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Campbells, County broker Farragut land swap
TVA approval needed, public hearing discussed


Acquiring 20 acres of park space for youth sports teams in and around Farragut hangs on working out a deal with a pair of Farragut businessmen — and TVA approval — concerning a swap of leases between the businessmen and Knox County.

Brothers Ed and Darby Campbell, owners of Concord Marina, are seeking to expand their marina in-water boat slips and dry storage capacity by obtaining about six acres of adjacent Concord Park land owned by the County.

In exchange, the Campbells would exercise an option to buy about 20 acres of property off McFee Road adjacent to town of Farragut’s new McFee Road Park. It would be leased to the County in exchange for leasing the Concord Park land.

However, after Knox County Commission postponed a vote on the proposed deal until at least next month, Ed Campbell expressed pessimism. “I don’t know if we’ll pursue it in earnest,” Campbell said one day after Commission’s postponement Jan. 28. “If they don’t want it with great desire, then we don’t want it. We’ll talk to them in the next week or two or so.”

Campbell said the brothers had agreed on giving the County a 99-year lease on the 20-acre McFee property in exchange for receiving a 50-year lease on the six acres at Concord Park.

Three of those acres, sitting between the marina and Concord Par 3 Golf Course at the former Concord Pool site, would be used for dry storage “in the coming years,” Campbell said. Three acres to the marina’s west would be used to “add 75 to a hundred in-water [boat] slips.”

Campbell also said the brothers were seeking “monetary balance to create a deal” in light of giving up 14 acres more than they would acquire.

Doug Bataille, senior director of Knox County Parks and Recreation, said upon meeting with a County finance official “we both agreed that what [the Campbells] proposed was not real acceptable to us.”

Among the unacceptable points? “They wanted to have a 50-year lease,” Bataille said.

With the specific lease swap proposal presented to Bataille and county officials only three days before the Commission meeting, “This is not something we could make a quick decision on,” he said.

Bataille said the County should get public input prior to approaching TVA because a noticeable percentage of county citizens may oppose taking up more shoreline for boat slips.

“What I’m trying to be sure [about] is the deal makes sense for Knox County and the taxpayers, protecting their interests,” he said. “I think we can come up with something that does make sense if the public thinks the concept is good.”

However, “We’re getting more pressure to develop more of Concord Park for ballfields because we are just overcrowded in every sport we have down there,” Battaile added.

Eddie Neely, commissioner of CBFO youth football (more than 400 participants) and regional commissioner of AYSO 128 youth soccer (about 1,400 participants), said his programs are starved for extra fields. “We’ve got the largest football program in the county and we have the worst facilities,” he said. “We’ve been having to turn kids away. … I would say in excess of 50.”

With football having to use CBFO girls softball fields for practice, “If we could get another football facilities, girls softball could have a fall season,” Neely said. “There’s a definite demand for it.”

If CBFO could expand to the proposed county McFee Road facility to create more practice fields, “It would change things a whole lot with our program,” Neely said.

As for utilizing McFee Road property, Bataille said, “We’d really need to look at the land out there and see what sports make the most sense. Some pieces of land lend themselves to baseball or softball fields really well, and other pieces lend themselves to football or soccer fields.”

About the Concord Park property the Campbells seek for expansion, Ed Campbell said, “For the most part it’s property that has no other use … except passive park. You can’t even do commercial recreation on it.

“We have a demand for more in-water slips. More of these boat companies are looking for places to put their boats and show their boats,” he added.

Campbell estimates it would be “about a 30 percent” expansion to the existing “10 to 12” acre marina.

“I think this is the best case of a win-win [situation] I’ve seen in a long time,” Campbell said of the lease swap proposal.

Commissioner Mike Hammond (5-C) said he was approached by the Campbell brothers about the swap, “and I thought the proposal was a good one and needed to be considered by the County Commission. … I don’t think you can have too many parks and recreational facilities.

“With the number of people growing in Knox County every year, that just puts a lot of pressure on the need for additional recreational facilities,” he added.

But TVA will have the final say.

“T-V-A will conduct public hearings,” Hammond said. “I’m told it takes anywhere from six to eight months.”

Given the property is inside town of Farragut limits, Hammond said, “We would need to sit down with Farragut and determine how we’re going to do it.”

If all hurdles are cleared and county obtains the McFee property, having an operational park would still be “a two- to three-year process,” Hammond said. “We would like to be able to start something in 2009 … at the earliest.”

Ironically, Campbell said the brothers tried to make a similar deal “a few years ago, and then the Y-M-C-A wanted it — we ended up losing to the Y-M-C-A.

“And then they ended up losing it because T-V-A says if anything is going to go on it, it’s gotta be marina-related or it’s gotta be passive park.”

 

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