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Facts About the Proposed Midway Business Park

The MPC approved the 2010 East County Sector Plan, which includes the controversial business park at Midway Road, at their February 11, 2010 meeting by a vote of 8-4. The Sector Plan goes before Knoxville City Council for the first of two votes on May 4th and before Knox County Commission for their vote on May 24th.

The Development Corporation has been circulating a document purporting to give the "facts" about the proposed Midway Business Park. This document is the community's response to TDC's comments and offers background and a different perspective on their project.

TDC: The decision by The Development Corporation of Knox County (TDC) to pursue the development of a business park along Interstate 40 at the Midway Road interchange was not a decision made lightly or without considerable planning.

COMMUNITY: It is true that the Development Corporation has been planning this industrial park for a long time. There is a long history of mistrust and animosity between the community and TDC over this property, dating back to 2000.

The community and MPC planning staff worked together for more than six months in 2000 to update the 1995 East County Sector Plan and create the document that would become the 2000 East County Sector Plan.

At the final public meeting, the lead MPC planner told the community that senior staff had directed him to make a change to the sector plan to accommodate TDC's desire for an industrial location in the area around the Midway Road/I-40 interchange. He further explained that he had only learned of the plan that afternoon, and he seemed as disturbed by the news as anyone.

Dismayed, the community hired an attorney and successfully negotiated the removal of the industrial park from the Sector Plan, forging a compromise which added over 100 acres of commercial to the 2000 Sector Plan at the interstate because MPC senior staff said there was "imminent demand" for commercial there. Ten years later, there is still NO commercial development at Midway Road, despite the commercial zoning being in place.

Fast forward to 2006, and TDC decides to try again. They successfully push the purchase of the property and the rezoning of the AG land to Industrial through MPC and County Commission. Almost immediately, a group of residents successfully sued to overturn the rezoning, and the property's zoning reverted to AG with the Chancellor's ruling in June 2008. The ruling said that no significant change in circumstance had occurred to justify the rezoning and that MPC's actions were "arbitrary, capricious and/or illegal."

Also in June 2008, the MPC decided to revisit the East County Sector Plan, which was overdue for updating. TDC officials stated publicly that they were going to use the Sector Plan update to fix their zoning problem rather than appeal the Chancellor's ruling.

MPC staff attempted to change the 2008 process to allow an Internet survey for public input and proposed greatly reducing the number and types of public input meetings from 14 to 6. A postcard was sent to all the businesses located in the sector, but not the residents, asking them to fill out the survey. After a lengthy and contentious discussion of the public process, the submission of a petition signed by over 600 persons, and intervention by Knox County Commissioners, MPC staff agreed to disregard the survey results. There were 90 people who responded to the survey, which consisted of 20 questions with confusing language about land use policies and development centers, and no questions about an industrial park at Midway Road. The survey and results can be seen at here.

The subsequent 2008 and 2009 Sector Plan meetings had an unprecedented turnout, frequently numbering over 100 persons, sometimes 200 or more. At every single meeting, it was made clear to MPC staff that the community felt a business park at Midway Road should not be included in the Sector Plan. The community sought an alternative for plan for the property, hiring the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies to evaluate the property and make recommendations. The Ochs report contradicted the report by Younger Associates, who was hired by TDC to do a study justifying the need for the Midway Road project, pointing out flawed assumptions and methodologies in that study. It concluded that the need for industrial property was overstated because the demand for industrial/office space in Knoxville has been steadily declining since 2005, while available industrial/office stock has risen significantly during the period. This is also corroborated by MPC's own recently released report, the 2009 Office Market Analysis.

In spite of this information, in February of 2010 when MPC staff released the proposed Plan, the staff's recommendation was for a business park at Midway Road. The 2010 East County Sector Plan went before MPC two weeks after staff released the Plan to the public, and it was approved with a vote of 8-4 by MPC Commissioners on February 11, 2010.

TDC: Knox County, Tennessee is an urban county.

