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Town center talk hot

Area residents had a chance to hear more details on a proposed town center district during a public meeting Wednesday, June 13, conducted by the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

Builder Michael Bates has proposed to town officials he create a town center district, essentially a downtown area for Farragut, on property west of Town Hall owned by Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III and his family. The area would be a mixture of residential and commercial development. The town center district, at this stage in the process, is a paper document that defines what a developer could and couldn’t do in an area zoned TCD.

Community Development Director Ruth Hawk gave Commissioners and community members a slide show presentation of various downtown areas in different parts of the country. She showed features such as spacing on sidewalks that allowed walking traffic as well as a tree-lined walkway.

“Walkability is essential in a downtown area,” Hawk said. “The presence of a residential area nearby is what makes this idea work.”

She proposed the downtown area have a speed limit of 25 mph and narrow lanes, which would further discourage speed.

Hawk discussed various types of street lights, some of which were shown in her presentation. She suggested commissioners consider that lights need to shine down on walkways and not up into residential homes.

Hawk drafted a preliminary ordinance for commissioners to consider. In the draft, she suggested allowed uses be limited to retail sales, restaurants such as bistros or cafes with outdoor seating, business and personal services, medical and dental facilities, indoor theater, cultural activities such as museums or art galleries, office, residential and bed and breakfast inns.

Prohibited use suggestions included gas stations and other automotive services, drive-thru facilities, stand-alone churches and schools, outdoor sales and storage, hotels, mortuaries or automotive dealerships.

“I personally would like to not have a drive-thru,” Commission chairman Robert “Bob” Hill said. “I wouldn’t mind having a bank that did business the old-fashioned way.”

“We feel we need a bank in the downtown area,” Bates said. “We feel that bank needs a drive-thru in order to be competitive.”

Bates suggested a bank near the entrance to the proposed downtown area would not impede traffic, but members of the audience expressed disapproval for a drive-thru in downtown. Bates said the Commission could limit drive-thru facilities in the proposed TCD.

“I don’t see how we can give one bank a drive-thru and not give one to anyone else,” Hill said.

“It’s a real slippery slope,” Hawk said.

In terms of the height of downtown buildings, commissioners said they wanted buildings between two and four stories.


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