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Town hears FBC property plan during special FMPC meeting


First Baptist Church, Concord’s so-called property “encroachment” into Belleaire subdivision could have been prevented with proper “covenants and restrictions” from subdivision homeowner leadership.

That assessment came from Tom Hale, town of Farragut attorney, during a two-and-one-half-hour specially called meeting of Farragut Planning Commission to discuss the church’s controversial neighborhood expansion.

While church leaders presented FBC’s Long Range Property Utilization Plan roughly for the next four years for review during the Tuesday, Jan. 9, meeting in Town Hall, Hale said the controversy has created a “gray area” for Farragut from a legal

perspective.

“What makes this such a thorny, difficult problem, and so unique among our experience in the town of Farragut, is that the subdivision … does not have traditional covenants and restrictions that govern and restrict how people who own property within the subdivision can own their property,” Hale said, adding this point has not been “appreciated.”

“Most residential subdivisions have those restrictions, therefore we don’t have to deal with issues very often of this kind.”

Ruth Hawk, Town Community Development director, identified “some of the more significant issues” with the church’s long-range utilization plan of its property east of Belleaire Drive.

Though its use is planned, the property has no immediate timetable for development — except for a detention pond — according to church attorney John King.

Most importantly at issue, Hawk said, were “all the items located on the east side of the road, which is inclusive of five ball fields, a pavilion, a concession stand and a chapel and a large parking lot [400 to 500 spaces].” She added these additions “are not allowed under the residential zoning district.”

Hawk said town staff has “concerns” with pedestrian safety, “with pedestrians crossing [Belleaire Drive].”

King said the church has agreed to a right-turn in, right-turn out from its parking lot to Kingston Pike “without having to put all that traffic on Belleaire Drive.” He added this helps divert drivers tempted to park along Belleaire Drive and therefore addresses “the concern expressed by a number of people in the community.”

Arthur Seymour, attorney for Belleaire, Shiloh, Derby Chase and Glen Abbey subdivisions, said when the Farragut Zoning Ordinance was enacted “in 1980 or thereabouts, we had not entered into the era of the mega church.”

Seymour said increased traffic problems concerning the ball fields, and security and noise concerns that would accompany the ball fields, are specific neighborhood concerns. “Empty ball fields are an attractive area to go at night for teenagers, as I recall,” Seymour said. “Will there be bleachers, will there be speakers?

“What you have there is a major athletic complex with ball fields that would be more appropriate to somewhere like Mayor Bob Leonard Park … that is suddenly put right in the middle of a neighborhood where houses in some instances have stood for nearly 50 years,” Seymour added.

As for security, King said, “If fencing is a resolution of that security issue, we’re certainly willing to consider fencing.”

As for long-range FBC plans, Seymour asked, “Is this the end, or will it continue to grow into Belleaire and take more and more of this neighbor?”

He added Belleaire is approaching a “tipping point” after which it will no longer be a subdivision if the church acquires and destroys more homes.

David Robinette, an engineer representing FBC, said, “to my knowledge, there are no other options on property or plans for acquisition at this current time.”

Among nine subdivision residents speaking was Joe Pickle, who noted a key similarity among what he counted as “15 churches” along Kingston Pike between Watt Road and Campbell Station Road: all are adjacent to residential areas.

“This is going to come up again, there’s going to be one of those other 15 churches that wants to expand,” Pickle said.

Robert Fletcher was among the residents asking and commenting about detention pond and stormwater run-off problems that, in some residents’ view, have resulted in flooding and would be made worse by FBC and other town development.

Robert “Bob” Hill, FMPC chair, asked if “the existing stormwater system there was adequate to take care of all the new development, or are we going to have to do more?

“I’d like to fix those up-front with the people who are contributing to the problem, if there is one, so the Town doesn’t have to fix that at a later time,” he added.

Issues from which residents commented or asked questions included zoning, traffic entrance/exit hazards, security, traffic congestion and evaporation of their neighborhood.

 

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