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Rosseel proposes land acquisition for school


Alderman Thomas Rosseel embarked on uncharted territory with a proposal that sparked controversay on the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Rosseel proposed the purchase of property to be donated to Knox County for an elementary school at the Feb. 14 FBMA meeting at Town Hall.

The 16.8 acres of land, known as the Seal property, are across the street from the Pryse property and adjacent to McFee Park off McFee Road.

The use of the land as a school is a condition of the sale set by the owners, who currently reside in Chattanooga. The land would cost $1.3 million.

“I think it’s clear to everyone that the Farragut primary, intermediate and middle schools are bursting at the seams, and as such, our community is in desperate need of a new elementary school,” Rosseel said. Within the 16.2 square miles of Farragut live 20,000 people, Alderman John Williams said, plus others outside the Town limits that are zoned for Farragut schools.

Rosseel proposed that the project would be “a sharing project,” one in which the Town would permit the school to use McFee Park and in which the Town would be able to use the school’s gym and cafeteria. Another condition of the sale would be that if Knox County did not act on the land in a set amount of time, the land would revert back to the Town’s ownership without condition.

Rosseel said that he had talked to county commissioners Mike Hammond and Craig Leuthold, who agreed with the idea, as did school board members Thomas Deakins and Karen Carson.

Only 15 acres would be donated to the county; the back 1 to 1.8 acres would be used as a buffer to the property in back of the Seal property, land that belongs to Ralph and Susan Dimmick.

Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III and Vice-Mayor Michael Haynes said that they were unaware of the idea to buy land and then donate it to Knox County, citing the fact that the idea was listed on the agenda as “Consider Possible Acquisition of Property” with no mention of a school.

Ford also was concerned about the condition of the roads in the area, the proximity of the land to Loudon County, the sharing of properties between the park and the proposed school, and wondered why Knox County had yet to take the initiative to build another school in Farragut on their own.

Haynes said that he did not believe that this proposal fell into the role of the Town. “The issue is this: is this an appropriate use of Town money? Not, should we have a new school or should there be no more rezoning? Those are not issues for the Town. That’s why we have a school board,” Haynes said.

“The Town is not in the school business,” he added. He said a more legitimate way to help the schools is to increase sales taxes.

“There is no guarantee that this deal will work out as it has been hypothetically stated here tonight, but we would be acting in our own self interest, and I feel better about that than about offering sales tax revenue in perpetuity,” Williams said.

In 1995, the Town donated land to Knox County for a public library. “We are not in the library business,” Rosseel said, “that’s a county function, yet we did it.”

Alderman Williams supported the idea of the donation of land for a school. “The most frequent reason people decide to reside within the town of Farragut is the system of public schools in Farragut,” he said.

“The county’s not doing much, or as much as I think they should . . . and as an elected representative of this community, I don’t see any reason why I should not be acting on their behalf to use the resources of this Town to protect one of its most treasured commodities.

“Anyone who suggests that this idea has only come before the Board tonight has not been paying attention to what people have wanted for years,” he added.

The Board also heard from many concerned citizens, including landowners Ralph and Susan Dimmick. “Our thoughts, our desires don’t matter,” Ralph Dimmick said. “Just let us have a say.”

Later, his wife echoed him, adding that they found out about the proposal by accident. “Our problem with this procedure is the procedure,” she said.

Pamela Treacy urged the Board to find out the specific conditions of the deal before proceeding. “Please give this more consideration. Lessons in history books teach us not to forget the past,” she said, speaking about the Hardin Valley

rezoning.

“There’s been a lot of talk in recent years that Farragut is not in the school business. I would like to submit that every time Farragut build a subdivision with houses that are going to fill with children, it puts itself in the school business,” Deborah Dickerson said. “We have the opportunity to shape our own destiny instead of having it forced upon us, so for once let’s be proactive instead of reactive,” she added.

After nearly three hours of conversation, the Board voted to postpone the motion until Town administrator Dan Olson and Town attorney Tom Hale are able to negotiate specific details of the plan with the school board and Knox County. The postponement passed unanimously.

In other business, the Board:

• Approved an ordinance to amend the text of the zoning ordinance, ordinance 86-16 Chapter 3, Section XII. General Commercial District (C-1) to allow outdoor storage for general farm implements and lawn care equipment. (Farragut Lawn and Tractor, Wayne Davis, Applicant)

• Approved a request for variance form the Farragut Municipal Code, Title 16, Chapter 4, Driveways and Other Access Ways, Section 16-406 (2)(a) Distance from Intersections and (b) Distance between driveways, a right in only to 10839 Kingston Pike and full access on Newport Road located on the northeast corner of Kingston Pike and Newport Road, Parcel 2, Tax Map 131 PD, zoned C-1, 1.028 acres (Cannon & Cannon, applicant)

• Voted to postpone approval of leases between the Town and Crown Castle South, LLC, for the cell tower sites on Virtue and Fretz roads

• Approved Resolution R-08-02, Local Parks and Recreation Fun Matching Grant

• Approved Resolution R-08-03, Recreation Trails Program Matching Grant.

 

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