YOU be the Judge - Did County Officials Break Sunshine Law by not giving Proper Notice?

TIF Land will bring Big Dividends to Developers

On Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, a commission workshop meeting was held at the Annex but there was NO Public Notice, NO Press and NO public. I myself was not even sure if the meeting was to be held since this matter was vaguely discussed and an email reply the day of the meeting verified my guess.

Mayor Doyle Arp started the meeting by saying that it was a continuation of the previous commission workshop. The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) concerning the Dr. Bob Overholt commercial development matter was not on the previous Oct. 15th county commission workshop meeting Agenda (Order of Business). Nor did Mayor Arp follow Robertís Rule of Order, which specifies proper protocol to adjourning and reconvening a meeting. If a meeting is to be adjourned and reconvened later, in order to complete the business from the agenda of the adjourned meeting, the second meeting should also be noticed.

One Loudon City official sitting in the audiance was asked how he knew about the TIF meeting, his reply was that the mayor told him. Why didnít the mayor bother to properly notice the public and press since his office is responsible for preparing notices and agendas?   

Those in attendance were nine county commissioners, D-1 David Meers, D-2 Earlena Maples and Shirley Reno, D-3 Bob Franke, D-4 Chairman Roy Bledsoe, D-5 Chris Park and Harold Duff, D-6 Wayne Gardin and D-7 Don Miller, except for Nancy Marcus (D-1 Loudon), she was absent.

Also in attendance, Mayor Doyle Arp, Ms. Brenda Bright, mayorís administrative assistant, Mr. Chad Hampton, new Loudon County attorney, TV celebrity-developer Dr. Bob Overholt along with his entourage of presenters including professionals, administrators, finance, planners, engineering and legal representation.

The purpose of the meeting was for a select few officials including two VIPs, Chamber of Commerce and Lenoir City Committee of 100 representatives, to gather to hear and discuss a sales pitch and details about the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) by TV celebrity-developer Dr. Bob Overholt and his associates.

Empty chairs replaced concerned residents and public involvement, those of which will be impacted by this proposed commercial development. The true losers were the public and their right to know. This huge commercial venture is already changing the landscape and our communityís character and beauty.

In 1998, our community was involved in a one-year long growth management plan and over $200,000 of public monies was spent on this study. This countyís priorities were preserving the natural environment and preserving open space. Instead developers show a lack of disregard and bulldoze everything in sight in the name of progress.

Ethics and high standards of trust are important when it comes to representing people and giving adequate public notice on open meetings is the Law! I believe that the lack of public notice violated the Sunshine Law.

I wrote a letter to the News Herald editor and publisher requesting an investigation and I hope that this matter is not ignored or swept under the rug! The current administration should not feel like they have a free pass from the press. Cooperation should not mean keeping this administrationís secrets when they violate the Open Meetings and/or Open Records Laws!

Regarding the discussion of future property tax revenues and freezing property taxes:

  1. Why would county commissioners even consider freezing property taxes for Dr. Bobís speculative commercial venture, while commissioners ignore freezing property taxes for seniors? There are a total of six (6) counties that have resolved to have a Tax Freeze program including Bradley, Davidson, Hamblen, Knox, Roane and Wilson counties. If commissioners were to adopt a tax freeze, property tax rates for homeowners 65 or older that meet the income limits would never go up.  

  2. Why are commissioners discussing the probability of raising property tax rates for the rest of us property owners, anywhere from 50 - 90 cents to pay for county school improvements, while Dr. Bob is requesting a freeze on his property taxes, more profits in his pockets?  Whatís sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.