COMMUNITY: A substantial amount of Knox County has already been paved and developed. How much is enough? How much is really necessary? How much is fiscally and environmentally sustainable? Does TDC's vision for Knox County's landscape mirror the community's vision? Does TDC's actions and policies fit Knoxville's goal of becoming a greener, more sustainable community?

The Knoxville/Knox County Growth Plan makes accommodation for growth, but also for open space and rural, agricultural areas.

Placing an employment center on the rural fringe is classic urban sprawl. This is not sustainable growth. Moving investment from the urban core to the outer edges of Knox County causes decline to City properties and existing infrastructure.

TDC: TDC business parks created 5,100 direct and 5,000 indirect jobs with $528,000,000 in wages annually in Knox County.

COMMUNITY: It took 1200 acres to produce these 5100 jobs over many years at a substantial cost to Knox County taxpayers.

These are the same numbers being quoted from 2006, and we know there have been several business closures since then. When were these statistics compiled? How many jobs are currently active in TDC's "industrial parks?" TDC should be able to provide a list of current employers and employee numbers. How many manufacturing jobs are there in Knox County, TODAY? Some data indicates there were fewer than 20,000 industrial and related jobs in Knox County prior to 2008, which is prior to the economic meltdown of 2009. US Census numbers indicate the steady and unabated decline in manufacturing jobs since 1970, locally and nationally. Census numbers indicate that less than 10% of the Knox County work force is in the industrial field.

According to the 2009 News-Sentinel Book of Lists, only a couple of the top 100 Knox area employers are located in TDC business or industrial parks.

What are we going to do with the old business parks that are in decline? Where will the money come from? Where's the plan?

Many companies have recently closed in Knoxville, leaving behind their empty space. These properties alone add up to over a million sq. ft. of available industrial/business park space.

  1. Transmission Technologies - lost 57 jobs, Forks of the River
  2. Panasonic - lost 600 jobs, Forks of the River
  3. Sea Ray - lost 575 jobs, Forks of the River
  4. Imagepoint - lost 450 jobs, downtown Knoxville
  5. Phillips - lost 520 jobs, Straw Plains
  6. Anderson News - lost 400 jobs, Wesbridge
  7. Goody's - lost 800 jobs, West Knox
  8. PBR - losing 250 jobs by end of 2010, Westbridge
TDC: TDC has approximately 380 acres remaining in Knox County, of which 195 acres are located in Eastbridge Business Park, which is 12 miles from the interstate.

COMMUNITY: The Hardin Business Park, which they started marketing in 2005 and was completed in 2007, is 80 acres and does not have a single tenant. Pellissippi Corporate Center also has 80 acres available. How much land has TDC sold in the last 5 years?

According to the Commercial Information Exchange, there is 2.1 million sq. ft. of empty industrial/office space that is larger than 10,000 sq. ft. for sale and over 2 million sq. ft. that is larger than 10,000 sq. ft. for lease in Knox County. There is over 500 acres of industrial or office zoned land for sale. This does not include TDC's properties, special use properties such as churches, retail properties that could be re-purposed, like empty big box retailers, or properties or land that is vacant but not actively listed with a realtor.

TDC officials have complained that the Eastridge Park's location is "12 miles from the interstate", implying the park was "a mistake." Twelve miles is just 12 to 15 minutes from the I-40/ Rutledge Pike/US11W in East Knoxville. The Eastridge Park is just 2 miles from the "US11W/Rutledge Pike Industrial Corridor" in Northeast Knoxville and Knox County. TDOT and USDOT have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to four-lane the 15 mile segment of "US11W/ Rutledge Pike Industrial Corridor" that runs from Knoxville to the Granger County line. These improvements were done specifically to accommodate and promote the thousands of privately owned and industrial zoned acres of land adjacent to the "Rutledge Pike Industrial Corridor". Not coincidentally, these of available acres are also only ten to fifteen minutes from I-40.

The US11W "industrial corridor" also runs parallel to the Norfolk Southern Railway and is within 15 minutes of the NS John Sevier transfer yards.

