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TVA puts Concord ‘Y’ future in limbo

Plans for what was to have been the YMCA at Concord Park have been put on hold, perhaps permanently, due to a decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority board this past November.

Around April 2006, the Farragut Family YMCA signed an agreement with Knox County to build a YMCA facility off Northshore Drive near Concord Park. The property to be used for the new site was TVA property that was transferred to Knox County in 1949, according to Barbara Martocci, TVA spokesperson.

“At that time the use of the property was restricted to public recreation as a public park,” she said. “Whether we sell or transfer property, we always have restrictions depending on allocation of use of the property.”

In November 2006, TVA board members voted 8-1 to change the rules for selling its land. The property wouldn’t be used for retail and it wouldn’t be used for residential development.

Several buildings have been set up on that property since 1949, she said. The way the new land use rules are set up, she said TVA wouldn’t ask for the removal of anything existing on the property currently.

“As we move forward with the new land policy, we are going to try and stay within the guidelines of the land policy for public and commercial recreation,” Martocci said. “Future uses of the property should support traditional uses of recreation.”

Jim Dickson, president and CEO of YMCA of East Tennessee, said the sudden halt to their building plans came as a complete surprise to him.

“Our Y-M-C-A board had met and we had planned to have our groundbreaking ceremony on April twenty-seventh,” he said. “When we got into the permitting process for that, we went to TVA and they told us we’d have to get the land use approved for that type of facility. Everybody thought that wouldn’t be a problem. We applied for it, and were denied.”

Dickson said TVA regarded the YMCA as something that was restricted by the new land use policies the TVA board developed in November.

He said the YMCA had been working through Knox County, since their agreement was with the county, to see if some consideration could be made since YMCA is a non-profit organization.

“We’re a charity and open to the public,” he said. “We offer financial assistance to make sure everyone has access to us.”

Knox County Parks and Recreation Department Direc-tor Doug Bataille hadn’t returned any phone calls by press time to discuss the county role in the discussions.

Martocci said TVA was always willing to sit down and discuss a matter with those affected by its decisions.

In the meantime, Dickson said the Farragut Family YMCA would remain at its current location, which is longer than anticipated.

“We’ve been talking to our landlord about renewing our lease and they have been good to work with,” he said.

One of the benefits of a YMCA facility, he said, is the health benefits it offers to community members.

The health benefits of the YMCA programs help offset a startling statistic, he added.

“The Y-M-C-A of the U-S-A is partnered with the Centers for Disease Control to do a program called Activate Amer-ica,” Dickson said. “We’ve got that going here with lots of pilot projects.

“Today, children have a lower life expectancy than their parents. This is the first time in recorded history that has happened because adults have eighty percent of the control over their health. That’s a great thing if you take care of yourself, but a bad thing if you think Frito’s and a Big Gulp are good things.”


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