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McGill lays out ground rules for EDC

Farragut’s Economic Develop-ment Committee tried to define just where its responsibilities lie at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Mayor Ralph McGill opened the meeting with a reminder of what the committee was tasked to do: develop “long-range strategic planning as it relates to economic development.”

“The town of Farragut has rules and procedures in place designed to produce a certain result in development,” McGill said.

At the end of the day, only the result was “sacred,” he said, not necessarily the process or the rules.

“If we need to tweak some ordinances, that’s what we need to do,” he added.

Questions arose about a specific project proposed in Town limits: the renovation of the former Outlet Mall into a public market, and whether the EDC can make recommendations about the merits of any certain project.

Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer said no.

Jim Holladay agreed: “It is not the responsibility of this committee to decide if a project is feasible or not feasible.

“Even if it’s a failure, it’s not our call,” he added.

Two of the committee’s members, broker Jim Nixon and consultant Bill Johns, are involved with the public market project.

Neither participated much in discussions at the meeting.

Alderman Bob Markli said he considered the public market a “pilot case” for the EDC, allowing it to investigate if “road blocks and hurdles” are placed in front of certain developments.

David Purvis said he would like to follow the public market project as a chance to learn about the development process in the Town, but not to judge the merit of it.

McGill asked Nixon if the development process was smoother since the Town had implemented meetings at which developers and Town planning staff discuss in detail any problems with site plans.

Nixon said it was a “little bit smoother,” but declined further comment, saying he was “in the middle of” staff-developer meetings at which Town staff had found numerous issues with the public market’s site plan.

McGill defended the staff, saying, “We pay them to enforce the ordinances.”

“Fitting a square peg into a round hole is not their call,” he added.

But, “We are in the business of running a Town … and we are concerned with increasing revenues,” McGill said.

Holladay said the committee should remember its long-term planning, including establishing a brand different from area business competitors.

“If we’re going to establish a brand different from everyone else, we have to be different,” he said.

Johns agreed, saying, “I’m for strong ordinances.” The perception of Farragut being business-unfriendly may come from not communicating those ordinances clearly, he added.

Jonas Rice said he would like to learn more about the development process, calling it a “steep learning curve.”

Palmer said he could have community development staff explain the process at another meeting.

The committee also named officers: Holladay as chair, Purvis as vice chair and Ginny McClain-Tate as secretary.

In a previous meeting, the committee decided on a mission statement: “The purpose of the committee shall be to: identify, evaluate, communicate and initiate economic impact opportunities for the town of Farragut.”


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