FMPC grills Mohney on ‘high dense’ housing

Should town of Farragut planners give the thumbs-up to developers who want to use small tracts of land for high-density housing? Is Farragut about to see small subdivisions where houses are only 10 feet apart?

High-density housing dominated the conversation at the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening, Feb. 16.

Under consideration were two proposals: the first was by Bob Mohney, president of Saddlebrook Properties. He wants to put in high-density housing on an 8-acre tract off North Campbell Station Road.

The other proposal came from area developers Daniel Smith and Tyler Lindsey. They are asking to amend an ordinance to combine, big box commercial and other stores, restaurants and apartments that all use the same parking lot. Their target location is along South Watt Road behind Little Joe’s Pizza near Kingston Pike.

Mark Shipley, Farragut Community Development director, got the discussion started by reviewing the request by Mohney.

“The things that stood out to us [about his proposal] were the dominance of garage doors and driveways,” he said. “These dwellings didn’t appear to have any amenities for the residents. I think the first question is whether we’re interested in pursuing developments where the buildings are 10 feet closer than what we allow.”

Mohney is seeking a change from the mandatory 20 feet between houses (a 10-foot setback per house) to only 10 feet between houses (5 feet per house).

“What comes across to me is a detached wall of garage doors,” commissioner Ed St. Clair said. “I feel very strongly that we’ve got a number of zoning opportunities already offered. Why do we need to add another one?”

Most land in Farragut has already been built out, said Mohney, but he added there are many small tracts of 3 to 5 acres in Farragut that would work for small, high-density subdivisions.

An image of the plat of houses that would cost about $225,000 each was projected on a large screen in the boardroom of Town Hall and was visible on each commissioner’s computer monitor.

Mohney said most of the 3 to 5 acre tracts in Farragut have an older, unusable house on them that “will never sell.” Filling in these tracts with high-density housing would be a good alternative for the Town, he said, because it would provide affordable homes for young and single people and for empty-nesters who cannot afford to live in Farragut.

Rita Holladay, chair, questioned whether an influx of cheaper, high-density housing would have a negative effect on the houses that are already on the market. According to town of Farragut staff, there are about 700 existing houses in Farragut that are valued from $100,000 to $150,000; about 1,000 existing houses in the $150,000-$200,000 range, and another 2,000 from $200,000 to $300,000.

“Housing is moving toward urbanization,” Mohney said. “People want to be close in. The kids who are coming out of college today don’t even want to buy a dang house. Even your town center concept will mean tight housing and tight parking. Moving forward in the town of Farragut, there needs to be some sort of affordable housing. You can’t force young people to go buy an old, crummy house. We’re talking about a lifestyle that doesn’t exist in the town of Farragut that’s needed. The more people we keep from living here, the less revenue we’ll have for the Town.”

St. Clair said all millennials are not the same; his children have bought historical homes and are happily putting in sweat equity.

“There’s nowhere to put any vegetation,” member Betty Dick said. “I can’t imagine how hot it would be on that cul-de-sac on a 90-degree day in the summer.” She added that affordable housing is already available.

“The City of Knoxville is going through zoning change. To me the question is, ‘Do we see us evolving like this?’” Povlin asked.

Commissioner Noah Myers asked if going in the direction of high-density housing is something Farra-gut’s founding fathers and mothers would have wanted.

The group questioned how the citizens of Farragut felt about the issue. “I feel like we’re talking in a vacuum,” Povlin said, proposing a public workshop to get feedback.

As for the Smith-Lindsey proposed residential-commercial de-velopment along S. Watt Road, “I like this proposal,” Povlin said. “When I look at something like this, I think this is solving the problem we have with the old Ingles and the old Kroger. I like that you have built-in consumers. I embrace this idea cautiously. This location, I think, is ideal. The thing I have the most concern about is making sure the residential area has a transition.”

Commissioner Rose Ann Kile asked if the proposed residential development would be rental. “Yes, 200-230 apartments,” Smith said. “Along Old Stage Road there might an opportunity to sell townhomes in phase two. If we can get this text amendment through, we can come back with a more fleshed-out proposal.”