TDC: Since 2000, 713 industrial acres have been down-zoned to a non-industrial classification.

COMMUNITY: How many acres have been up-zoned from a non-industrial to an industrial classification? What is relevant is how many acres are currently available in Knox County, public and private, for industrial use.

TDC: The proposed business park property is 14 miles east of Downtown Knoxville, similar to the distance from Lovell Road to Downtown.

COMMUNITY: The relevant questions are what is the population center of Knox County and what is the distance of the proposed site from the population center? Sustainable development practices should encourage workplaces to be developed near the workforce to encourage more environmentally friendly transportation options and reduce long distance commutes.

Hardin Valley, WestBridge, CenterPoint and Pellissippi Corporate Center all meet that qualification and have the infrastructure already in place. Hardin Valley has 0% occupancy and the others are not full.

According to TDC's own spokespeople as well as economic development experts like Dr. Matt Murray of the University of Tennessee, location is not the primary factor for businesses looking at markets to locate their business. The primary indicator today is an educated workforce.

TDC: On average, 95,000 cars a day travel directly past the property on Interstate 40.

COMMUNITY: If the park is supposed to be exclusively an employment center and not a retail center as proposed in the TDC's concept plan and from assertions made by the MPC and TDC staff members, why would the traffic count along I-40 matter unless they are really planning the park to spawn highway commercial/retail? The Sector Plan, as approved by MPC, says that distribution centers are not recommended for the park, so the interstate access is much less relevant.

The I-40 interchange at Midway Road is the last undeveloped interstate exit in Knox County. The I-40 interchange at Midway Road is only one exit away from the main interstate exit for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Common sense would indicate that there are better uses for this site than a business park.

TDC: Being near the interstate means little travel through residential or rural areas to get to the business park.

COMMUNITY: This statement has little merit when one considers the MPC's frequently discussed plans to extend Midway Road through TDC owned property to Carter School Road, and then there are other discussions to further extend on to US25/70E/Ashville Highway and ultimately on to US11E/Andrew Johnson Highway at New Market.

TDC: TVA's and KUB's co-located projects are independent of the proposed business park and will happen regardless of any other development.

COMMUNITY: Since TVA and KUB are public utilities and already own easements across the TDC's property and have absolute domain, the community would prefer to see them locate their facilities there than diminish the value and pollute other properties adjacent to their extensive right of ways. Further, as Bill Elmore of KUB stated a recent meeting, "TDC is a very willing seller", is referring to the future power station site.

TVA & KUB's project will not directly induce sprawl as the business park would.

TDC: Two separate, countywide Metropolitan Planning Commission studies both identified the Midway Road property as suitable for a business park.

COMMUNITY: The community would question which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who influenced whom?

TDC made their first attempt to rezone the Midway properties in 2000, yet MPC claims they first identified the property as suitable for industrial zoning in their 2002 study. MPC chose to recommend the Midway site contrary to their own adopted 2000 Sector Plan.

The proposed Midway business park location does not even meet TDC's own selection criteria. According to a presentation they made to the community at Carter High School in January 2008, they look for six factors, three of which the Midway site does not fit. The Midway site does not fit their criteria of slope of 6% or less but not in a floodplain; compatibility with surrounding land uses; and availability of utilities.

Who are the prospects for Midway given the constraints of MPC's recommendation of no distribution companies and our non-attainment air quality status? What other industrial/business/office parks have successfully used an on-site wastewater plant of the type proposed? What kind of companies can operate with only a domestic waste stream as required by the proposed on-site waste treatment plant, which features a 30 acre drip field, and is there any evidence that these companies will be willing to comply with the necessary limitations of an on-site system? Who will be liable for any environmental problems caused by a failure of the onsite waste system?

The cocktail of chemicals in domestic wastewater presents a significant problem for on-site application to the soil and plant environment. Highly corrosive and toxic chemicals are present in many household products, which subsequently end up in the wastewater. These chemicals are capable of inducing soil dispersion and loss of hydraulic conductivity while others are potentially bactericides, destroying essential soil microbes and diminishing within-soil treatment expected of irrigation and disposal areas. Additional treatment, new treatment technologies, or improved monitoring will not address the significant problem associated with sodium and strong acids and strong alkali materials, which are found in many detergents and household cleaners.

