceedings.

“By the end of the night, we should have a good idea,” he said about surveying what residents prefer to see at the park.

That input will be passed down to an eight-member committee made up of representatives from Tennessee Valley Authority, PBA, Knox County Parks and Recreation, and representatives named by Ragsdale, who will ultimately decide what may or may not be built.

Both YMCA and Concord Marina met the necessary stipulations for building on land overseen by Knox County, property, which, mandated by TVA, must be used for recreation.

Citizens asked questions and made comments concerning such issues as parking, erosion, noise and increased road and water traffic. One attendee asked in a submitted question: “When does development stop?”

If a new development were to be built, it would join other properties leased on the public land such as the Concord Yacht Club, the Knox Area Junior Golf Association golf course and the new Lakeside Tavern Restaurant.

This is the second time developers Darby and Ed Campbell, Concord Marina owners and operators, have hit a roadblock in their attempts to build a dry storage building, a facility in their original plan for the marina. Zoning, access and visibility are some of the issues the Campbells have faced.

“We’re really doing what we initially asked to do,” Darby Campbell said.

About the current proposed site designed to be built at the current pool site, Ed Campbell said, “… this is probably the last location on Fort Loudoun Lake and certainly in Knox County that really is able to handle this.”

“This” is a demand demonstrated on a daily basis at the marina.

“We have a waiting list. … Next year,” he said, “we’ll have one hundred” on that list.

Plans for the proposed storage building to be built on the site of the current pool were drawn up by Michael Brady Inc. architects.

“It’s flood-able,” Darby Campbell said about being able to build on the site.

In the plans for the storage facility, he added, “water can get in and out.”

“It would be very expensive to build but we’re willing to go the extra mile and build something that would be architecturally pleasing.”

While the exact finances have not been worked out, Darby Campbell said, “The proceeds for this facility to Knox County would probably be somewhere between fifty and one-hundred thousand dollars I would think.”

“This money should trickle down to the Knox County parks and rec for ramps, for ball fields, for all kinds of other used facilities.”

Dry dock proceeds would be in addition to current annual rent $100,000 Concord Marina pays to Knox County.

Boating is big business in Knox County, Campbell noted.

“A great deal of people that relocate to this area relocate here because of our lakes. … They found a big perk for their executives when they relocated here to be able to get on the water and do what they love best, and so this would just be an extension of that … .”

Ed Campbell added: “Everything that we’ve done tonight has been far beyond what the county had asked us to do … we plan to continue in that vein. We’ve got a sizable investment right there now, approaching ten million dollars. … I think [the dry storage facility] will be an asset to the community as is the marina now.”

Jim Dixon, president and CEO of YMCA of East Tennessee, spoke on behalf of Farragut Family YMCA. Its current lease at 10709 Knigston Pike is up June 2007.

Their proposal, if approved, has the new YMCA building operational by January 2007, and built adjacent to the current pool’s location. The site of the pool would become green space and the current tennis courts would need to be moved to a new park location.

“We believe that the YMCA builds a healthier community and it does it one person at a time,” Dixon said. “Part of our commitment to this because we’re not bringing rent money to the table, we’re bringing community service and value to this community. … We are going to partner with Knox County and their Parks and Recreation Department to enhance what they’re doing.”

Dixon likened the project to the Cansler Family YMCA built at downtown’s Cansler Park. While Dixon stipulated plans could change based on community needs, an indoor swimming and therapy pool, wellness facilities, exercise studios, multi-purpose rooms, a double gymnasium and bike cleaning station are some of what’s proposed for the site.

If approved, YMCA would hold a capital campaign to raise money for the project. Membership would increase from 800 families to about 1,800, estimated Vickey Beard, Farragut Family YMCA executive director.

“… we provide financial assistance to insure that everything I’m talking about today is available to everyone in our community and that is needed even in West Knoxville,” Dixon said.

Dixon said YMCA has been searching for suitable, affordable land for a new facility for about 10 years.

A joint venture between YMCA and Concord Marina is also a possible outcome.

“We want to present our case, they want to present theirs but we think that ultimately there may be a real win-win for the county, and for them and for us,” Ed Campbell said.

Another win-win could be future proposed road projects including improvements to area bridges and to the intersection of Concord Road and Northshore Road, a change that could include a traffic circle, which Bataille described as a “better way to slow traffic” and offering a more park-like setting.

In addition to public input, the committee will take other things into consideration when making their recommendation to Ragsdale.

Among them is developers’ ability to maintain a facility that’s aesthetically pleasing financially successful and will have longevity, Burch said.

The public has until Monday, May 30, to offer input at or call Knox County Parks and Recreation at 865-215-2000.


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