It’s almost as if the City of Alcoa is pitting residents in different areas of the Springbrook community against each other.
Springbrook residents who felt left out of the process showed up in force at last night's Alcoa City Commission meeting to protest designating a street through Springbrook Park as a thoroughfare for a planned retail development.
Why does there need to be access to the Springbrook community at all?
The City of Alcoa originated in 1918 as the first planned community in the State of Tennessee. A planned community is any community that was carefully planned from its inception. In the original plans, Alcoa, Inc., included one acre of park space for every 100 city inhabitants. In addition, between 1918 and 1924 approximately 300 shade trees were planted along city streets and parks. This type of planning has gone by the wayside.
Commercial development is growing without much thought toward green space, pedestrian accessibility, or preservation of the beauty and livability of Alcoa. Fifteen years or so ago, the Hunters Crossing shopping center was built with nearly fifty acres of parking lots and virtually no green space. Approximately five years ago, the Hamilton Crossing shopping center was developed with the possibility of nearly forty acres of parking lots and, again, virtually no green space. The automobile traffic in these two shopping areas is very heavy. Luckily for the citizens there is no through road access from either of these shopping centers to residential areas.
Currently, the City of Alcoa is working with a developer to build commercial and mixed-use properties at the old Alcoa, Inc. West Plant site that borders the west side of the Springbrook community and Hall Road. The West Plant development site appears to be larger than the Hunters Crossing and Hamilton Crossing shopping centers combined. Depending on the final site plan, the development could include up to 200 acres and who knows how much of these will be parking lots. In addition, no information on traffic counts has been forthcoming.
The City of Alcoa and the project developer, KPH Development (Kinsey Probasco Hays), out of Chattanooga, TN, want to enable “temporary” access from this possibly very large commercial development into the historic Springbrook community. At this time they not only want to provide access to Springbrook, they want to give direct access to Alcoa Road, thus turning Alcoa Road into a through street from the commercial development all the way through the Springbrook community, through the middle of Springbrook Park, to Wright Road. The term temporary is vague in that the temporary access is dependent on state and/or federal funds to build a new Hunt Road interchange, which could be 5-8 years or more in the future (actually it is totally undetermined when the interchange might be built and it is unfunded).
The City of Alcoa held a meeting for citizen input for this project on March 15, 2012, from 5 to 7 PM. It was expressed that the post cards mailed to citizens of the Springbrook community were misleading as was the ad placed in the local newspaper. The majority of the respondents to this meeting were from the North West sector of the Springbrook community, which primarily would be affected by the initially planned access point between Frary Street and Hoopes or an alternate access point at Frary Street.
Residents on the East side of Springbrook reported they did not initially understand from the notice that Alcoa Road was a consideration, but subsequently contacted the City of Alcoa with their comments once they realized Alcoa Road was to be made a thoroughfare. In all, 105 residents responded to the request for comments from the City of Alcoa. Of those, the City of Alcoa only considered seventy-nine. Input from twenty-six of these citizens was not considered for various reasons, e.g. the citizen did not attend the meeting, someone else dropped off the citizen input form, or the citizen wrote comments indicating their preference instead of marking one of the three solutions.
Twenty-five or so residents of the Springbrook area and Alcoa citizens who felt they would be affected by the Alcoa Road access attended the City of Alcoa Commission meeting Tuesday, April 10, 2012, to express their comments verbally regarding this turn of events.
Eight or more people spoke to the Commission explaining their concerns that this access will bring increased traffic, reduce safety, and take away from the integrity of the community. The applause after some of the speakers indicated the majority in attendance were in agreement that Alcoa Road should not be used as an access point to the Springbrook community.
Following are some of the comments and concerns expressed by citizens at the meeting:
- Nothing is on the City of Alcoa website regarding this project.
- Concern with lack of transparency – transparency is key.
- What are the benefits to this access?
- Notification of meeting was misleading.
- Comment forms not made available except to meeting attendees.
- Objection to process of interpreting input from citizens.
- Clearly overwhelming sentiment by residents is to avoid Alcoa Road as a connector to the new shopping area.
- Preservation of the neighborhood and park for the use of all citizens.
- Preservation of a quiet, safe neighborhood and park.
- Request that a TDOT representative attend the next meeting.
- Disappointed in the city for making plans without a full disclosure.
- City engineers were contacted for current and projected traffic counts. Surprised when they had nothing to provide.
- Hall Community is also concerned with the new shopping center development.
- Wright Road has become more dangerous after the opening of the Alcoa Service Center. There is more through traffic driving faster, larger trucks, and Wright road has become dangerous.
- There are few, if any, shopping centers that have through roads to surrounding neighborhoods.
- Has a traffic study been completed?
- Faraday Street: Why is this not a solution? Is it because it does not include any TDOT/Federal money?
- There are no residences on Faraday Street. There is room to expand. It provides access to Wright Road.
- It is possible the new commercial development and more specifically any “mixed use” development will take many years to build out, resulting in an unfinished area similar to Hamilton Crossing (over by PetSmart) and Hunters Crossing (over by Lowes). This too can have a negative impact on the Springbrook community.
- Will pedestrians be left out of consideration for Springbrook and the new shopping development as they have been at Hamilton Crossing? There has been no consideration made at Hamilton Crossing to assist pedestrians to get from the Michaels/PetSmart side of the shopping area across Hamilton Crossing Drive to the restaurants (Panera, Chilis, Olive Garden, Cheddars), etc. Does this give an indication of how pedestrians in Springbrook look to be treated in the future?
- Does the City of Alcoa have the funds to support this new project in the manner to make it compatible with the Springbrook community and the original planning for the City of Alcoa? The City of Alcoa is planning to match a $2 million TDOT grant for the access to Springbrook, but doesn’t have the money to maintain the schools and is asking for a sales tax increase. How much additional money will the City of Alcoa be committing to this development?
- Per Mark Johnson, City Manager, it is not too late to change road plans.
The community meeting was held on March 13, 2012. Residents had until March 27 to turn in comment sheets. The comments sheets were reviewed, tabulated, and made available on March 29. During this entire time the City of Alcoa was aware of the discontent of residents by the possibility of Alcoa Road being made a thoroughfare. Less than two weeks later (10 business days), Mark Johnson said the plans for Alcoa Road to be a through road are drawn, but can be redone. Why did they proceed with these plans knowing a growing number of citizens were concerned and did not want the Alcoa Road access option?
It has been brought to the attention of local citizens that commercial development and shopping centers are evolving. At an April 4, 2012 meeting in South Knoxville regarding a new apartment complex, the developer commented that condos were not feasible at this time. He went on to say, “Condos are not financeable.” In West Knoxville, a commercial broker for the Market Place Shopping Center on Kingston Pike said with the rise of Internet shopping, the role of shopping centers is evolving "and there are less big box players out there to fill shopping centers." Most recent tenants for that shopping center include Planet Fitness and Battlefield Knoxville (a laser tag-style attraction).
As declared by the City of Alcoa, Mills Street will “temporarily” serve as the secondary access to the initial phase of the development until the Hunt Road/Alcoa Highway intersection is improved as part of the Alcoa Parkway Project.
Why do they need a “temporary” secondary access?
Why not Faraday Street?
Why does there need to be secondary street access at all?
Update: The Daily Times front page article reports on Tuesday's Alcoa City Commission meeting, "Residents oppose plan; Springbrook residents fear more traffic on Alcoa Road."
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