Rezoning Approved Ė Crossroads High Density Apartments

Next Step - Lenoir City Council must approve rezoning!



Lenoir City Planning Approves 208 High Density Apartments, 9 buildings, 3- Story


City Headaches and Development; 3-Story 208-Units Apartments

By: Pat Hunter

August 9, 2008


At the August 5th, Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission meeting, planning commission members approved a 3 story, 208 unit high-density apartment complex to be accessed on Highway 321. The back portion of the proposed apartment complex will back Highway 70 approximately 600 feet from Mealer Road. According to the developer of the proposed apartment complex, the deal will be financed using government HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development .  


The property was annexed into Lenoir City and the owners had just obtained financing. The parcel is next to the Bowater property and has frontage on Hwy 321 and Hwy 70. Although there is access from both road frontages, the current plan is to only access from Hwy. 321, according to Planner Newman.


There is an existing right-of -way that goes into the Bowater property but Bowater would not agree to allow the developers to use the Bowater property. The apartment access road will be from Hwy 321 and there will be a right-in right-out. TDOT will not allow a median to be cut because it is too close to the existing median. There will be 9 separate buildings and 208 apartment units. The parcel was described as an unusual shape.  The topography slopes down to Highway 70 as a result the drainage detentions and culverts must be addressed.


Seven of the nine buildings will be three stories with sprinklers. According to planner Newman the sprinklers were important because if the units were not sprinkled there would have to be an access road all around the apartment units for safety reasons. There will be a turn around for a fire truck. Also the apartment units will have dumpsters with one compactor.


Codes enforcement director Leslie Johnson asked about plans to fence the detention area because of safety concerns of children who may live in the proposed apartments.  Five percent will be handicap accessible and located on the ground floor to meet state codes. Johnson also asked about the access to the apartments, she was concerned about the volume of traffic accessing the apartments in the afternoon rush hours. At this time, the developer sent plans to TDOT with details about an acceleration lane.


Councilman Eddie Simpson asked if the apartment projects were government subsidized attached to income or voucher system. The developer replied that the units were market rent and an HUD 221D-4 and the units will rent between $700 - $900. Plans are to construct a clubhouse, swimming pool and gazebo and underground utilities. Planner Russ Newman recommended approval subject to his comments.


Chairperson Ms. Monty Ross did not ask for public comment unlike the Loudon County Regional Planning Commission that does ask for citizen comments and encourages citizen participation. Ross is a member of both planning bodies. However a concerned property owner spoke up. Buddy Hall introduced himself as the property owner of the adjoining property. Hall was concerned about the creek and the impact of runoff from the proposed apartments. A tile will be constructed underneath the road.  Hall had concerns about drainage and children crossing from the apartment complex to his property. Hall was also concerned about the lights from the proposed apartment complex and the height of the apartments blocking his view since the area is rural pasture land. There would be additional landscape buffers with evergreens and Newman said that there would not be excessive lighting. Hall asked about the distance from the retention ponds to the creek. Hall again reiterated his concern about the drainage because of the apartment density. Newman said that the developer would have to address the drainage from the apartments. There would be one way in and one out according to the architect.


Hall asked with one way out and the right hand turn, wouldnít that create a bottleneck if someone wanted to go to Oak Ridge. Newman replied yes and that TDOT would address that issue but since the adjoining property owner would not cooperate, there was nothing more that they could do. Chairperson Monty Ross asked for a motion. Eddie Simpson suggested addressing some of the concerns of Mr. Hall. Newman suggested putting up a no trespassing sign and maintaining his fence in order to keep children from the apartments off his property by Hall was concerned that the high density apartments would bring liability to his property.


Planning commissioner Rita Dunn asked, isnít it reasonable for a developer putting a high-density apartment complex situation right against an existing property owner, to put some kind of barrier?   The developer answered, we are, with the landscape. Dunn replied thatís not a protective barrier for a family that has been there for a long time. Dunn ended by saying that it wasnít fair. Newman felt that it was not inviting or attractive that would be sufficient. However, Newman made no specific recommendation to construct a fence to address the issue. 


The developer agreed in principle with Hall but he was unwilling to make any sort of commitment. The developer said that it was so close to not working because it was an expensive process. There is a need for the rental units but financing was not an easy task. The developer said that he wasnít sure how to address the issue.


Councilman Simpson, a developer, didnít know how a fence would address the problem because of the creek that went in and out. Monty Ross once more asked for a motion. Simpson made a motion to approve the apartment complex as presented with Newmanís comments. Simpson said again, to try to work with Mr. Hall to satisfy his concerns. Simpsonís motion was seconded by Terry Watson and the motion passed unanimously.