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Planning Commission hears floodplain change request

A typical rezoning matter evolved into a not-so-typical debate on changing floodwater patterns at Farragut’s Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday, May 20.

Craig Allen, along with attorney Bob Leonard, requested that FMPC conditionally rezone a portion of land near the corner of Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road from office and open space-park to commercial.

“My intention is to clear this up … and make it have more curb appeal,” Allen said of the property adjacent to Village Veterinary Hospital.

But that won’t be an easy task.

Almost the entire front of the property lies in the floodplain — within the lines for 100-year and 500-year floods.

That means that, if the property were to be developed, the front of the property would need to be re-graded so it would be out of the floodplain, according to FEMA, TDEC and Farragut guidelines.

“This is the first in the Town’s history. We’ve never had a request to move a floodway,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said.

Allen wants to re-grade about an acre of the 9-acre plot that fronts Kingston Pike, setting it up on a retaining wall and subsequently redirecting the floodwaters.

“If it does flood, where does the water go?” FMPC Chair Rita Holladay asked Allen.

Allen said the water would be redirected to the rear of the property, but Hawk expressed fears that a retaining wall could push water back toward the businesses that front Campbell Station.

“There’s obviously a lot of issues,” Commissioner Ron Honken said.

“But the question is, do we think this property is suitable for a commercial use?” he asked.

Commissioner Ed St. Clair said the problem was even more general than that — the rezoning would be allowing nearly any use on a piece of property currently zoned for basically no active use at all.

“This is absolutely ill-conceived as a commercial spot,” St. Clair said.

Holladay agreed.

“It seems like a bad precedent to start. It gets at the whole integrity of the creeks,” she said.

Any FMPC decision would be conditional, contingent on FEMA and TDEC requirements and approvals.

Mayor Ralph McGill asked if that meant Holladay didn’t trust TDEC guidelines.

“Possibly,” she said.

St. Clair said TDEC and FEMA “will look at what can be done over what should be done. … What will we give up that we can’t get back?”

Allen said the land was at the heart of Farragut and was the only parcel not predominantly zoned for commercial or office use in the area.

“I’m not talking about moving the stream or creek. We’re changing the elevation. I think it enhances the whole piece.

“If you aren’t willing to make changes, you don’t need a Board. What Ruth said would just go,” Allen said.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” he added.

FMPC took no vote; the item was for discussion only.

Hawk shared statistics with Commissioners about a recent study on flood lines in Nashville, revealing development had raised the flood elevation four feet from what it originally was.

“Many areas not in the floodplain were re-designated as floodplain,” Hawk said.

Knox County’s floodways currently are being re-mapped, and Turkey Creek and North Fork Turkey Creek were ID’d as points of interest in the study.

“They’re finding higher stream flows than they anticipated,” Hawk said.


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