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Setting the record straight, First Amendment limits

Setting the record straight

In a recent letter to the editor, Mr. Markli made a series of unsupported claims and misstatements concerning impact fees and my understanding of and position on these fees. He also questioned my veracity. Not having observed Mr. Markli at either of the two previous Board meetings at which impact fees were discussed nor the two previous public hearings on impact fees, it’s perhaps understandable that he has so many misconceptions and misunderstandings of the facts. Let me set the record straight.

If he had paid attention during the Sept. 27 meeting, and as reported by Ms. Kim Johnson in the farragutpress, he would have acknowledged that the vote against impact fees was assured when Alderwomen LaMarche declared her opposition prior to the “open-mic” session. The next two hours provided an opportunity for developers and representatives of the builders’ association, like Mr. Markli, to air their concerns. There was no debate. Those in favor perhaps realized that their comments would only extend the meeting, not change the outcome.

If he had attended those previous public meetings, he would have known that impact fees are not a tax. They are similar to a building permit fee in that they are a one-time user charge and must, by laws upheld by our courts, be reasonably related to the actual additional costs of servicing a new development. Additionally, they can only be used for improving the Town’s infrastructure — not the cost of general government like a tax. Perhaps Mr. Markli also considers building permit fees a tax. I don’t and I would oppose their revocation.

If he had attended those previous public meetings, he would have known that my position has been that impact fees on new residential development should be based on the square footage of the house rather than per dwelling unit. I believe that those who buy a smaller new home should pay less than those who buy a larger new home. And I, like most of the Board, also supported a waiver of fees on new churches and schools, as has been done by the other rapidly growing Tennessee communities that have enacted impact fees.

If he had attended those previous public meetings and paid attention at the Sept. 27 meeting, he would have known that I supported the payment of the impact fee by the Town to encourage redevelopment of commercial properties. For example, this planning tool could have been used for the former Kmart site or, in the future, for the old Outlets Mall property. Since Ingles is redeveloping the old Regal Cinemas property as well as remodeling the existing Ingles strip center, the owner may not have had any fee assessed. I have no idea as to how Mr. Markli came up with the $200,000 figure; a number that was not discussed by anyone at the meeting.

Impact fees don’t drive away commercial development because, as Mr. Markli or anyone who thinks about it should know, the combination of a recurring Knox County property tax and the proposed one-time Town impact fee is far less than the combination of the recurring City of Knoxville and Knox County property taxes. It certainly hasn’t stopped the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, the Colonial Pinnacle Center or Pinnacle Theatre from developing in the Knoxville portion of Turkey Creek. Commercial development will locate where their customers are.

Mr. Markli also called into question my honesty. Perhaps Mr. Markli and Mr. Stevens don’t wish to acknowledge that there is no evidence that impact fees have slowed home sales in fast-growing communities that have enacted them across the United States and in Tennessee, but in fact, that is the truth. I also accurately quoted what was reported in the Oct. 16, 2006, edition of the Knoxville Business Journal, which is published by the Knoxville News Sentinel. In the article, Mr. Stevens discussed the Loudon County school impact fee and “acknowledged that impact fees and similar taxes in communities surrounding Nashville have not slowed growth. But he said Loudon County doesn’t have the draw of a metro area like Nashville, and that personal incomes — particularly in Williamson County’s Brentwood and Franklin — are considerably higher there.”

If Mr. Stevens or Mr. Markli believes the report is erroneous, they should contact the Knoxville Business Journal or the Knoxville News Sentinel with their complaints, not question my veracity.

And although I’ve lived in Farragut since 1983, five years before Mr. Markli moved here, the length of one’s residency in the Town does not necessarily bestow any additional wisdom or lack there of. I have, however, proudly served the community since 1995 as a homeowner chairman, six years as a member of the Municipal Planning Commission, and for the last two and half years as an Alderman. I view this position of trust as one in which I represent the interests of the residents and current businesses in the Town, not outside developers or the homebuilders’ association. My vote certainly isn’t determined by those making the loudest noise but by the logic and wisdom of the argument.

In case Mr. Markli is unaware of what the Board does, let me point out that one of the most important functions of being an elected official is to plan for the future. We need to make decisions today that take into account how the Town’s population growth from 20,000 to 30,000 or even 35,000 people, and similar growth in the surrounding communities, over the next 10 to 20 years will affect the services we provide.

One critical decision is how we pay for the cost of maintaining what we have invested in the Town. The question before us was: should infrastructure improvements wait until we generate enough sales tax dollars to pay for the improvements years afterwards as we learn to live with the worsening congestion and inadequate facilities — thereby possibly reducing our property values, or should we plan and build as we grow? Other fast growing communities across the United States have shown that impact fees don’t discourage growth because those communities rapidly adjusted to that growth by keeping their infrastructure updated. They accepted and embraced growth because they weren’t overwhelmed by it.

If we do it as we grow, the options are impact fees, raising money through bonds — something that the Town did throughout its first 15 – 20 years of existence, a property tax, or some combination of those options. Since I oppose a property tax, I believe that the fairest approach is the impact fee because it requires those that create the need to bear a larger share of the cost — not the entire cost as was implied by Mr. Markli. Neither impact fees nor the Farragut share of the local sales tax option by themselves will generate sufficient revenue to meet our infrastructure needs in a timely fashion.

Finally, my vote on impact fees was based on how I think the Town should approach the future. In my opinion, you don’t look backwards to go forward. You search for the best and fairest solutions to the problems that we will face to ensure that we give ourselves the opportunity to have the highest quality of life for our families, friends and neighbors. I apolo-

gize to no one for voting my


Tom Rosseel, Alderman

Ward 1 (North)

First Amendment limits

I have just finished reading the Oct. 18 issue of the farragutpress, and I have to say I am shocked and disappointed with the editor’s decision to publish what is, in my opinion, slanderous verbiage. A call to the paper’s presstalk labels First Baptist Concord a cult and implies that church members have been brainwashed by our cult leader, the pastor. The caller is entitled to his opinion, as is every member of this community. Clearly citizens on both sides of this issue feel passionately about FBC’s proposed expansion. But citizens on each side deserve respect and protection under the law.

I question the farragutpress’ decision to publish a piece that is riddled with inaccuracies and untruths. I understand that presstalk is a way for citizens of the community to express opinions anonymously, and it provides an opportunity for free speech. However, when that opinion insults an entire church body and slanders its pastor, who is a Godly man of integrity, the paper has an ethical responsibility NOT to publish that opinion.

I am not a member of FBC, but I am a regular attendee and I teach at Concord Christian School. Obviously, I am in favor of the proposed expansion for the many reasons that have been stated numerous times by people far more eloquent than I. I just ask that members of the Farragut community show respect to members and leaders of FBC. The church leadership has encouraged its members to be mindful of its neighbors concerns. They have asked us to pray for God’s will regarding the church’s growth plans. I believe we have done that. I ask that our neighbors do the same.

I proudly sign my name,

Michele Donnelly

Farragut Resident


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