With groundwork finally coming along for a new Lenoir City Utilities Board complex on 30 acres along Creekwood Park Boulevard, nearby Rockingham Subdivision residents are voicing concerns about potential noise and the value of their homes depreciating.
Ed Loy, owner of Creekwood Properties who also helped develop Rockingham, said he hopes to schedule a meeting this week between architects, LCUB officials and Rockingham homeowners to clear the air about the build.
“Anytime you don’t understand what’s going on there’s uncertainty and uncertainty breads fear and that’s understandable,” Loy said, adding that during the meeting homeowners will have a chance to look at LCUB’s plans for the site and how that will impact adjoining properties.
“I think that some of their concerns will subside when they see the efforts that LCUB is going to make, type of development they’re putting in, facility they’re putting in and the fact that they’re going to berm it,” Loy said, adding that neither Creekwood developers or LCUB officials have informed residents about plans bordering their properties.
Builder Bert Zimberich recently sent a letter to the Rockingham Home Owners Association voicing concerns about property values dropping as a result of the complex.
Zimberich copied Loy and Loudon County Commissioners Van Shaver and Harold Duff, who represent the district, on the Feb. 15 letter. Zimberich said during a follow-up phone interview Wednesday that he had not heard from homeowners nor had he been in contact with anyone else about his concerns.
“I was just trying to get some clarification as to what exactly was going to happen,” Zimberich said Wednesday. “I’d just like to get some answers.”
Zimberich, who is building two homes on Britts Drive and has built several homes in the subdivision, said he was “assured” when he purchased lots years ago that a buffer zone of residential town houses would be erected between the subdivision and the developing commercial property to the west.
“I’m spending a lot of money to put that house there,” Zimberich said. “I’m concerned I’m going to lose money.”
He said he recently lost a sale because of the recent clearing.
“I have already had one client tell me ‘we did some research this past week, and we found out they are going to build an office building, convention center and a storage cell complex behind your house’,” Zimberich said in the letter. “‘With that in mind, we do not feel that the house would be a good investment for us. So, we are no longer interested in your property.’”
With the new complex, LCUB is also proposing to construct an access road from Highway 70, bordering the nearby subdivision, for service vehicles to access the new LCUB lot from Highway 70 directly as opposed to driving down Creekwood Park Boulevard.
“There’s not going to be buildings built anywhere near close to the property line, but the clearing that they’ve been seeing, which they don’t know whether it’s a road or a building, is actually a street,” Loy said.
Service road unwelcome
Several Rockingham homeowners on Britts Drive, the road closest to the development, said a service road isn’t much better.
“I just think that when I look out my rear window it looks awfully close, but it’s really encroaching on our privacy. There is the brook and we do have the woods, but whether we’re going to be concerned about noise or I don’t know if they store all of their big vehicles there and stuff like that, but that’s mostly my concern,” Carole Capozzi, whose home bumps up to the development, said Wednesday. “I don’t know if we can do much about it.”
Capozzi said she doesn’t plan on staying in the neighborhood many more years, but the LCUB development did “not exactly” play a role in her decision, she said.“... But still I like to think about it for the future people coming in,” she added.
“It’s a definite concern getting the service road,” Capozzi’s brother, Lewis Alain, added. “We can’t stop the progress, but they should put that road somewhere else. I’m sure they can.”
Britts Drive homeowner Butch Daniels said he hasn’t received information about layout of the complex or the planned service road.
“If they are coming all the way up here and they want to build a service road they’re right there in their backyard,” Daniels said, pointing to his neighbors just a few houses down.
“If they are going to build a buffer zone between our properties and the service road might be a different story, but if they were going to do that why are the going to take these trees down?” he added. “It’s just that I would think as big of a company as LCUB is that they would give some idea of what they’re doing. All we know is hearsay.”
“People don’t want to be right up against an industrial complex or commercial complex, or at least that was my thinking when I bought lots in Rockingham,” Zimberich said Wednesday.
Shaver encouraged homeowners to contact Lenoir City Council members or utility officials since the property is located within city limits.
“Maybe the best thing to help the community and the neighbors would be if LCUB officials contact (homeowners),” Shaver said. “And if what they are planning to do could be adjusted some manner to give the homeowners a little more comfort that maybe it won’t negatively impact them then maybe that could be a way to approach it.
“I could certainly see where the homeowners would have some concerns, especially if nobody knows for sure what’s happening,” he said.
Previous plan won’t work
Loy said with a sluggish economy, a previous plan to use town homes as a buffer zone seems unlikely, stressing that those plans were merely a concept and never were concrete. Loy said LCUB will install an earthen berm bordering the subdivision and the complex.
“But within that easement that they have they’re going to — and I don’t know all of the details; I just know what they told me by phone and that’s why the meeting will be informational for everybody — but they are going to put a berm in and then they are going to put cypress or some sort of plant in on the berm to visually hide” the complex, Loy said.
Loy said Weigel’s and First Tennessee Bank have purchased the corner lots in Creekwood at Highway 70.
“It’s true that originally in that layout for that development in Creekwood one of the development plans, which we had many since we started since the market has changed so much, it showed some multifamily in that area along the line between the subdivision and Creekwood Park,” Loy added. “That may or may not come to pass depending on the market. The last six years have been horrible.
“It’s difficult to attract retail here because we’re so close to west Knoxville and we don’t have enough rooftops to support big box retail,” Loy said. “Eventually we may get something, but my vision is it’s going to take a while. And you know we’re looking at some medical uses and maybe some corporate headquarters and that sort of thing instead of solely retail, which was our vision when we started the project.”