TRDA vs Loudon County

Loudon defends right to control development
Tellico Reservoir Agency wants court to prioritize its rights over county's

By Hugh G. Willett,
Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Tellico East Regional Business Park, shown under construction near the Monroe-Loudon counties line in December, is a joint project of the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency.

The steel frame of Christensen Shipyard is under way in the Tellico East Regional Business Park in this December photo. The business park is a joint project by the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency.
Loudon County is squaring off against the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency over the control of building permits and inspections.

The county is preparing to answer a suit filed by the industrial development agency in Loudon Circuit Court in January that asks the court to prioritize TRDA rights over "development" on TRDA land.

Loudon County, which began conducting building inspections and implementing building codes in 2006, feels it should be the authority when it comes to issuing permits and conducting inspections.

"The health safety and welfare of Loudon County residents is the responsibility of the county government," County Commissioner Bob Franke said. "We're directed by the state regulations to provide these services," he added.

For the county, it's an issue of consistency, not control, Franke says. The county is not trying to get into issues of zoning or development of TRDA land.

"We're not trying to usurp their power," he added. "We feel the county has a responsibility to its residents living on TRDA land."

TRDA Executive Director Ron Hammontree said the agency uses a similar rationale to justify its continuing management of permits and inspections on TRDA land, which is located in parts of Loudon, Blount and Monroe counties.

"When the agency was created, the laws under which it was created included responsibility for development, including permits," he said.

Despite several meetings between TRDA and Loudon County representatives prior to filing of the suit, the two sides were unable to agree on a compromise. Late in 2007, Loudon notified TRDA that it would begin inspections on TRDA land effective Jan. 1, 2008.

TRDA's board voted to take whatever measures necessary to stop Loudon County from issuing permits.

The suit alleges that the agency cannot properly perform the functions required of it if purchasers of TRDA land are required to meet standards imposed by both TRDA and the county.

Hammontree insisted that the agency is merely seeking the correct interpretation of the law and has no desire to litigate the matter.

Franke, who has been involved in the negotiations with TRDA, feels there are other factors at play, including the desire of TRDA to perpetuate its responsibilities and continue to grow into the future.

"TRDA is supposed to sunset at some point in the future," Franke said.

TRDA has been taking on responsibilities, such as management of the campgrounds and building permits that are more in line with a permanent organization, he said.

"They just don't want to give it up," he added.

Robert Goddard, attorney for TRDA, said the rules governing TRDA are spelled out clearly in an entire chapter of the Tennessee Codes Annotated.

"They are clearly given responsibility for planning and development," Goddard said. "They have been doing the inspections for 20 years."

Goddard added that TRDA is not a temporary organization. The agency has been tasked with various missions and extended by the Legislature over the years, he said.

"They (TRDA) have the right to do building development plans," said Wayne Henry, attorney representing Loudon County.

Henry said he's aware of a previous case between the town of Vonore and TRDA involving the right to grant building permits. In that case, a Tennessee court of appeals in Knoxville ruled in June 2000 that TRDA had the right to issue building permits on land it controlled.

The county has priority in issuing building permits, Henry said, noting that the responsibility of a town such as Vonore is different than responsibilities of a county like Loudon.

Both sides are leaning towards asking for a summary judgment from circuit court to avoid trial, Henry said. Depending on the court calendar, such a judgment or even a settlement could be possible in the next few months.

Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp, a TRDA board member, abstained from voting in the decision not to comply with the county deadline.

Arp said he feels somewhat conflicted about the suit and is hopeful it will be settled out of court.

The development work done by TRDA in behalf of the county helps justify the agency's existence, Arp said. TRDA has historically been a strong development partner, he said.

"TRDA has done a tremendous job in helping to bring jobs and industry to this county," Arp said.
Meanwhile, back at TRDA headquarters a plan is being conceived to go into the golf course business.
TRDA wants to build golf course on state park

By: Melissa Kinton

Source: The Monroe County Advocate

Vonore’s McGhee Carson Wildlife Management Area on Highway 360 could see a change in its focus in the coming year, if the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency (TRDA) has anything to say about it.

Instead of managing and maintaining wildlife, the smaller section of Fort Loudoun State Park could be turned into a playground for humans complete with a golf course and major hotel.

TRDA Executive Director Ron Hammontree said at the agency’s meeting on Friday that within the next year, he would like to begin lobbying the state to develop that section of the state park. Currently, the section is leased from state parks to state wildlife.

“I think we’re getting to the point that we probably need to stir that bucket again,” said Hammontree.

He said he envisioned the state working with a private developer to open a major hotel and golf course. He said with the half dozen other golf courses in the area, it could make Vonore a “golf hub.”

In other business, it appears that the legal battle over who will issue building permits on former TRDA property in Loudon County will continue. The Loudon County Commission met in executive session with its lawyer this week and instructed the lawyer to proceed in court.

TRDA Director David Black, who is also an attorney, met with Loudon County representatives prior to the executive session. He reported to the board that the meeting was “cordial.”

“They couldn’t give us any good reasons as to why we should give it (permitting) up other than they just wanted it,” said Black.

TRDA attorney Rob Goddard prepared an agreement that would allow Loudon County to permit buildings in Cooper Communities, or Tellico Village. Permitting for the Kahite section of Cooper would return to TRDA. Following Loudon County’s actions this week, it appears the county does not agree with those suggestions.

Finally, the board voted to amend its budget so that TRDA could accept and manage a Fast Track Infrastructure grant from the state to Tennessee Watercraft Inc. The company is planning an expansion that will eventually add about 50 new employees. Right now it needs the grant money to help pay to relocate utilities. The grant is for $554,897. Tennessee Watercraft will pay a 15 percent match.