TVA puts lock on gate Permanent land
sales ban OK'd 8-1
By MICHAEL SILENCE, email@example.com
December 1, 2006
Despite pleas to water down TVA's temporary ban on selling federal land
for private residential development, the agency's board voted 8-1
Thursday to make the ban permanent.
The board established a temporary ban in May.
"I will vote for the preservation of some of the most beautiful land,"
board member Mike Duncan said during the federal agency's monthly board
meeting at its downtown Knoxville headquarters.
"There's a lot of passion for the treasures we hold," said board member
Susan Williams, who noted in a recent comment period that 92 percent of
those who commented favor the temporary policy.
Board member Bill Baxter was the lone dissenter, saying the policy is
He said the policy is "less balanced and less flexible than what we
need." And he noted that TVA's core mission when created was "economic
development, not producing power."
In May, one of the first moves by TVA's new part-time board was to
suspend the sale of land or the changing of deed restrictions on
previously sold land until a policy was developed.
The move was sparked by two controversial land sales - the transfer of
property in 2003 to local developer Mike Ross, president of Rarity
Communities, for a high-end golf course community on Tellico Lake, and
another land transfer last year along Nickajack Lake to Chattanooga
developer John "Thunder" Thornton. In both cases, the developers swapped
private property for TVA acreage.
In this year's first public comment period, about 75 percent of
approximately 900 comments opposed the sale of public land for private
In October, TVA launched another public input process to gauge reaction
to a moratorium on deals for public land by private interests, and what
a new policy should be.
In November, it extended that comment period at the request of some
Williams, who chaired the committee that drafted the new policy, said 92
percent of the more than 5,000 people who submitted comments favored
making the ban permanent.
In Thursday's approved policy, Williams said there were basically three
changes in the land policy provisions as they relate to industrial
development and other businesses.
The new policy:
Eliminates the mandate that water access would only be considered for
manufacturing businesses and made it broader by just saying businesses.
However, preference would be given to those businesses needing water
Allows TVA to consider a land transfer as long as it is for public use.
Changes the wording for what use the agency would not consider for
transfer of reservoir property from non-industrial and commercial to
retail and residential. Prior to the vote, the board heard from eight
people who had signed up to speak on the issue. The first five speakers
wanted the board to consider changes to the policy to allow exceptions.
"We are concerned this policy is too restrictive," said James Hines,
city recorder for the city of Rockwood in Roane County.
Perry County Mayor John Carroll also expressed concerns and is asking
for an exemption for a project in his county. But he also said, "I
appreciate the flexibility added to this."
Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network,
applauded the decision.
"Lands don't just sit. They provide a lot of environmental services to
the community. All of these lands that sit, provide clean air and clean
water for the community," she said.
Former state Rep. Bill Owen of Knoxville, who said he is representing
Campbell County and its pursuit to put a convention center and hotel
overlooking Norris Lake and would need TVA land for such a development,
asked the board to consider an exception in their case.
In other action, the board approved the $23 million purchase of a
three-unit natural gas power plant in Gleason, Tenn. The plant would be
used to meet peak demand needs for electricity, such as hot July days.
Business writer Andrew Eder contributed to this report. Michael Silence
may be reached at 865-342-6310.
Developers not happy with TVA land
policy New rules forbid sale of terrain for residential use or lifting
By ANDREW EDER, firstname.lastname@example.org
December 1, 2006
The approval by the TVA Board of Directors Thursday of a new land-use
policy met with a mixed reaction from the development community.
Those with an interest in residential development were disappointed in
the restrictions of the new policy.
"Obviously, I think the residential part of development along TVA lakes
is a viable, important part of the local economy," said Mike Ross, owner
of Rarity Communities. Ross' land swap in 2003 for formerly public land
for his Rarity Pointe development in Loudon County helped galvanize
opposition to TVA land transfers.
The new TVA policy not only forbids direct sales of TVA land for
residential development, it also prevents restrictions on private land
transferred by TVA from being lifted for the purpose of residential
"A lot of land that's out there that is privately owned that possibly
could be developed has shoreline or some of the adjacent land still
owned or deed restricted by TVA," Ross said. "If they're not willing to
modify those restrictions, then private land can't develop either."
Oliver Smith IV, president of Oliver Smith Realty and Auction, said
Tennessee has been a destination in recent years for retirees and people
buying a second home. The new TVA policy could hurt local tax bases and
residual investments from those homebuyers, he said.
"I am always an advocate for development, as long as it's well done,"
Smith said. "Just saying no to everything, I don't think that's the
With TVA-owned and deeded land off the market, other waterfront land may
come at more of a premium.
"Any time you limit the availability of a product, it's going to drive
up prices," Smith said.
Ross thought the impact would be muted: "It's already pretty expensive.
You can only drive prices up so much."
Waterfront and water view residential development has boomed in the
Knoxville region in recent years as developers have invested millions of
dollars in upscale communities.
Thousands of homes have been built or are planned in developments such
as Tennessee National, a 1,700-home development being built in the
Matlock Bend area of Watts Bar Lake; Rarity Bay, a development
straddling the Loudon-Monroe county line that includes about 2,000 home
sites; Grande Vista Bay, a 1,200-acre project near Rockwood and others.
Under the new policy, deed modifications and direct sales of TVA land
will be considered for industrial development. TVA will give preference
to businesses that require water access for their operations.
The industrial development provisions were a change from an earlier
draft of the policy.
"Our concern from an economic development standpoint, the policy was
just going to be too rigid as it related to industrial development,"
said Allen Neel, president and CEO of the East Tennessee Economic
Development Agency. "That certainly is a good thing that they would give
access to those that need water access."
The policy offers hope for one potential local development site - the
long-dormant Clinch River Industrial Site in Roane County.
Leslie Henderson, president and CEO of Roane Alliance, an economic
development agency, said the county has been in contact with a company
that is interested in the 1,200-acre site. The company, she said, does
not require water access.
"Under the old draft policy, that would have been prohibited," Henderson
The new policy states, "The TVA Board has preference for businesses that
require water access." Henderson said she will consult with TVA staff to
determine how the policy will affect the Clinch site.
Opponents of TVA land transfers argue that its property - originally
acquired at a substantial discount through the agency's power of eminent
domain - should not be sold off for economic development.
"If our economy and state are dependent on whether these lands are
developed, then we are in a sad state of affairs," Mike Butler of the
Tennessee Wildlife Federation said during a public comment period at
Thursday's board meeting.
But several representatives from smaller Tennessee communities argued to
the board that the policy is too inflexible for cities and counties
looking to add to their tax rolls.
"What may fit for Knoxville and highly urbanized areas may not fit for
out where we are," said James Hines of the city of Rockwood.