After lengthy discussion and multiple votes, Loudon County Commission denied Sept. 7 the rezoning of 78 acres on U.S. Highway 321 near the intersection of Unitia Road.
Subdivision developer Cook Bros. Homes hoped to have the land rezoned from A-1 Agriculture Forestry District to R-1 PUD Suburban Residential District with a Planned Unit Development to make way for a new subdivision of about 197 homes. County regulations allow for 2.5 units per acre.
Commissioners Bill Satterfield and Van Shaver motioned and seconded, respectively, to deny the rezoning in Satterfield’s third district. That vote failed 6-4, with Commissioners David Meers, Julia Hurley, Matthew Tinker, Gary Whitfield, Henry Cullen and Kelly Littleton-Brewster opposing.
Commissioner Adam Waller then questioned if some commissioners were confused on their vote, thinking they were voting in favor of Satterfield’s motion. Meers said he meant to vote in favor of Satterfield’s motion.
“Listening to Meers, I understood where he was going and there was obvious confusion with ayes and nays and what’s what, so after hearing Mr. Meers — I knew Henry (Cullen) mentioned he messed up talking to the recorder — so I wanted some clarification so everybody was on the same page,” Waller said. “... It’s Satterfield’s district and he understands the needs and the wants of his people so I support Satterfield and his community.”
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw called county attorney Bob Bowman seeking clarification on how to best move forward. Bradshaw said the confusion looked “horrible.”
Reconsideration took place after Bowman told Bradshaw a motion could only be made by a member of the majority. Cullen and Waller motioned and seconded, respectively, to reconsider. That vote passed 6-4, with Hurley, Tinker, Whitfield and Littleton-Brewster opposing.
Tinker and Hurley then motioned and seconded, respectively, to approve the rezoning, which failed 5-5. Harold Duff, Satterfield, Cullen, Shaver and Waller opposed.
“I think you have several members of the body who seem to be confused about the way they were going to vote and then they didn’t correct themselves, they were corrected by other members,” Tinker said. “I don’t know why they would know they needed to be corrected, so that might be something. Maybe it was something they said during the meeting that led to them to believe they were going to vote a different way but that’s not the first occurrence.”
Tinker said he voted in favor of the rezoning because he backed Loudon County Regional Planning Commission’s unanimous vote in July for the development.
“We have developed these plans that we ask the planning commission to follow,” he said. “We’ve all agreed in the past. I think the PUD passed unanimously to go from five to 75 (acres) with all those new restrictions that are put in. It passed unanimously with the planning development and then we want to say, ‘No, we’re not going to follow the rules that we set and that we asked the planning commission to adhere to when sending stuff to us.’ That makes no sense. And like in other times they voted until they got the results they want.”
Satterfield said he motioned to deny because residents in his district largely leaned that way.
“They understand if it goes further that the chances are I’m sure that it’ll probably end up in court and everything,” he said. “... It’s two-sided. I know it’s tough, you decide whether to let somebody sell their property or not let them sell it, but the people that lived there didn’t want it. No citizen contacted me at all in the last month wanting them to build it other than the builder and the seller. Like I said, regardless, I live in the country, I would be a little more concerned if somebody wanted to come in and build almost 200 homes right beside me.”
A nearly hour-long public hearing took place prior to the vote.
Jim and Tammy Russell, owners of the property, said paperwork to sell the land to Cook Bros. Homes had been ready and simply needed rezoning.
“The problem in the last two meetings with some other board members’ comments was, ‘It don’t fit.’ That’s all this whole crowd heard. ‘It don’t fit’,” Jim Russell said during the meeting. “‘You can’t stick an agricultural farm, turn it into an R-1, stick it into agricultural farm. No set rule against but it just don’t fit.’ ... Four-tenths of a mile from the entrance of my farm, at my back south pasture, joins an R-1 subdivision, I already said that, so now it fits. Four duplexes. Now, that piece of the puzzle is a non-issue. Now we got to a problem looking to the water. It’s the Davis farm between my driveway and there. I can throw a rock and hit that entrance from my driveway. John (Cook) and I with two mattocks could dig the ditch and hook to the water. That’s not an issue. If you’re looking for an issue, you won’t find one with this.”
He said “there’s R-1s everywhere” around his property, along with commercial zoning.
“Change is already there,” Russell said. “This ain’t ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ There is already existing everything that we’re wanting today. It’s already there. We comply with everything.”
In a follow-up interview, Russell declined comment upon request of his attorney.
John Cook, Cook Bros. Homes owner, has said he would fight the county’s decision.
“I think ultimately, even with the denial tonight, the developer has that right to go in front of the chancellor and get a hearing,” Bradshaw said. “Ultimately to cover the county’s side and to make sure that we were very specifically clear on what the vote was from the commission, I felt like it was important to clean that up and really make sure we had it in black and white on what was the intention.”
In other news, Loudon County Commission:
• Reinstated a COVID-19 policy for employees.
• Approved floor plans for the Loudon County Courthouse.
• Passed the application and acceptance of funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for Lenoir City library of $25,000 with a 10% match, Philadelphia library of $20,000 with a 5% match, Loudon library of $25,000 with a 10% match and Greenback library of $20,000 with a 5% match.
• Approved the application and acceptance of a $3,000 no-match grant through the American Library Association for the Loudon Library.
• Passed a $4,915 salary supplement for the fiscal year 2022 for the road superintendent and sheriff.
• Amended County General Fund 101, Highway Fund 131, General Purpose School Fund 141, School Federal Projects Fund 142, Central Cafeterias Fund 143 and General Capital Projects Fund 171.