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Farragut gears up to save trees

Assistant Community Development Director Mark Shipley is concerned about the health of the trees in Farragut’s parking lots.

“We want to help improve tree health in parking lot settings,” Shipley told Farragut Municipal Planning Commissioners at their meeting Thursday, Jan. 21.

Shipley said trees in parking lots had an average life span of only 7 to 10 years, largely because of compacted soil and limited room for growth.

“They don’t have anywhere to go and the tree is stunted or it dies,” Shipley said.

But a few regulation changes could alter that outlook.

One change could be increasing the minimum width of parking lot islands from 5 feet to about 8 feet wide.

That would not only give the trees more room to grow; it would cut back on tree roots damaging parking lots and curbs.

Another change would be to prevent entire sites from being compacted when developed; in other words, to rope off the areas planned for parking lot islands when lots are graded and compacted.

Changes to development requirements would require more work on the front end, Shipley said, but would result in a better end product.

“That’s what we’re really trying to do: save money in the long run … so [developers are] not having to replace trees or repair parking lots,” Shipley said.

“We’re not proposing very elaborate, expensive things for the developer … but small steps,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said.

However, Shipley said no solution would be easy.

For example, if the minimum width of parking lot islands were changed from 5 feet to 8 feet, parking requirements would have to be altered as well.

Hawk said Farragut’s parking requirements might be too high anyway.

“Every center is designed to accommodate Christmas,” she said.

Many developments construct their parking lots with more than 20 percent more spaces than the Town requires, Hawk added.

“Banks are some of our biggest offenders of over-parking,” she said, also mentioning the JCPenney in Turkey Creek.

Commissioner Ron Honken asked for an example of a lot constructed to Farragut parking requirements.

Hawk said there wasn’t one, but Kroger Marketplace was close.

Honken asked that Town staff survey a random sample of developers to ask their opinions on changing parking lot requirements to allow more room for trees.

“They might say, ‘We’re all for it; no problem,’” Honken said.

“I think that suggestion is an outstanding one,” Shipley agreed.

The item was for discussion only; no vote was taken.

FMPC also discussed requiring all landscape products shipped into Farragut be certified free of fire ants.

“I don’t know if it’s manageable. There may not be anything we can do,” Shipley said.

Knox County is in a quarantine regarding fire ants, joining much of the southeast. It is considered an infestation area.

The problem with that is, while products shipped out of Knox County must be certified free of fire ants, products shipped in do not.

Commission Chair Rita Holladay asked if the point was past for doing something about the fire ants already here.

“Probably, realistically. It may be something we can’t do much about at this point,” Shipley said.

Large areas of disturbed land are “havens” for fire ants, Shipley said, and the animals are attracted to electricity, eating through rubber and wires. Fire ants both sting and fly.

“They’re a very destructive species,” Shipley said, adding he hoped the fire ant infestation was like that of the Japanese beetle several years ago, when the beetles eventually died off.

“Hopefully the cold spell did some damage,” Shipley said.


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