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FMPC OKs First Baptist school plan


Town of Farragut Community Development staff recommendation No. 7 was vital towards a compromise to allow First Baptist Church, Concord to build a 29,000-square foot student center on its campus.

The recommendation, tied to the church obtaining Commis-sion approval on the student center site plan, stipulates FBC submit a master site plan, following specific guidelines, as part of any future construction request.

This and 12 other staff recommendations were accepted by church leaders, Commissioners — and community leaders representing FBC neighboring communities opposed to other church plans — during the Commission’s monthly meeting Thursday, Oct. 18, in a Town Hall meeting room packed around the walls with citizens. A few dozen others, unable to pack into the meeting room, watched a video feed of the meeting in the Town Hall rotunda.

Site plan of the student building, dubbed Student Place by FBC, was unanimously approved by Commission subject to

compliance with the 13

recommendations.

As for the future of FBC’s $37.5 million concept expansion plan, church attorney John King said, “We will develop and provide a long-range property utilization proposal. We will be providing that submittal sooner rather than later. … That next site plan submittal will involve an additional building on the west side of Belleaire, [plus] certain renovative façade work on already existing buildings on the west side of Belleaire Drive.”

King said the process of preparing the long-range plan prior to submittal before FMPC would involve contact with Tom Hale, town attorney, and community development staff. At that point, King added, “I will meet with community [attorney Arthur] Seymour and inform him and his clients of the currently proposed utilization of the church’s property,” resulting in “possible revisions.”

Giving no firm timetable for FBC’s master plan presentation, King added, “I would think it unlikely that our next submittal would be before you before your December meeting.”

King emphasized the need for expansion, specifically Student Place. “While the church and student population has grown over the years, it’s been 40 years or more since any permanent physical facilities were added to provide service to that increase in student population,” he said.

Student Place was described by King as “multi-use building, which includes classrooms, two large assembly-type rooms, and a basketball court, which also serves as additional classroom space or for other needed church purposes.”

It would sit along Belleaire Drive on the southeastern portion of property FBC currently utilizes as approximately 183 parking spaces. King reiterated the church’s goal of having the building built and ready for use by August 2008.

Lou Ann Wade of Farragut, an FBC Sunday School teacher and one of five church audience members to approach Commission with comments, said “We desperately need this space … there are approximately 400 students in [the current gymnasium] every morning and every Wednesday night. And it was never designed for that use.”

Saying she hasn’t had a separate classroom “in about eight years,” Wade added that partitions don’t always block noise from adjacent classes in the gym.

Wade said church functions she’s involved with include “about 40 of us downtown working with the homeless of our community,” adding that on Friday, Oct. 19, “Nineteen of my Sunday School class will go across the world to share the name of Christ.”

Arthur Seymour Jr. of Knoxville, attorney for Derby Chase, Shiloh and Belleaire subdivisions concerned that FBC expansion continues to adversely affect their neighborhoods, said his clients were “happy to read condition number seven that staff has recommended to you all.

“We can generally deal with the certainty — it’s the uncertainty that makes people uneasy,” he added. “That is what the neighbors, families in these subdivisions have been dealing with for a number of years.

“I have talked to the leadership of the groups that have retained me, and I have been authorized to say that they are not opposed to this site plan itself.”

Jeannie Brykalski, Belleaire subdivision resident and one of three in her community to speak, said on behalf of like-minded residents, “We would like see families in those houses [bought by FBC in Belleaire], rather than them being torn down and asphalt parking lots or a building put in. We’re a residential neighborhood. …”

Brykalski added, “The church has a lot of wonderful programs, a lot of wonderful people. I just have reservations about the direction this is going. And also, when all the plans and so forth were begun, why weren’t the people who live in these neighborhoods consulted …?”

King responded to community members concerned about the degree of church expansion. “We are not here about a proposal to move Belleaire Drive,” he said. “… We are not here seeking approval for the operation of a high school.”

Seymour replied, “We are pleased to hear from the church that there will be no further attempts to ask the town to relocate or redesignate Belleaire Drive. … We are pleased to hear from First Baptist Church that there are no plans for a high school on the present campus or the property that it has acquired. … And that this will be reflected in the Master Concept Plan that will be filed.

“The concern of families, neighbors in Belleaire, Derby Chase, Shiloh and Glen Abbey have been, ‘what is going to happen to the 18 or so acres that are the east of Belleaire Drive, and the property to the south?’” Seymour added.

Robert “Bob” Hill, FMPC chairman, had been criticized by at least some FBC members and supporters for not recusing himself during church discussion at the Sept. 20 Commission meeting because he lives in Belleaire

subdivision.

“At this time I will relinquish the gavel to Commissioner [Edward] St. Clair, our vice chairman,” Hill said as the agenda item was ready for discussion. “[St. Clair] will handle the item on the Baptist Church, and I will sit here and be a member of the commission for the purpose of that item.”

Commissioner Carol Evans said delaying Student Place site plan approval stemmed from the net loss of the 183 parking spaces, “and that’s why we asked for a master plan,” as opposed to “concept plans that change from day to day.”

Asked by Commissioner Ron Honken to help encourage FBC members to avoid parking along Belleaire Drive, King said that upon talking to church officials, “They, in the past, have utilized the process of placing information sheets … on windshields of automobiles improperly parked. … The church has willingly accepted my suggestion that they make that a little bit stronger than that.”

Among other church members and officials who spoke:

• Albert Hilliger, a Belleaire subdivision resident for almost 16 years, said that unlike the early ’90s when “they placed cones out” to stop Belleaire Drive parking, recent years have seen parking and pedestrian hazards “on numerous occasions.

“I feel that any expansion, starting with the school in phase one, should not be continued without more parking being allocated, as opposed to less parking being allocated.”

• concerning the parking problems along Belleaire, Church member Douglas Dutton said cones have been put out “on many occasions” to block parking. Dutton also expressed displeasure at what he said have been “personal attack on our staff and our ministers by opponents of our program and our church,” and pointed to the popularity of FBC’s ministry as to explain “large crowds.”

• Bob Hulsey of Farragut said traffic concerns may be overrated, but added to Belleaire members in attendance, “I want you to know from the bottom of our hearts that we love you, we’re sorry that you’re caught up in this. …”

• Joe Pickle, Belleaire subdivision, said he “respectfully objects” the proposed school building, adding, “I think you’re all wonderful people, and you do really wonderful programs. I do also think you’ve overgrown your site.” Pickle cited parking congestion outside Town Hall for the FMPC meeting as being something Belleaire and other subdivisions deal with seven days a week: “a pain in the butt.”

Pickle also disputed church leader claims of having no master plan, saying he’s seen the master plan. “You guys paid a lot for that master plan, it’s a beautiful, 80-page power point presentation,” Pickle said.

• student minister Gene Dodson of Farragut, who said “thousands and thousands” of teenagers have received FBC ministry over the years and the proposed center would aid the current ministry. Dodson also emphasized the center also is open to non-members.

• Ken Armstrong of West Knoxville, a scoutmaster of Troop 59 that is chartered by FBC, said the facility expansion also benefits scouts.

 

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