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Farragut culturally diverse? FEDC definition


Farragut’s Economic Development Committee considered describing Farragut as culturally diverse at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 6.

The committee was discussing the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the Town.

Among discussed strengths was “cultural diversity,” which Alderman Bob Markli said was demonstrated at local schools.

“If you’ve been to the high school or any of the schools, we do have quite a bit of cultural diversity,” he said.

Phil Dangel, owner of Shrimp Dock, disagreed: “If customers are any barometer, there is not much cultural diversity in the Town,”

“If you’re 80 percent white, or Caucasian, is that diverse or not diverse? When do you become diverse or not diverse?” Knick Myers, Renaissance principle owner, asked.

“Diversity is in the eye of the beholder,” committee chair Jim Holladay said, adding there was no sure number or percentage of what made any one place diverse.


According to demographic research, the 37934 ZIP Code, which consists largely of Farragut, is predominantly white: 93.53 percent white, in fact.

Pamela Treacy then suggested calling Farragut “culturally tolerant” instead.

“If you’re from the north, and you come here, the realtors will all send you to Farragut,” she said.

“They say to you, ‘You’ll feel comfortable in this community.’

“It’s like we reform Yankees or something like that,” she added with a laugh.

In the end, cultural diversity was not listed as a strength.

Among the chosen strengths were location, attractive demographics, financial condition and sound infrastructure of the Town, quality of life, retail opportunities including Turkey Creek, historic sites and the Farragut Folklife Museum, high aesthetic standards, a low tax environment and availability of quality schools.

But schools came up again as a weakness; Treacy said Farragut had no control over schools in Knox County.

“It is a weakness because the Town has no control over if its residents will go to the schools closest to the kids’ homes,” Treacy said, referring to the controversial rezoning of some students to Hardin Valley Academy.

Schools should not be marketed as a benefit, she said, if the Town has no control over whether Town residents actually attend the schools located within the Town.

“Knox County government is our government as well. We have as much control as anyone in the County does,” Markli said.

“We are a subset of the County and the Knox County school system, and that’s where we send our input,” David Purvis agreed.

“Do we have less control here than someone in East Knoxville?” he asked.

Treacy said Farragut actually had less control over the school system than other County residents because of outsiders’ malice against the Town, or the perception of the Town as “snobby.”

She used, as an example, Knox County’s current search for a new elementary school in West Knox County, including a possible site in Town limits off McFee Road.

“People in other parts of Knox County are saying, ‘Our schools haven’t been rebuilt,’ ‘Our schools have deficiencies and mold issues.’ We have no control that can say, ‘We really need [this].’

“We’re only one of [nine] votes. There are [nine] school board members,” she added.

Bill Johns said Farragut had “been too hands off, historically, in our relationship with others.”

Treacy said the difference between Farragut and other communities such as Maryville and Oak Ridge is that they control their own schools, whereas Farragut does not.

Markli pointed out the state currently would not allow Farragut to take control of schools within its borders, even if it wanted to.

By the end of the discussion, a majority of committee members agreed lack of control of the Knox County schools located in Farragut was a weakness.

Other weaknesses listed were developers’ perception of Town staff, along with strict ordinances; vacant properties in Town; perception of an adversarial relationship between Town high-ups and developers; confusion over the boundaries of the Town and negative relationships with other communities.

 

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