|In the 1930's and 40's TVA came to the Tennessee
Valley promising big changes. Growth, prosperity, flood control and many
other untold benefits would follow the development of a series of dams
on the valley water ways. Today the success of the TVA is
unquestionable. It would be impossible to imagine our region without the
influence of the TVA.
In the last few
years however, it seems that the TVA has begun to drift in a dangerous
direction. Like nearly all local governments, the TVA seems now to be
mesmerized by the thought of selling their land holdings to big
developers. With promises of increased tax revenues, bringing
development to depressed communities and improving the local way of
life, these developers had just about managed to grab some of the most
beautiful unspoiled land left in the state. Then as though someone
reached out and shook them by the shoulders, the TVA said, hold on just
a minute, let's take a look at what is going on here. Thank you TVA for
taking another look at your land use policies. There is one sure fact,
when developers say "we're here to help", they are telling the truth.
They are here to help themselves.
The lands that TVA recently seemed so anxious to
rid themselves of, is lands that the government forcibly took from
private land owners years ago through that nasty little trick the
government uses called "emanate domain." Here's a suggestion. If
the TVA is so anxious to unload their properties, why not give it back
to those land owners and families they took it from in the beginning.
What could make more sense?
Currently TVA has imposed a moratorium on the sale
of any land while they review their land use policies. We should all
encourage the TVA to stop giving away the last of our natural resources.
Email, Debra Rutherford,
Two sides face off over TVA land use policy Developers, conservationists
have their say at hearing on issue
By REBECCA FERRAR, August 17, 2006
Developers and conservationists squared off Wednesday over TVA's
development of a key land use policy, with one side urging the federal
utility to continue land sales to create jobs and the other calling for
protection of TVA's natural resources.
Each made their case at a hearing convened by the Community Relations
Committee of TVA's new part-time board. The committee plans to establish
a policy on the use of TVA land and recommend it to the full TVA board
The policy will include whether TVA maintains a moratorium on most land
transactions, including the sale of prime lakefront property to
developers. TVA heard from panels made up of developers,
conservationists and government agencies that oversee public land.
The committee also held a public forum during which citizens could
comment on the proposed policy, and about 50 people participated.
Mike Ross, owner of Rarity Communities who has built upscale residential
areas including one on Tellico Lake, told the committee that allowing
the purchase of TVA land for development creates jobs in the Tennessee
Valley and increases the tax base, which helps schools.
Ross said his company has been developing more than 4,600 acres adjacent
to TVA lakes with five projects near Oak Ridge, Jellico, Sweetwater,
Loudon and Vonore. He added that the total value of those projects when
completed will be $4.4 billion.
"We estimate the amount of property taxes alone paid in the four
Tennessee counties where our projects are located will be $22 million
each year," Ross said. "Of course this amount does not include state and
local sales taxes paid.
"That is why Rarity Communities is proud to participate with TVA to
allow some of the valley's most economically challenged counties to
capitalize on their natural assets to grow their tax revenue to improve
their schools and other services."
Everett Roberson of the Watts Bar Development Authority, an economic
development agency representing Meigs and Rhea counties, asked TVA for
access to 1,700 acres in those two counties for a high-end residential
"It would benefit both counties and create schools, allowing for
economic development in both counties," Roberson said.
The committee also heard from government agencies that oversee public
land, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cherokee National
Forest, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and
Gov. Phil Bredesen's office, which oversees the governor's land trust.
Those agencies, with the exception of Alabama's Department of
Conservation and Natural Resources, said development on their land is
Leading off the conservationist panel was Russell Townsend, an
archeologist and the preservation officer for the Cherokee Nation. He
urged TVA to preserve Cherokee heritage scattered across TVA lands,
including acreage submerged at TVA reservoirs.
"TVA's responsibility to protect these resources is the most important
thing TVA can do," Townsend said. "I would like to take back the message
to my chief that TVA is concerned about protecting lands." So far, he
said, TVA has done a good job.
Billy Minser, a wildlife conservationist, noted that 22 million people
visit TVA lakes each year. TVA acquired 1.3 million acres at the
agency's start under eminent domain, displacing 16,909 families, and
293,000 acres are left today, he said. Remaining land includes TVA
facilities, recreational areas and other government and community uses.
"We need a policy we can all live by," Minser said. "Do not use eminent
domain for economic development. Replacing farming on fertile,
productive lands with industry and dense housing is short-sighted."
Sandra Goss, executive director of the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness
Planning, said her group's vision for TVA public lands includes
protecting water quality, preserving wild and sensitive lands and
promoting a "sustainable and viable economy with equitable public access
to protected lands and waters."
Like Minser, she said land obtained by eminent domain remains a public
During the public comment session, Joe McCaleb, of Hendersonville,
Tenn., stressed that Congress created TVA in 1933 to promote navigation,
flood control, electricity generation and the social and economic
well-being of the Tennessee Valley.
"Nowhere in the TVA Act has Congress given TVA the power to sell,
transfer, lease or swap land," McCaleb said. "You need to stop it."
Bill Clabough, former state senator and currently executive director of
the Foothills Land Conservancy in Blount County, applauded the board for
imposing the land-sale moratorium.
He said the conservancy stands ready to help TVA develop a land policy
that protects TVA lands for future generations.
"The Foothills Land Conservancy appreciates the opportunity to show our
support for a land-use management practice that includes natural areas,
recreation land, open space and resource conservation areas," Clabough
The hearing was held in conjunction with the Regional Resource
Stewardship Council, which advises TVA on natural resource issues and
meets again today.