Fight for new subdivision continues

The land in question next to the Hampton Place subdivision is a soybean field leased by Loudon City Councilman Johnny James.

A proposed housing development has sparked controversy with Loudon City Council, the Loudon Regional Planning Commission and residents of a neighboring subdivision.

The property on Queener Road is currently a soybean field and a rezoning request to make the property an R-3 residential zone was recently brought before council. A vote failed because no council member would second the motion by Councilman Tim Dixon.

The rezoning request had been approved unanimously by the planning commission.

Bryan Petett, a commercial broker who wants to develop the land into a neighborhood, went before the commission May 6 in hopes of clearing up concerns or questions.

Residents of neighboring Hampton Place put together a petition listing concerns such as additional traffic, decrease in home values, water runoff, ruining their view and noise and pollution.

“I believe that our entire subdivision is still on board with not wanting that subdivision,” Dameon Splawn, Hampton Place Homeowners Association president, said. “We know for one Queener Road definitely couldn’t handle extra traffic. I know one of my other neighbors has also been hit just turning onto Queener Road because there’s not a turning lane to turn onto Queener Road.”

Ty Ross, Loudon city manager, said new construction projects are planned for Queener Road in the coming year.

Petett told the commission he wants to meet with residents of Hampton Place to get input. With the COVID-19 pandemic, he asked commissioners for an extra 30 days before any decisions are made so the meeting can happen.

“We’ve got a strong interest in that property,” he said. “We want to develop that property to the extent where we feel like it’s going to benefit the citizens of Loudon County and Loudon city the most. If these folks truly don’t want that, then we’ve got maybe another opportunity for a different type of product as well, and they may like that. I just ask the board to give me that time to visit with these folks because I think their concerns are important, and I want to make sure they have accurate information.”

The commission granted Petett the additional 30 days to meet with Hampton Place residents.

Petett said the proposed subdivision, as well as another residential project he’s working on, can help Loudon.

“Folks, we’ve got 200 homes that we’ve got planned for Loudon,” Petett said. “Of those 200 homes, that’s $47 million in construction costs. That’s an average price of $235,000 per home. That’s a tax, property tax base alone of $375,000 to Loudon and the city of Loudon. That’s not counting the roughly 100 to 150 construction workers building the homes. That’s not counting the sales taxes and the other things that are involved when you build homes and you move families in.

“These homes are for families with household incomes of $70,000 to $80,000 a year,” he added. “That’s your core population of Loudon. … When you’ve got housing needs that you can’t fulfill, then you don’t have a workforce. If you don’t have a workforce, you’re not going to be able to increase your industry to have better jobs.”

Petett was disappointed council wouldn’t even motion to discuss the zoning change.

“It’s unbelievable to me that the city council with the exception of Tim Dixon, the rest of the three — Tammi Bivens, Tim Brewster and Johnny James — when this thing was brought up to them, we couldn’t even get a second to discuss it,” he said. “How many thousands and thousands of dollars is this city going to throw away? What was more astonishing to me than anything I heard in the last city council meeting that they had, the very next item on the agenda was, ‘Folks, I hate to tell you, we’re going to have to borrow some money to pave some of these streets in the town’.”

Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris said he was disappointed with the way council handled the request.

“Because there was no discussion on it, the planning commission doesn’t know what the problems were,” he said. “What didn’t council like about it this time? I feel like we owe them some sort of explanation. If the concerns truly are traffic or whatever, then we need to get a second on the motion so we can discuss the issues, but that never happened, because it just never got a second. It really wasn’t handled appropriately I don’t think. That’s why it’s going to come back up for discussion, and I expect it to get a vote up or down.”

At Monday’s council workshop, the matter was on the agenda again and discussed briefly before being set aside for May’s regular meeting.

Councilman Johnny James has been vocally opposed to the rezoning. He has been leasing and farming the property since the 1990s.

Harris said Loudon needs affordable housing to support jobs and strengthen the economy.

“The rooftops we have in Loudon knock us out every time because we don’t have the density commercial businesses are looking for,” he said. “This is what we need — more housing. This is affordable housing where it fits the niche of a couple that’s in the $40,000-$45,000 a year range. And this is a $200,000-$250,000 home that fits their budget, and that’s the kind of people we’re trying to attract. So I’m going to continue pushing for it. So if there’s something we need to change, something we need to do different, we need council to share what those things are and see if we can’t come to some sort of agreement on it.”

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