Lenoir City residents see effects of growth

Though little opposition to development, traffic, funding concern some.

Six years ago, Billy Ray Summitt gave up a 50-foot easement on his 25-acre property when Lenoir City officials wanted to extend Adesa Boulevard to Shaw Ferry Road to open the area up for development.

Now the city is back again, wanting another 50 feet. This time around, however, Summitt doesn't see himself being as generous.

"At the time, they told me they had no money to pay me for the land, so I gave it to them. Now they tell me they want another 50-foot easement," said Summitt, whose land is near the intersection of Adesa and U.S. Highway 321. "I think I should be paid for the land this time."

Summitt was among a small group of Lenoir City residents who gathered Thursday night at City Hall for a public meeting to discuss a $5 million, 1.35-mile extension of Adesa Boulevard through the Creekwood retail and residential development site.

Overall, little opposition to the plan was expressed by the dozen or so residents attending the meeting, though some expressed concern about the increased traffic on surrounding roads and the use of taxpayer money to fund the planned extension, which would run parallel to Interstate 75 connecting U.S. Highways 321 and 70.

"We've already spoken with most of the parties affected by the proposal, and we haven't heard of any strong opposition," said Patrick Phillips, president of the Loudon County Economic Development Agency.

Those residents who are being asked to provide easements for the extension will have the choice "to donate the land or they can request payment," said Phillips.

After the 21-day state-mandated period of disclosure, the agency will begin to contact the property owners to discuss terms of the easements, he added.

The 204-acre, $250 million Creekwood development is slated for two big box retail stores, a retail strip center, offices, restaurants and hotels with residential development of 100 single-family homes and 100 multifamily units. A 17-acre spring-fed lake also is planned for the site.

Some residents expressed concern that the Creekwood project would add to the traffic burden on surrounding roads and could increase already congested traffic on U.S. Highways 11 and 70. The entire project is being funded for the Creekwood developers and offers nothing for the residents affected by the increased traffic, said local resident Van Shaver.

"I have a major problem with spending taxpayer money to accommodate private real estate development," Shaver said. "It's merry Christmas for the developers, but it doesn't help ease the traffic that is backing up in places just down the road like Dixie Lee Junction."

The county has been studying traffic problems leading to the new developments, including nearby Town Creek, a 340-acre site that will include a big box retail center, medical office complex, multi screen theater and residential development at a cost of $500 million to $1 billion.

Bob Bowers, an engineer with Wilbur Smith and Associates, the firm hired by the city to design the roadway extension, said the extension would take "pressure off other roads."

"This is not a state highway project, it's a connector designed for the benefit of the community, not to help with intercounty traffic," Bowers said. "We are looking at other improvements. We might consider adding lights near the junction of Highway 70 and at the other end of Adesa near old (state) Highway 95."

Tennessee Department of Transportation will provide up to $2 million in funding, while the city, which will manage the project to expedite the construction process, will fund the remaining $2 million to $3 million needed to finish the project, Bowers said.

Land acquisition is expected to begin in January, and construction should begin sometime in the spring.