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Commercial realtors, Town officials meet


Local commercial realtors had suggestions for improving business in Farragut at a meeting with Town officials and Economic Development Committee representatives at Campbell Station Park, Wednesday, July 21.

The morning started with praise for Farragut’s “excellent demographics,” “great quality of life” and even “strict control of development.”

But despite the positives, opening a business in Town could be difficult, the realtors said.

“Dealing with an existing space is easy,” Justin Cazana, Commercial & Investment Properties Co., said.

“But new construction is a different story,” Chip Miller, NAI Knoxville, said.


John Griess of Holrob, also a former Farragut alderman and Knox County Commissioner, agreed. New construction problems largely lie with the codes department, he said, because “codes can be a moving target.”

The Town’s “notoriously strict” ordinances didn’t seem to be a problem to the six commercial realtors in attendance — but how those rules were enforced certainly was.

“I’ve never had one [client] go straight through the process,” Matthew Fentress, NAI Knoxville, said.

“People can be caught off guard by that … there are so many variables to developing here,” Cazana said.

Roger Denny, NAI Knoxville, agreed: “The big problem with doing business in Farragut is the process — that the process isn’t consistent from project to project.”

Cazana said, “If you come in and talk to the codes officers, you’re normally OK,” adding that seemed true not only in Farragut but with “codes people everywhere.”

The old adage “It’s better to seek forgiveness than permission” doesn’t seem to be true with codes, EDC chair Jim Holladay said.

But Denny said there needed to be a little more objectivity with how codes were enforced.

“There’s too much of a subjective quality to how they enforce the codes,” he said.

Associate Town Administrator Gary Palmer said Farragut needed a bit of a culture change in regards to the ordinance and development process.

“The culture we need to go with is not, ‘No,’ but ‘Yes, if ... ,’” he said.

Town Administrator David Smoak asked the realtors what Farragut was lacking, business-wise.

“A daytime population is what Farragut’s lacking right now,” Denny said.

Griess said part of the reason for that was Farragut’s relatively small percentage of office space — a large portion of Farragut’s population leaves during the day to work elsewhere. And office parks and developments won’t come to Farragut because of open space, setback and parking requirements, he added.

Cazana said offices also wouldn’t likely locate along Kingston Pike or Parkside Drive because of the high property and rent prices.

“Campbell Station could eventually grow to be a good office area,” he said.

Smoak also asked what the Town could look at for the future of the expanded Outlet Drive, which will connect Lovell Road and Campbell Station Road.

Griess said the area would be great for light industrial zoning, pointing out Pellissippi Technolo-gy Corridor allowed manufacturing but not distribution and Outlet Drive could fill that void.

Fentress said the Town also should look at the redevelopment of properties along Kingston Pike between Farragut High School and Lovell Road.

“That’s a dead zone … It’s not a place anyone really wants to stop and do business,” he said.

The area would be prime for a special development district, he added, while Griess said that at the least, a traffic light in the area would slow drivers and encourage shopping.

But the biggest problem in the commercial realty market, Griess said, is that “there really aren’t that many people out looking right now, to be frank.”

“So there really just does not need to be any obstacles to make the first cut [for developing in Farragut],” he added.

Cazana commended the Town for trying to change its perception, saying eight years ago, the City of Knoxville wasn’t considered business friendly either.

Griess said something as simple as a one-page printout of “10 reasons to locate in Farragut” would be useful for realtors and their clients, encouraging Town officials to broadcast their positive attributes.

“Things like cheap water and sewer, the schools, no property tax,” he said.

“And promote businesses that are very successful here,” he added.

The Town plans more meetings with business movers and shakers, including developers and business owners.

 

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