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Powell Acres residents lose leverage
Powell Acres residents to pursue Costco to honor agreement

Residents of Powell Acres — perhaps Farragut’s smallest subdivision — lost the leverage they had over Costco developers at a special-called Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday, Aug. 11.

The meeting corrected a zoning map that erroneously showed a 100-foot wide buffer zone separating the subdivision and the Costco plot.

In actuality, the buffer should be 50 feet wide.

“That was wrong, because it had never been 100 feet. It was 50 feet and it never changed,” Town attorney Tom Hale said. The error apparently occurred when hand-drawn zoning maps were digitized in 2003.

In July, that error gave Powell Acres residents leverage to encourage Costco representatives to agree to a host of requests, including construction of a keystone retaining wall, additional landscaping, rework of a wet weather conveyance and construction of a large, underground detention basin.

“Figuratively, Costco had a hammer over their head” when they agreed to these requests from subdivision residents, Hale said.

But Costco did agree, he added, and there has been no indication Costco representatives would renege on their agreement. No one from Costco attended the special meeting.

“But we don’t want the impression out there that we’re going to take advantage of a mistake and make someone do something they don’t have to do and we don’t have the ability to enforce,” Hale told commissioners.

In fact, Costco’s site plan was based on the correct 50-foot buffer, and needed no rezoning — a condition of the previously approved site plan.

“They should not be made to jump through a bunch of hoops that they don’t have to,” Hale said.

But Powell Acres residents didn’t agree.

“To be honest, this sounds to me like ‘Get Costco,’” said Bernie Roach, whose son and daughter-in-law live in Powell Acres.

However, FMPC unanimously approved the correction to the map that would show the legal buffer width to be 50 feet.

“It’s always been 50; anything else has never been legal,” Mayor Ralph McGill said.

FMPC also unanimously rescinded its previous approval of Costco’s site plan (which included the unneeded buffer strip rezoning as a condition) and approved the site plan with all of the correct information.

That also effectively removed any agreements between Powell Acres and Costco developers from the Town’s purview.

“That’s between Costco and the residents of Powell Acres,” associate Town administrator Gary Palmer, who ran the meeting, said.

Hale said any agreement between Powell Acres and Costco should not be included as part of any Town requirements.

“You’re putting the Town in a position of our processes being used in a way that, arguably, we shouldn’t be doing, to force somebody into an agreement,” Hale told commissioners.

If there had never been any confusion over just how wide the buffer strip was, Hale said, Costco might not have made any such agreements.

“There would be absolutely nothing anybody could have done to extract these things from Costco. ... We don’t have the authority to force them to build this kind of wall,” Hale said.

“This is taking the eraser to the chalkboard and erasing the July 21 meeting,” Palmer said.


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