Residents of East Knox County gathered Sunday at the Carter Senior Center to share ideas about the future of their community. It was a convivial group, the mood lightened by giant scoops of Cruze Farm ice cream (peach and vanilla).
Their ideas will be posted online at knoxmpc.org/plans/small-area/eastcounty, where others may also comment. Organizers will return in October with a plan.
Gerald Green, executive director, said the Metropolitan Planning Commission didn’t have the resources to complete the study but hired consultants with targeted county funding to do so.
East Tennessee Community Design Center, led by Wayne Blasius and Leslie Fawaz, is handling community input. Don Kostelec, a certified planner based in Asheville, N.C., will develop the plan, assisted by Kristy Carter, a transportation planner, and Bill Bruce from East Knox County. All were at Sunday’s meeting.
Kostelec said, “Instead of looking just at what government can do, we’ll also look toward community groups like conservancy organizations for help.” He said planners will “spend a majority of our time” on the priorities identified by residents.
One of the seven stations asked for stories from the past. Wayne Whitehead recalled a time when the community rallied to reject a proposed landfill. “We auctioned a billy goat at a fundraiser,” he wrote. Wayne and Connie Whitehead are 35-year residents of East Knox County.
Tom Bailey wrote, “Family farm since 1846. Keep it!”
Another resident identified “big government” as the area’s challenge and “slow growth” as its objective.
Almost no one could comply with the “one word” request to state today’s challenges and their vision for tomorrow. Some wrote a sentence; a few wrote a paragraph. But all were seriously invested in the process.
Will this process and the resulting plan work better than the previous one?
The existing East County Sector Plan was disregarded by Knox County Commission to permit rezoning of 345 acres for the Midway Business Park.
Green says that’s one of the changes he hopes to bring to MPC. If citizens take time to engage in creating a plan, he hopes elected officials will pay attention. While optimism is good, it’s probably a bad sign that not one elected official dropped by during the first hour of Sunday’s gathering. Not even for the peach ice cream.