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Public ‘flea’ market proposal moves forward

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission took up a debate to allow a public market off Outlet Drive Thursday, Jan. 7, in what Commission Chair Rita Holladay called a “foundation issue.”

“From the debate I’ve heard and what I’ve read, this is one of the foundation issues for the town of Farragut and has been for the 30 years it’s been in place, and that’s the same 30 years since the formation of Farragut,” Holladay said.

The FMPC meeting was special-called to address just the public market issue at Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill’s request. He wanted FMPC members to draft an ordinance amendment to allow Charles Atchley Sr.’s proposed public market several variances on green space, outdoor sales and parking requirements.

An ordinance change would affect only the former Outlet Mall property, which is the only parcel in Town limits zoned C-2/RW, or commercial warehouse.

After more than two hours of debate, FMPC members decided they could not draft an ordinance change in one night, and the decision was postponed to FMPC’s regular meeting, Thursday, Jan. 21.

Commissioner Ron Rochelle said early on he would not leave the meeting without an ordinance drafted, an idea Commissioner Ed St. Clair called “absolutely ludicrous.”

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t do this; I’m not saying we should. But I want to see the process go through this, to get to the detail of it, so I know whether to support it or not,” St. Clair said.

“If we can’t get down to item-by-item and be comfortable with it, and then vote on it at the proper time, I’ll sit here and fight it ‘til we do that,” he added.

The proposed public market generated a lot of discussion because of its perceived similarities to a flea market, which is prohibited by Town ordinances.

“We’re spending $6 or $7 million. It is not going to be a flea market,” Atchley’s representative, Jim Nixon, said.

“The public market that we are attempting to put there would have booths, and would have merchandise new and used,” he added.

In a previous farragutpress article, Atchley stated the public market would only be open on weekends and would house about 600 booth spaces, plus outdoor sales. Each vendor would be responsible for collecting and reporting sales tax to the Town.

Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche said she was appalled the Outlet Mall property was even in Farragut and urged Commissioners to “negotiate” with Atchley and Nixon.

Audience member Phil Dangel agreed, saying, “We gotta do this. … This thing has got to be passed.”

“Farragut’s reputation is that it’s impossible to do business here. … After watching this, I’m beginning to believe [that],” he added.

“I think you people have lost all perspective of what this thing is about,” Gilbert Levenson, owner of Modern Supply, told Commissioners.

“I understand you all want to create Shangri-La in the middle of a highly industrial area. Across the street, you’ve got Cotton Eyed Joe. … You can’t change where this piece of property is,” he added.

McGill agreed: “The reality is, Neiman Marcus is not going to come to that spot. Costco is not going to come to that spot … That’s the tone that’s already been set.”

“The question is, do we want to improve on that tone or just say, ‘Forget it?’ That’s the question,” he added.

His statements received applause from a number of audience members.

Former Alderman Tom Rosseel asked Commissioners to keep in mind any ordinance changes also would apply to the Outlet Mall property were it to be sold to anyone else in the future.

“This is a major change … there are some concerns … just because somebody has the intent to make it look good, doesn’t mean you can legislate that,” he said.

“Look at the implications of everything that you do,” he added.

Community Development Director Ruth Hawk repeatedly said she knew no one wanted the public market to look like a flea market, including Atchley and Nixon, but she needed to be able to guarantee that through the wording of the ordinance.

Commissioners first discussed limits on outdoor sales and sales from vehicles.

No more than 25 percent of the total sales area (the building is 162,100 square feet) would be outside, Nixon said. All outdoor sales areas would be covered and located immediately adjacent to the front of the building.

Vendors also could sell from trucks, and the trucks could only park in designated spaces near the outdoor sales areas, in about 30 available spots.

But, Nixon said, customers also could park in those spaces.

Commissioners asked that green space be located to the sides of the building, where Nixon had originally wanted outdoor sales. That would decrease the parking requirements; Nixon said he could meet the parking requirements if outdoor sales space was decreased.

In the end, Commissioners couldn’t nail down all the details in one night.


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