What is the slope of the property? How much land will actually be left after geological constraints are factored in such as the large sinkholes and sloped property that cannot be disturbed, stormwater management structures, the 30 acre drip field for the on-site wastewater system, the TVA substation, the KUB substation, all the roads in the development, and the neighborhood buffer? How many parcels will TDC end up with and what size will they be?

TDC: TDC bought the subject property from willing sellers.

COMMUNITY: The sellers were not looking to sell. TDC used taxpayer money to greatly inflate the price of agricultural property, paying an average of $29,000 per acre for AG land. The landowners had an offer too good to refuse. It was also a very good deal for the realtor, who was paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to broker the deal. It wasn't such a great deal for the remaining citizens who are left to absorb TDC's externalized costs and whose lives will be changed forever by TDC's actions.

No doubt some knowledgeable insiders/speculators that had recently acquired their properties were "willing sellers." However; many of the adjacent properties have been in the same family for generations, with several being the same family for well over 100 years. The overwhelming majority of area residents have steadfastly opposed selling their homes and property, and vigorously opposed the need for the park for nearly 10 years. Contrary to the TDC's statement, TDC was served by commissioned agents and therefore, could not know with any reasonable certainty, what was stated to the landowners by those hired to do the TDC's bidding. Many of the area residents stated they felt threatened by TDC's agents. Many were told "if you do not sell, you will soon be living next door to an industrial park and your property won't be worth anything."

TDC: In July 2006, MPC voted 12 to 1 to recommend approval of a sector plan amendment and rezoning to allow the proposed business park.

COMMUNITY: The 2006 vote by a TDC friendly MPC commission was clearly improper and illegal per Chancellor Fansler's ruling in the matter.

TDC: In August 2006, Knox County Commission voted 16 to 3 to approve the sector plan amendment and rezoning to allow the proposed business park.

COMMUNITY: The County Commission vote was also overturned by Chancellor Fansler's ruling. Additionally, in their lawsuit plaintiff's allege that some commissioner's votes were improperly influenced by $1000 campaign contributions given to commissioners at a non-sunshined breakfast meeting at the Knoxville Board of Realtors where the Development Corporation made a presentation on the business park.

TDC: The Chancellor's decision on the appeal of these local decisions described procedural errors and a lack of supporting documentation.

COMMUNITY: The Chancellor's ruling was that no significant change in circumstance had occurred to justify the rezoning. The ruling says, in part:

"However, even if MPC did intend to amend the East Knox County Sector Plan then its actions in doing so were arbitrary, capricious and/or illegal. Section 6.30 of the Knox County Code clearly sets forth the standards to be considered on any proposed amendment."

Section 6.30.01(A) follows:

"The proposed amendment shall be necessary because of substantially changed or changing conditions in the area and zones affected, or in the county generally."

TDC: TDC chose to participate in the sector plan update instead of appealing the Chancellor's decision.

COMMUNITY: Rather than take their chances with another ruling from an unbiased court of law, they were confident that they could manipulate the process and control the result in the sector plan process. They have stated so numerous times to the Knox County Commission.

A comparison of the 2000 and 2010 East County Sector Plan shows that many of the concepts were already discussed and included in previous plans, but the 2010 version has more elaborate and polished language. The 2010 version of the East County Sector plan very little significant changes from the 2000 East County Sector Plan other than the change to allow a business park at Midway Road.

There has still been no significant change in circumstance that would justify the rezoning of this property.

TDC: TDC and KUB are moving forward with a design of an onsite wastewater treatment system that will not require the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant on the French Board or any other river.

