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Marina gets another look

To create new athletic youth fields in Farragut, Knox County would spend about $2,225,000 to purchase roughly 20 acres off McFee Road and recover the cost long-term by leasing six acres of its park property for use by Concord Marina.

At issue was approving the second amendment to a lease agreement proposal between Farragut business partners Ed and Darby Campbell, marina owners, and the County during Knox County Commission’s meeting Monday, Feb. 25.

By a vote of 16-3, Commissioners voted to reevaluate the agreement based on further negotiations between the parties and compliance with directives County Law Director John Owings illustrated. Commissioners Paul Pinkston, Mark Harmon and Victoria DeFreese voted no.

The Campbell are seeking about three acres of lakefront property and three mores acres adjacent to the marina for more than 100 in-water boat slips plus a 480-by-140-foot dry storage building. Ed Campbell said the property “has a very restricted use. … For public recreation, it’s useful mainly for picnic tables and passive use.”

The brothers made their fourth appearance before Commission and said they needed some direction as to a decision based on a $10,000 a month option they pay on the McFee Road property.

Ed Campbell told Commission, “We can’t continue to pay the seller for a maybe situation. It’s too expensive for me to hold that property in case the County may decide they want to use it.”

Doug Bataille, director of Knox County Parks and Recreation, said it would take the County “around 15 years to pay for the debt of the new property.”

Pinkston said the county would pay $313,750 “out of pocket just to begin with,” to which Bataille agreed.

Pinkston concluded, “I just can’t see where the Knox County taxpayers are benefiting whatsoever on this.”

Pinkston pointed out that if the marina were to fail financially early on should a deal be reached, the County could “eat” its investment. Bataille answer-ed, “That could be true.”

Bataille said the County would have to pay TVA at least $30,000 should an agreement be reached, adding, “It could go higher than that. … We’ve had very long processes with T-V-A that can get quite expensive.”

Any agreement would be subject to TVA approval, which requires a public hearing. Bataille said he and TVA officials agreed that public approval should be at least 60 percent.

Bataille also pointed out that upon TVA’s reappraisal of the Concord Park property, the County would have to pay TVA “$300,000 for the difference. I don’t quite understand that one, it’s Knox County that owns this property. Why are we paying T-V-A? That’s a question for the law director to look at sometime in the future.”

Pinkston said, “It seems to me like we’re expanding this marina for the Campbells at the taxpayers’ expense. … We’re up to $328,000 that we’ve got to pay right off the bat.

“And commissioners, you have to realize we’re going into a tough budget year,” Pinkston added. “I don’t know if it’s a good deal or a bad deal for Knox County. But from what little business experience I’ve got, it’s a bad deal for Knox County.”

As an alternative to dealing with the marina’s six acres in question, “We can raise the tax rate two cents and go buy this [McFee Road] property the first year,” Pinkston said. “And then we have a million-and-and-half [dollars] coming in every year.”

Asked by Commissioner Scott Moore if the deal is good for Knox County, Bataille said, “This is a tough one. … But at a time where we don’t have a lot of money to expand a program, this is creative financing.”

Bottom line? “I look at it as the lesser of two evils,” Bataille said, adding the deal “is a short-term loss and a long-term gain.”

Pinkston said, “We’re limiting the number of people that this property will be available for, for recreation. … Really, we’re denying a lot of the taxpayers in Knox County a place to go where we have lakefront property.”

Bataille countered by saying the County owns about “700, 800 acres of land on the lake that was all given to us by T-V-A in the 1950s. So we do have quite a bit of land on the lake.”

Ed Campbell reminded Pinkston that the six Concord Park acres “is property you’re not getting a dime for right now. You’re going to pick up, well over the course of 15 years, I think [Bataille] figures you’ll pay off the 20 acres and you’ll still be collecting money from us. And it’ll be a lot more in 20 years.”

Pinkston countered by saying the $109,000 share of rent the County gets from the Campbells would not go into Knox County’s General Fund, but would be used to pay off the McFee purchase.

The brothers proposed a 50-year lease for the six acres they seek to lease from Knox County.

But Owings said the County could not approve a 50-year lease agreement based on Knox County Code, and that no vote could be taken on the matter until County Mayor Michael “Mike” Ragsdale, the County’s purchasing director, County finance director and Owings all “signed off on it.” It also would involve a “market analysis.”

Bataille said the proposed McFee Road site is more appealing for youth fields because it would be adjacent to town of Farragut’s new McFee Park and possibly a new elementary school as proposed by various Farragut aldermen.

Practice facilities for CBFO youth sports, in addition to extra soccer fields for AYSO 128 youth, is one pressing issue.

Spelling out a dire need for such fields was Eddie Neely, commissioner of CBFO youth football — part of the largest youth sports organization in Knox County – and regional commissioner of AYSO 128 youth soccer sports.

Emphasizing CBFO football and softball programs have up to 900 children while AYSO has 1,500 soccer youth in spring and fall, Neely said, “If we were ever going to work together to get fields, it would be now.”

Neely pointed out that CBFO “pays out several thousand dollars per year to town of Farragut” for use of its park space, primarily at Mayor Bob Leonard Park. “We beg churches, we beg anybody we can get with a blade of grass in their yard to let us practice,” he said.

As a result, Neely added, “We turned away more than 50 kids last fall in football alone. … We’ve got overloaded teams, making impossible for coaches to have a positive experience with their kids.”

Concerning AYSO fields off Hardin Valley Road near Pellissippi Parkway, Neely said, “We are looking at destruction of half our playing fields … because of the Orange Route [proposed Interstate by-pass].”

Commissioner Mike Hammond (5-C) said finding 20 acres of land in West Knox County “is almost impossible,” adding the McFee Road property is worth about “$60[thousand] to $70,000” per acre. That would make the entire 20 acres worth $1.2 to $1.4 million.

Commissioner Craig Leuthold (5-C) told of his indirect connection to Concord Park property. “My wife’s family, where [Concord Pool] and this property used to sit, was theirs — it was their property that was condemned by T-V-A and flooded, and they didn’t have anything to say other than just dimes on a dollar that T-V-A gave to them,” Leuthold said.

“They were told, when this was condemned and taken from them, that this would always be for public use,” the Commissioner added. “… I think we at least need to have their thoughts in mind when we start dealing with this property.”

Ed Campbell reminded Commission that since the brothers took over Concord Marina in 2001, “It’s 21 times more than what you were getting before we took it over. And it grows at a very fast pace every year. … The more we can rent it out for, the more the County makes. … Plus you have probably a hundred-fold more usage as far as the citizens down there that drive in it, spend time down there.”

Bataille said the “original proposal” had the Campbells buying the McFee property and the County leasing from the brothers. But the agreement changed because “we can borrow money a lot cheaper than they can.”

Ed Campbell said, “Our best case scenario is to separate the two. If you want this property, the 20 acres, then fine, we’ll let you walk into our shoes and buy [the option] for what we’re paying for it, not a penny more, not a penny less.”

Owings said the original lease agreement with the Campbells in 2001 for Concord Marina was a 25-year lease with two 10-year options.

Among citizens speaking against the proposal was Jim McEvers of Farragut, former County Commission candidate (5-C). “As a boater, as a citizen of West Knox County for 31 years, I’m kind of a real advocate of saving the shoreline,” he said.

Cecil Presnell of Knoxville said “we should get public input before we take the next step.” He added about obtaining new youth sports fields, “I think there must be other ways to do it.”


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