A Little Drive Around Westmoreland Heights

The District 4 Democrats were kind enough to let me speak a little at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. I had a chance to tell a little bit about myself and my platform. I also got a chance to meet people and answer some questions. I think I mentioned the event in this previous post.

One of the meeting attendees came up to me after I spoke and asked if we could meet the next day to discuss some things. I was glad to do it and met him at the Food City near the corner of Kingston Pike and Northshore. He said he was interested in my views about development in Knox County. He told me about how some ongoing development in his neck of the woods had come to be approved and warned me about something that could come in the future. I’m going to keep the specifics of that conversation between us for now. But he also agreed to drive me around his neighborhood to show me some things. It was an area that Google Maps describes as Westmoreland Heights. I drive past the neighborhood all the time, via Westland, but I confess I’ve never had occasion to drive down the streets. He has lived in the area since the 70s, so he pointed out some very interesting aspects of his neighborhood.

Looking back at Google Maps, I can see we drove down Sherwood and Stone Mill Drives. We also drove along Baum Drive and Lawford Road. It’s a neat section of Knox County and I certainly plan on getting back there when I start walking and knocking on doors.

Some of things he told me caused me to want to look into the Planning Commission. I have noticed that the Knox County Commissioners seem to give deference, at times, to the decisions made by the Planning Commission. Perhaps to a fault. The gentleman I met with told a story of how the Commission might be inclined to favor the wishes of developers over the people near where the development is being made.

So I went to the website. It says the 15 Commissioners are appointed by the Knoxville Mayor (7) and the Knox County Mayor (8). Their bios are available on the website. On the one hand, the gentleman could be correct. There seems to be a 9-6 majority of Commissioners who might have a strong bias in favor of development, looking just at their backgrounds in real estate, development or building. On the other hand, it also seems to me that you might want people with this kind of experience and expertise on the Planning Commission, where preliminary decisions about development are made. So, I’m not sure.

There are two things that I am sure of. First, this is an area that I need to learn more about. To me, there are red flags in the steps that Mayor Jacobs is taking in the area of development. And the current County Commission is not doing enough to slow or stop things where I think they ought to be slowed or stopped. I’ve decided that I need to to attend a Planning Commission meeting in the coming months to see how things run.

Second, I have heard more than one time how County Commissioners in their meetings seem to want to defer to the fact that the Planning Commission approved something “7-0” or thereabouts. There’s a reason these things come to the County Commission for final approval. If I am elected Commissioner, I won’t be relying solely on the fact that something sailed through the Planning Commission first. If there is public objection to a zoning change or anything else, I will not be bullied or coerced into voting one way or another. The fact that the Planning Commission approved something doesn’t mean there isn’t still a problem. I pledge that I will ask the questions that need to be asked and will not vote to approve anything until I am completely satisfied with the answers I get. If I am not satisfied, then my vote will be no.

Published by Todd Frommeyer for Knox County Commission

Retired Air Force JAG, former Navy Russian linguist, former consumer financial regulator, political junkie

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