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Review Board report narrowly endorsed, accepted by FMBA

The Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen narrowly “accepted and endorsed” the report and recommended actions of the Development Review Process Evaluation Committee after more than two hours of discussion that included public comment reminding how development affects the town’s pocketbook.

“You’re getting a lot of your money so that your homeowners don’t have to pay taxes from developers in the business community,” said retired manager Victor Spencer. “And I was very surprised by the fact that this particular challenge that you have identified, and has obviously been going on for some time, is hitting exactly the segment that is to provide you with revenue in the town in the future.”

Resident Mike Mitchell asked: “Would you consider an annual review of ordinances? … I saw a need for a new type of zoning on Turkey Creek North, so it could flourish with retail. I think that’s a unique area and I don’t think our current zoning addresses that area.”

Spencer advised that the development community should continue to be involved in the process of improving development review.

“By involving people that you don’t see eye to eye with, you can resolve a tremendous number of people problems,” he said about developers and town staff. “We are talking about mature people who want to be successful.”

Alderman Thomas Rosseel, who attended most of the DRPEC meetings, questioned some of the report’s wording, dubbing it as overstated and gratuitous.

“[The development process] shouldn’t be confrontational but it is adversarial by nature,” Rosseel said about the report’s statement that a significant number of developers perceived Farragut’s development review process as “adversarial.”

Harold Cannon, a member of the development community, was one of the committee members who spoke following Rosseel’s comments.

“I don’t believe the development process has to be adversarial,” Cannon said.

Rosseel also questioned the use of the report’s use of the word “subjective” when it came to staff interpreting town ordinances.

“If there is a feeling of subjectivity, I don’t believe it’s been brought to the attention of town management,” Rosseel said.

As to concerns with customer service issues, Rosseel again looked to developers.

“Perhaps [staff] didn’t respond as rapidly but it seems to me the onus is on the developer if they want their project to move,” he said.

Bob Markli, committee member and builder, said, “I’m going to speak not as a member of the committee but as a citizen who’s been living here for eighteen years, raised four kids here. … We’re starting to look like a town that time forgot … like it’s stuck in the eighties,” Markli said.

“This is not criticism, it’s information,” he added about the DRPEC recommendations for improving town development.

One of those recommendations was to hire at least two new members of town staff, including an assistant to Town Administrator Dan Olson.

“Regarding recommended actions, I do not see the value in adding a new staff person to oversee all of the development process,” said Steve Hildebrand, Farragut Municipal Planning Commission member, who responded to the DRPEC report via a letter to FBMA. “The current Town Administrator should provide the functions requested of this position. I believe there should be additions to the staff in Engineering and Community Development.”

When discussion ended, Mayor W. Edward Ford III asked for a motion to accept and endorse all actions recommended by the report.

Alderman Joel Garber suggested the Board ask Olson “to plan and implement the steps necessary to meet the intent of the report,” he said. “I think almost everything in the report should be addressed but not necessarily in the detail with which the report states. … I think this was a management issue and we now need to turn it over to the staff.”

“I think accepting everything in [the report] tonight, I don’t know that is exactly what we need to do,” Alderman Dorothy LaMarche said. “Let’s give our town administrator the opportunity to study it and look it over and come back to us.”

The motion to accept and endorse the report carried with a vote of 3-2; Rosseel and LaMarche voted against the motion.

Ford followed the vote with an “action plan” to continue the work began by DRPEC. Ford asked Olson to review and provide an analysis of how to address customer service and communications issues in an action plan by FMBA’s Oct.13 meeting.

He asked Olson and Farragut Municipal Planning Commission Chair Robert Hill to address areas of concern regarding the process itself and to present an action plan by FMBA’s Oct. 27 meeting. He asked that Olson provide the name of the “non advocate” staff member who he recommends to begin recording FMPC meeting minutes, a task currently completed by Ruth Hawk, community development director. Olson will also be working with Hill to study and improve the town’s submittal requirements.

As to additional staffing, Ford asked Olson and DRPEC member Ron Honken, who also heads the town’s Personnel Committee, to provide a job description for an associate town administrator.

“I think Dan [Olson] needs to tell the Personnel Committee what his recommendations are first before the job descriptions are developed,” Garber suggested.

“They’ve already been working on a job description and they are well on their way,” Ford said, adding that work had already begun on the DRPEC report “in anticipation” of it being accepted by the Board.

Garber asked: “So it’s already been determined that Dan wants to have an associate town administrator, is that what we’re saying?”

“We have endorsed this report and I’ve interpreted that to be that we need an associate town administrator,” Ford responded. “What worries me is that it took nine months to bring into place Dan and it takes a long time to bring in a person of that caliber. … The ultimate decision of who that person should be should be this Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”


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