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Susan and Ralph Dimmick


We’d like to thank [farragut]press for this opportunity to clarify several misunderstandings about the land tracts involved in two development proposals on McFee Road.

Repeatedly those who have proposed these developments have said that these parcels are “adjacent” to the McFee Road Park now under construction. They are not.

Between the Jim and Molly Seal tract of land for a proposed school site and the Farragut Park lies the driveway to a 33-year-old Christmas tree farm, established in 1975, that thousands of people have visited over the years, including many hundreds of Farragut residents. These visitors, to a person, have told us how important our farm is to their Christmas tradition. Families enjoy visiting our farm to cut their tree every year, a tradition that

has helped bind families over three

generations.

Yet, on Feb. 14, 2008, our driveway “disappeared,” along with 30 percent of our Christmas trees, in the architectural rendition of a proposed school site that North Ward Alderman Tom Rosseel presented. There has never been a “use on review” sign and never a public hearing about this proposed school on the 16.8 acre tract.

Another issue concerns an approximately 19-acre tract of land north of the Seal property. Those who wish to develop this tract have proposed a complex of baseball and football fields. They have stated in news articles that this tract is “adjacent” to the McFee Road Park. It is not.

Ten acres of Christmas trees separate the proposed ball park from the McFee Road Park. Again, when our Christmas tree customers drive a quarter mile back to our home from the road, their enjoyment of choosing a Christmas tree has for 33 years been enhanced by an “oasis of beauty” as they themselves have put it. No concrete, no asphalt, no noise and for the present, plenty of wildlife. It isn’t just our “private little enclave,” it’s “the oasis” for many thousands of customers who appreciate a break from suburban sprawl.

Because we have never been approached by those who made either of these proposals, and because they simply pretend that there is no landowner at 901 McFee Road, we can only conclude that our property likely will be confiscated by eminent domain. Why do we fear this? Imagine finding out at the 11th hour that a vote to buy the Seal property for $1.3 million and turn it over to the Knox County School Board was on the verge of passage by a 3-2 vote on Feb. 14, without benefit of public hearing. The worst insult is that we stand accused of trying to protect our “personal little enclave” and that we are the perfect example of why it’s so hard to site a school in Knox County.

As longtime educators at The University of Tennessee, with 45 years of teaching experience between us, we are acutely aware of what it takes to deliver a quality education. Our children went through crowded schools here in Farragut, and we’ll always be grateful to the administration and teachers of Farragut Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High schools for delivering a superior education in spite of it all.

We are not opposed to a new school. We are in favor of a new school where the school-age population pressure is greatest, and that is in the Choto Road-Northshore Drive area. Having a school north of the railroad tracks does not guarantee that children who live in Farragut will attend it, as those of you on the northern boundary of the town already know. Having a school south of the railroad tracks will alleviate the population pressure that works its way from south to north. Various residents from that part of Knox County have remarked to us that it is in that area where a new school needs to be located.

Another proposed use of the Seal property, should the Town pay $1.3 million and the School Board fail to build a school within five years, is a Farragut Community Center. This proposal comes at a time when Mayor [W. Edward “Eddy”]Ford [III]’s property has been sold to developers who will create a complex that expands the Town center. Shouldn’t a Farragut Community Center be in the center of Farragut, available to all sectors equally — north, south east and west?

And then there is the ballpark proposal for the Schubert [Family Limited Partnership] property currently under option to the Campbell family who wish to purchase the property and trade it to Knox County to be used for a high-density complex of ball parks, soccer and football fields. This seemingly altruistic gesture is to gain support for grabbing TVA land in the Concord Park area to expand their commercial marina.

We, and other residents of this portion of McFee Road, however, are strongly opposed to placing high use, high disturbance developments in quiet suburban neighborhoods. Why should the 42 homeowners of McFee Manor take the news lightly about ballfields that would come within 30 feet of their backyards. Developments such as this typically receive vigorous support from soccer, football, and baseball organizers and coaches, transient groups that may be involved for two or three years, if that long, and then move on to other endeavors. Because their numbers are great, they often wield influence beyond the fewer numbers of homeowners.

However, it is the homeowners, stable longtime residents, who pay the taxes that support the town and county operations. Is it fair to them to see their lives disrupted and property values depreciated because of the degradation of the neighborhood caused by the lights, loud speakers, and traffic congestion? Would you be happy with the lights and loud speakers in your neighborhood?

This ballpark proposal involves a complex land swap involving TVA, Knox County, and the Campbell family (owners of Concord Marina). For this transaction to occur, TVA would have to violate an executive order issued by President George W. Bush that prohibits swapping land taken by eminent domain to be sold, transferred or traded for the purpose of private commercial development. TVA would also have to violate its own land use policy established through a public hearing process in which 92 percent of 5,000 citizens’ comments demanded that TVA not do what is proposed by the Campbell family. Former County Commissioner Craig Leuthold addressed this issue by noting that his wife’s family had been displaced from this same piece of property by eminent domain, and that it was a painful event that still is felt by his family.

It is easy to generate support from the general public for such emotionally charged ideas as more schools, ballparks, etc. Each of us has children who need schools and love to play ball. It is also, unfortunately, easy to avoid thinking about the pain that comes to homeowners who have built their lives around creating a warm, comforting home environment, one they would like to see remain stable through the end of their life and as a legacy for their family.

We would like to thank former [Farragut] Mayor Bob Leonard for letting aldermen know that the landowners at 901 McFee Road had to be dealt with fairly. Thanks to Mayor Eddy Ford and Vice Mayor J. Michael Haynes, for voting against the cryptic “consider possible acquisition of property” proposal. We’d also like to thank Bob Hill, chairman, Farragut Municipal Planning Commission, for seeing what was going on while watching the Feb. 14 meeting on television, leaving his home and coming to the meeting to ask whether this was the way that Farragut should conduct its business. There were others who spoke up that night, including a gentleman who was present at the board meeting for other reasons. He twice stood up to say that “railroading” the school proposal through was highly inappropriate. And yes, he used the term “railroading.”

Despite reports to the contrary, we are not just naysayers who don’t want any changes in our “backyard.” We believe that the Seals will eventually sell their property, and recognize that they do not need our permission to do so.

We also note, however, in a survey conducted by the town of Farragut, residents listed nature trails and natural areas as their highest priority. The Seal property is beautifully situated and vegetated for just such a use. Bird-watching is the No. 1 outdoor pastime for Americans, and we can attest that there is a surfeit of birds and other wildlife in the vicinity of our farm. The topography of the property would facilitate its use by children, elderly and physically challenged persons along with their families and friends.

There are ample persons and organizations capable of creating a diverse and fascinating array of landscapes that could be enjoyed by all. The costs for doing this would be reasonable, and likely subsidized by a host of conservation-oriented organizations. Let’s think creatively and consider the needs of all the citizens of the Town, including those who reside in the area proposed for development. The statement has been made that the Seals required this property be used for a school or “for the public good.” We purchased our property from the original owner, Jim’s sister, Helen, may she rest in peace. She wanted to sell to us because she approved of our plans to keep the land in as natural a state as possible. We are sure she would be delighted to see her cherished land preserved in a natural state for all to enjoy.

 

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