Top Story Chattanooga Times Free
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
By Cliff Hightower Staff Writer
Rural communities assess costs, benefits of housing
Rising from the waters of Tellico
Lake, corn and grain silos jut skyward, yards away from $500,000
homes and well manicured golf courses. They serve as reminders
of Loudon County’s past and future, residents said.
Since TVA built the Tellico Dam in 1979, the lake has reshaped
the landscape and helped lure more than $2.5 billion in
residential development, with plans for more.
"Tellico Lake, when they first dammed it 25 years ago, was
pristine," said Van Shaver, a Loudon County resident and former
county commissioner. "It’s not that way anymore." Since the
mid-1980s, a handful of upscale developments such as Tellico
Village have sprung up in East Tennessee, luring retirees,
mostly from Northern states and Florida, officials said.
One of the developers at Tellico, Mike Ross, hopes to replicate
the Tellico success on both the Nickajack and Chickamauga
reservoirs in Marion and Meigs counties. Proponents of the
developments, which could bring more than 2,000 upscale homes to
Southeast Tennessee in the next 10 years, say the new
construction will boost the economies of the two counties.
In Loudon County, supporters said the developments pumped more
tax dollars into the rural communities. But critics said the new
homes brought increased traffic and concerns about the
environmental effect to lakes. They also said the developments
contribute to an overall increase in property value, which
resulted in some landowners paying higher property taxes.
Chattanooga developer John "Thunder" Thornton, who is building
Tennessee National, a gated community in Loudon County with a
golf course designed by golf legend Greg Norman, has teamed up
with Mr. Ross to build Rarity Club at Nickajack Lake.
The development will have about 1,000 homes, a champion- ship
golf course and a final cost of $750 million in 10 years, Mr.
He also is developing the new community along Chickamauga Lake
in Meigs County, which will have about 1,000 houses, about the
same amenities and a final price tag around $500 million or $600
million, he said.
A large-scale development can benefit the entire community, Mr.
Ross said. "I think it’s been instrumental in keeping taxes low
(in Loudon County)," he said.
Mr. Thornton said development has led to increased building and
manufacturing jobs in Loudon and Monroe counties, and the same
can happen in Marion County.
"You’ll have more block layers, you’ll have more teachers,
you’ll have more preachers," he said. "Change is going to
happen. You have to develop responsibly."
DOLLARS FROM DEVELOPMENT
The first lakeshore development to transform East Tennessee was
Tellico Village, built in 1986 by Cooper Communities, director
of sales Wes Cooper said.
The development now includes more than 6,400 homes with an
average price of $350,000 to $400,000, Mr. Cooper said. The
neighborhood is 90 percent retirees and 10 percent young
professionals, he said.
School records show about 60 children attend Loudon County
schools from Tellico Village, a development that holds about
"Our residents don’t have a big impact on the school system,
which is a bonus for Loudon County," Mr. Cooper said. "It
doesn’t cost Loudon County too much in services."
County records show Loudon County received $21.4 million in
property taxes in 2006. Residents of new lakeshore development
paid $6 million in taxes, or 28 percent of the total tax bill,
"It’s an industry within itself," Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp
said. The money has been used to pay for an addition to the
justice center, more school programs and better services, he
Developments such as Fanning Bend on Tims Ford Lake in Franklin
County have "been very vital to our community" County Mayor
Richard Stewart said. "It’s provided a lot of revenue to us over
the years," he said.
Homes in Franklin County are marketed as second homes for
residents from Nashville, Chattanooga and Huntsville, Ala., Mr.
Although Franklin County officials couldn’t specify the amount
of property taxes paid by residents of the Tims Ford
communities, they said the impact of lakefront development is
Officials with both counties said property taxes have remained
low because of new tax money from development.
Loudon County passed its first property tax increase in 19 years
last year, and county officials said that over the last several
years property tax rates have dropped because of additional
But Loudon County resident Pat Hunter, president of Clean Air
Friends-Clean Air Kids, said property values have shot up since
Tellico Village was built. That can cause property taxes for
existing homeowners to increase, she said. "It’s getting harder
to live the American dream of owning your own home," she said.
When she first moved to Loudon County, lots sold at $1,500 to
$2,000 an acre, she said. Now lots of a quarter of an acre are
$40,000 and up, she said.
Mrs. Hunter said most Loudon County residents remember when
farms dotted the landscape where Tellico Village and the Rarity
communities now sit. She said mom-and-pop stores now compete
with chain stores. People moving into gated communities are more
isolated from the rest of the community, she said.
Both counties are seeing problems from lakefront growth,
In Franklin County, community leaders are worried about water
quality and increased boat traffic on Tims Ford Lake, especially
with the new development of Fanning Bend coming into the area.
Loudon County residents are dealing with the loss of once public
"We want controlled growth, smart growth," said Steve Hammond,
chairman of Friends of Tims Ford. Mr. Hammond said water quality
has gone down in the area and the boat accident rate on the lake
is among the worst in the state. State records show in 2005
there were three boating accidents on Tims Ford Lake, compared
to 22 accidents on Chickamauga Lake, which was the worst in the
state. In 2004, there were 12 reported accidents on Tims Ford
Lake, and three were reported in 2003, Tennessee Wildlife
Resource Agency records show.
Businesses brought in from the high-dollar communities also need
water, sewers and improved roads, which cost money, officials
said.More growth overall is taxing communities, officials said.
From July 2003 to July 2004, Loudon County deputies were called
out 19,437 times, said Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider. Calls
increased to 21,055 the next year, he said. From July 2005 to
July 2006, deputies were called out 21,266 times, he said.
"We’re seeing just a continual increase," Sheriff Guider said.
Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller said there has been a slight
increase in property thefts in the county because a lot of the
homes are occupied on a seasonal basis. There also is increased
traffic on the roads, especially during the weekends and summer
months, he said.
Edward Headlee, director of Loudon County schools, said a recent
study showed more schools are needed.
The county also is in the process of passing a tax on new homes
that will go toward building schools, which officials said might
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EMINENT DOMAIN HISTORY In 1967, work
began on Tellico Dam. During the 1960s and 1970s, farmers who
owned the land around what is now Tellico Reservoir were offered
buyouts by the federal government. Some farmers refused to sell
and forcibly were moved from the area. In 1979, construction was
completed on the dam.
In the 1980s, the Tennessee Valley Authority formed the Tellico
Reservoir Development Agency to manage the land around the
reservoir and find potential buyers to help develop the area.
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press archives