Developers stress ‘affordable’ to staff

Farragut Municipal Planning Commission and Knoxville developers plan to revisit changing language in the Town’s Residen-tial District requirements to allow more affordable housing options.

Bob Mohney, president of Saddlebrook Properties, and Russ Rackley, owner of Rackley Engineering, discussed their request for the Town to loosen its restrictions so they could build homes less than $300,000. This came during a Farragut staff developer meeting Tuesday,

Jan. 31.

“Our focus is to create something more affordable,” Mohney said. “There’s a demand for this kind of housing.”

“I’m open to this process,” Alderman Louise Povlin said. “This is something we called for in our Land Use Plan.”

Mohney and Rackley are looking to create a subdivision with a higher density of homes.

Mohney said he has an 8-acre site near Campbell Station Road in Farragut with a commercial site next to it where he wants to build the subdivision with affordable homes.

“Initially, they were looking at amending the Attached Single Family Residential District, R-4, to allow for detached, as well as attached [homes], in that district,” Mark Shipley, Farragut Community Development director, said. “[It’s] similar to what is behind us at Park Place, except those are connected with a breezeway, so basically, it’s houses that close.”

Their request went to FMPC two months ago for a workshop discussion, Shipley said.

“The feedback was [FMPC members] felt that we shouldn’t modify the R-4 District, but maybe consider an open-space overlay [district] similar to what we do in the R-1, Rural Residential Planning District,” he added.

“[R-1] is based on a density of a 20,000-square-foot lot,” Shipley said. “We talked, at the Planning Commission, about maybe looking at R-3 as the base zoning. R-3 is the small-lot single-family Residential District.”

R-3 District has a minimum lot size of 8,500 square feet, he said.

An example of the style homes they want to build can be found in Grantham Place subdivision off Yarnell Road.

Mohney said they want to take parcels that could not be developed and create more affordable homes on those parcels.

“This would be ideal for a transitional [use],” David Sparks, assistant Town engineer, said.

“I’m not against closer spaced lots, but I am for having a higher standard,” Shipley said.

One design aspect Shipley would like to see with the proposed homes is side- or rear-loaded garages, such as those found at Park Place.

“That would be much better curb appeal than a bunch of front-entry garages, especially on closely spaced lots,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see that in Farragut.”

However, Mohney said restricting where the garages would be placed would increase the homes’ prices.

“The difference between putting [a garage entry] forward to a side entry adds about $7,000 more,” he said. “We’re talking about affordable housing.

“If we can’t go front entry garages, we need to withdraw [the request],” Mohney added. “We are just wasting our time.

“Somebody said in a meeting in town of Farragut, ‘Well, that’s alright. It’s in the town of Farragut, that’s OK, people will pay more to live here.’” Mohney said. While he said that might be true, he does not think it is a very politically correct thing to say or to have for an attitude in the town of Farragut.

“I just think that is so wrong,” he said. “And, I’m sorry, but that culture has existed here for awhile.”

“All I’m talking about, Bob, is it relates to affordability, but having a certain level of standards that we’ve always had in the Town,” Shipley said.

“I think one of the reasons that makes Farragut appealing to a lot of people is that we do have a higher standard. We expect, when you develop something, that you provide something back to the community and it’s not just houses and a detention basin. “You’ve got walking trails and you’ve got amenities for the people who live in there and it’s connected to what’s around it. And, that adds value and marketability to it. It does add cost, and I understand that.”

Mohney said at present there is no affordable housing in Farragut because of the Town’s requirements.

“It’s not going to happen unless we adjust we way we are thinking,” he said. “Regulations are going to kill our economy. Regulations just add costs and add costs. Then you are looking for people who are just looking for rental property.”

“Well, regulations can go too far, but regulations also protect property values in a community,” Shipley said. “I can go to Sneedville and buy a house — because they have no regulations and no requirements — and my resale’s not going to be very good either.”

“I don’t want to build anything ugly, that’s not cute or that won’t sell,” Mohney said. “Another thing Farragut has going for it, frankly, that protects it is that the land values and the regulations in the subdivision doesn’t allow anyone to build real cheap stuff out here.”

Shipley said while he is open to relaxing regulations, the Town, through its regulations, is trying to promote a timeless character.

“We’re not against standards,” Rackley said. “Like [Mohney] said, if the house isn’t attractive and doesn’t have value, nobody’s going to buy it.

Rackley asked the Town staff to separate the architectural element from the land-planning component of the developers’ request.

Still, he said there should be opportunities for all types of social-economical classes to live in the Town.

Shipley said there are homes available in Farragut that cost less than $300,000. While Mohney said those homes are about 30 years old.

“Unless they are updated, they won’t get sold,” he said.

But after the meeting with Mohney and Rackley, Gary Palmer, assistant Town administrator, disagreed.