KNOXVILLE — Despite complaints about efforts to rezone property and build a four-story apartment complex from nearby residents, the Knoxville City Council approved allowing developers to move forward with a planned apartment complex during their May 15 meeting.

Several residents voice their opinion on the project at a public hearing held on May 15. One of the concerned residents was Timothy O’Dell, who owns several properties around Knoxville.

“I have about four or five properties that I own. One of them is right across the street from where they want to build this thing,” O’Dell said. “I am not impressed. My tenants don’t want to have to look out their door and see this big monstrosity sitting in front of them.”

O’Dell said the planned apartment complex will make his property value go down and will make it hard for him to rent his house.

“I don’t want it there, plain and simple,” he continued. “It’s going to make it more of a pain than what it’s worth.”

Parking issues also presented a potential concern for nearby residents.

“Where are all the people going to park,?” asked a concerned resident. “I know they got garages, but I am talking visitors. I think we know the city doesn’t like us parking up town.”

A representative from the firm attempting to build the complex was present at the hearing to answer any questions. Michael T. Scott, AIA and managing principal for Scott Barrientos and Associates, SB&A, tried to answer the concerns over parking and other questions.

“We’ll have at least one covered parking space, meaning indoor parking space for each apartment,” Scott said. “Then we’ll have additional covered parking spaces if they want to rent, plus some on-street parking and parking adjacent to the building that will provide ample parking for visitors.”

Scott said that 60 percent of the units in the proposed complex are one bedroom units and the other 40 percent are two bedrooms. The proposed complex would be located at 401, 409 and 413 E. Main St. in Knoxville.

“We are not anticipating that there will be two cars per unit, but we are going to provide for that as close as possible,” Scott said.

Knoxville City Manager Aaron Adams said under city code, each unit is required to have two parking spots, meaning the proposed 27-unit apartment complex will have 54 parking spaces for tenants.

Knoxville City Council Member Megan Suhr expressed her concerns in open discussion after a motion was passed to close the hearing.

“I hear you as being members and neighbors, I hear your concerns. Some of the concerns brought to council two weeks ago, I went back and looked at. Do we have other four-story buildings?” Suhr asked. “The suites at the race track are four story. The new ones developers are going to build, also are four stories. When we look at other communities, do they have tall buildings? They do.”

Suhr said another concern from residents was how would firefighters battle a blaze if it’s on the top floor of the complex.

“There are sprinkler systems in place, so the fire concern and the height of the building did not not concern me as much,” Suhr responded to the firefighting questions.

Suhr went on to say city officials have received feedback that the city of Knoxville needs more housing. Suhr said one of her concerns is if the city begins saying no to developers who want to come to the community, other potential developers may think the city of Knoxville isn’t friendly to development.

Suhr said she checked other properties in Knoxville where new development has been and property values either saw an increase or stayed stable.

The spots where developers are looking to build are commercial. Suhr said anyone can buy them and build whatever they want.

“I understand change is so hard. As far as the issues brought to the council two weeks ago, I looked at those seriously,” Suhr said. “What do we do with a four story building? Well, every other community manages. I see room for growth.”

Suhr said she understands change is hard, and not everybody is going to love the project, but the city has three empty lots which have been empty for quite a while.

“From the council’s prospective, I hope we hear your concerns, I hope you feel we have heard the concerns and the questions,” Suhr said. “We are trying to do what we can with the latitude that we have.”

City Attorney Robert L. Stuyvesant said a reversionary clause and a time line for the project should be in order to approve the motion.

Scott said the construction on the project is expected to be a 10- to 12-month period from beginning to finish.

The council discussed the time line, and said they would give developers a starting time of within six months, then a year-and-half to complete the project.

Adams said the council approved the first reading, and then decided to waive second and third readings.

“Anytime there is an ordinance, which usually represents a change to city code, or in this case a rezoning, it is handled the same way,” Adams said. “There is a potential for three readings. With the three readings, the council has the ability to waive second and third readings. The difference being is if they choose to go through all three readings, they vote on the first and then two weeks later a council meeting happens, then they vote a second time then it happens again. Basically, they vote the same exact issue exact same situation each time, but they reconfirm it by doing it three times.”

Adams added that it is not uncommon for the council to opt to waive the second and third readings.

“So the one vote takes affect immediately, and the second and third are waived,” Adams added.

After the apartment complex issue was completed, Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch read proclamations for a job well done to several entities, including: the city Public Works Department, the Knoxville Police Department and for National Emergency Medical Services Week.

Ethan Goetz is a staff writer for the Knoxville Journal-Express and the Pella Chronicle. Call him in the newsroom at 641-842-2155.

Ethan Goetz is a general assignment reporter for the Knoxville Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155, ext. 19, or via email at reporter@pellachronicle.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ethan_Goetz.

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