Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America and Director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, along with Christopher Duerksen, a land use lawyer with the Clarion Associates, provided an interesting presentation on ideas and innovations of land use and zoning. The program was made available to the City of Alcoa in partnership with the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization from Smart Growth America through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities.
Millar’s discussion was on Smart Grown as an economic development strategy. Duerksen’s presentation focused on zoning codes to enable Smart Growth.
Millar said, “a primary purpose for growth in a community is to attract, retain, and grow business.” He followed up that 80% of growth is from existing businesses in the area. Millennials and Baby Boomers make up the majority of the population for spending, housing, and government revenues. The majority of both groups are looking for walkable areas to live, work, and be entertained. Therefore, there needs to be a change to “lifestyle centers.” “Compact development is more effective. Revenue generated by multi-story, multi-use buildings is greater than a single story big box store. Smart Growth is a great economic development strategy.” He noted that government budgets are under a lot of pressure. Economic development, done correctly, can increase government revenues.
Duerksen’s presentation focused on zoning as the key element to Smart Growth. The important message: if you don’t get the zoning correct before development you won’t get the best economic development. Market Square and Northshore Town Center in Knoxville were mentioned as good mixed use developments in the area. Pellissippi Place in Alcoa was also mentioned, but I’m not sure why. It is a development with infrastructure and one business. No mixed use whatsoever. The developers have hope for mixed use but it does not mean it will happen.
Walmart/Sam’s Club was mentioned several times during both presentations. I have to wonder if the reason was because the City of Alcoa is courting Sam’s Club to be the first development in the new Alcoa Town Center at the old ALCOA west plant. Several attendees questioned the suitability of Sam’s Club as a part of a mixed use development. The Sam’s Club in West Knoxville would not be a good fit. Duerksen suggested that zoning rules need to be created to make a Sam’s Club acceptable. However, it may be too late to change the rules since Sam’s Club is already considering the site with the existing, limited zoning.
Millar mentioned the Institute for Self-Reliance as a site to review for design quality. I did a search of the site for Walmart and the results primarily showed how Walmart hurts the community. One example was a negative impact on police costs resulting from shoplifting, check fraud, and traffic accidents. This negative impact may be supported by all of the police reports from the Alcoa Walmart in the local paper.
The South Knox Waterfront group did a good thing by developing zoning guidelines before getting new developments started. I hope it is not too late for the City of Alcoa and the ALCOA west plant project.
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