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Commission agrees 9-0 to consider Seal tract as park

The Farragut Municipal Planning Commissionn unanimously voted to consider the Seal property, 16.8 acres on the west side of McFee Road north of new McFee Road Park as a “viable candidate for potential acquisition”

and subsequent development as a recreational/-leisure park with a community center; but town officials also would continue searching for possible recreational land alternatives based at least partially on cost considerations.

Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III asked, “How many ballfields can we put on this piece of property? … I want to know, is there a sinkhole on this property and how might that affect recreational use of the property? … What would be the setback requirements? The relationship of this property to the existing McFee Road Park?”

Ford added that he asked town administrator Dan Olson “to look into what other parcels of land might be available in this town.”

The mayor said Farragut would only have $785,000 in its “land acquisition fund” during the 2008-09 fiscal year beginning July 1.

Ford warned that with “less and less” state funds and fewer sales tax dollars coming into town coffers, “we have to be very careful what we spend.”

Farragut Community Develop-ment director Ruth Hawk said, “there’s not a lot of land left” for the town to acquire within Farragut except for the southwest “sector.”

But Hawk also said smallness is one of the “beauties” of Farragut, incorporating only 16 square miles. “There’s really no property in town that’s so far away that you can’t get to it,” she said.

Chairman Robert “Bob” Hill said this location might be appropriate for a community center. “I think there’s a need in this town for a community center,” Hill said. Town’s Leisure Services Master Plan includes a community center.

Commissioner/Alderman Dot LaMarche said that when asking Olson about fund availability for purchasing the property, “on three or four occasions he has told us the money is there. … I’m very much in favor of purchasing the land.”

LaMarche echoed Hill’s desire for a community center there, adding, “We are turning down people every single day” seeking to use Town Hall’s community room.

Hawk said the only sinkhole is a small area in the southwest corner of the property. With a collection of hardwood trees, she said the northwest corner would be the most difficult to develop.

But overall, the Seal property has more “large, flat” area for recreational development than existing McFee Park or areas under development.

Hawk said that “in reality, Farragut has an aging population, but added, “rectangular fields are by far the most requested fields that we get because they’re the most versatile.”

As for most popular forms of recreation as surveyed by the Town, “Walking trails … actually showed up as being the number one recreation, what everybody wants,” Hawk added. “We get a lot of requests for picnic shelters.”

Hawk said that while the Seal property is more conducive to multiple rectangular fields than any existing or planned in McFee Park, “At the time that it’s developed, is that the need that’s being requested.”

Hawk said an improved McFee Road plus a walking trail and sidewalks enhances the Seal property’s attractiveness.

As for the controversy of lighted ballfields, “A lighted ballfield is an intrusion into an area, without any question,” Hill added. “Loudspeakers are an intrusion. It would be nice if you had a passive park ’cause they’re quiet.”

Ralph Dimmick, McFee Manor, requested FMPC recommend a passive park to avoid such problems as Hill listed. Dimmick also expressed disillusionment about why he and other McFee Manor residents haven’t been consulted about changes town has implemented in their neighborhood — and on private property.

“I’ve lived in the area 40 years … It’s rare that I have even been informed that something was going to be happening down there unless I happened to catch it in the farragutpress or hear about it by rumor,” Dimmick said, citing one example. “The first time I showed up here, I was sort of informed that the Town was going to buy this property and they were going to take my driveway. … Not one person came to me and said, “Mr. Dimmick, what do you think about this?”

Dimmick disputed Town claims on limited sinkhole problems by citing one aquatic example. “The sinkhole’s filled up with water on several occasions. In fact, I had to traverse that sinkhole by boat for two weeks just to get back and forth to my house.”

Dimmick said he already lives “about a quarter mile” from existing ballfields with lighting. “I can see those lights in from my house, it’s just not a pleasant thing. … It was our understanding when this park was first planned that there wouldn’t be lights there.”

However, Hawk said lights were planned “right from the get-go.”

Phillip Hukill, McFee Manor, echoed Dimmick’s problems with ballfield lighting and preference for a passive park with community center. Hukill’s wife, Linda Wolverton, said town officials should seek “other sites” for a community center that might be “less expensive.”

Wolverton also advised a “traffic study” be implemented on McFee Road to access traffic volume increases with extra park space. “I would like to be able to still be able to have ease of access to my community,” she said.


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