COMMUNITY: The proposed business park will be the first domino to fall, which will place Knox County on a road where a sewer plant on the French Broad River will be inevitable. How can we be sure that this system will work as advertised and if it doesn't, then what? TDC's wasterwater expert said he has no experience with these systems in a business park setting and is not aware of any business parks that have these systems installed. Further, how will the wastewater needs of the surrounding commercially zoned properties be served without a sewer plant? Will each business be allowed do their own on-site wastewater systems? What is TDC and MPC's recommendation on how to manage wastewater and control development of the more than 100 acres of commercially zoned property around the business park? Will a downzone or some type of restrictive conditions have to be placed on the existing commercial properties surrounding the park to prevent this?

TDC: The proposed Business Park will create more than 2,200 direct and 2,300 indirect jobs, $208,000,000 in annual wages, and $9,000,000 in annual taxes.

COMMUNITY: The same, unsubstantiated claim that TDC made in 2006, even though the conditions and constraints have changed greatly. The Sector Plan as adopted prohibits distribution centers and their on-site waste treatment can only handle domestic waste streams, eliminating almost all manufacturing businesses from the mix.

Where will the money come from to develop the proposed Business Park? TDC said it would cost in the neighborhood of $30 million back in 2006. TDC says over $11 million has been spent and TDC currently has around $11 million in the bank as of their June 30, 2009 financial statement. Where is the rest of the money coming from in this time of painful budget cuts?

TDC: TDC intends to develop the Midway Business Park as one of the premier, environmentally sustainable business parks in the United States.

COMMUNITY: "Green" development does not mean paving a greenfield.

Additionally, there are significant environmental concerns with the site. There are eight sinkholes on the property large enough to swallow a house. The topography is primarily karst, and is riddled with caves and sinkholes. The cavernous underground drainage structures are very environmentally sensitive and can be easily contaminated, a huge concern for the many farmers in the area and residents on well water. TDC says that their on-site waste water system will not contaminate the groundwater, but no one can guarantee such a sensitive filtering and drip-field system will not malfunction, especially in an intensive setting. Who will be liable if their system fails? What is the life span of the system? Will it require regular maintenance and replacement in the future? Who will pay for the maintenance costs?

TDC: The proposed business park and other TDC business parks are, and will continue to be, important components of Knox County's overall economic success in support of a high quality of life for all Knox County citizens.

COMMUNITY: Another unsubstantiated claim. The Development Corporation does NOT have a good track record of economic development and has made many mistakes and miscalculations. There is the 155-acre Sterchi industrial park property that was purchased in 2000 for $3.6 million dollars and was donated to Parks and Recreation after being unsuccessfully marketed for five years. There is the environmental nightmare that was Coster Shop, where the actions of the TDC caused them and the City of Knoxville, as well as TDC's subcontractors, to be sued in federal court for a half-billion dollars, and which was settled for an undisclosed amount since the records were sealed. There is the mismanagement of the former Farmers Market property by TDC, which was given to them by Knox County. TDC eventually sold 30.5 acres for $7,639,285 to Target, who kept 12 acres for their own store and sold the rest to a partnership headed by Houston-based shopping center developer Levcor Inc. for $8.95 million, effectively getting their land for free. TDC left millions of dollars on the table during this contentious, expensive RFP process, with allegations of insider deals and mismanagement running throughout the process. As soon as the new Target and adjacent shopping center was built, the City of Knoxville annexed the entire property.

What is the difference between a business park and an office park? While TDC claims that they don't do office parks because the private sector can handle that type of development, it appears that the only kinds of businesses that would be suitable for Midway Road given the constraints are those that would typically go into an office park. According to their design guidelines, the Hardin Park and the Midway Park is proposed to include restaurants, hotels and other types of retail, much like a town center concept. Government agencies should not be competing with the private sector. Government agencies should be doing things that the private sector can't easily do, like redevelopment of Knoxville's grayfields and brownfields.

There are many methods of economic development, and we should evaluate the effectiveness of pouring millions into developing business parks, when the experts say that the key factor in relocation is an educated workforce.

TDC: Nothing in TDC's proposed development plans for the 380-acre Business Park precludes or prevents preservation of the 5,000-acre French Broad corridor. This area, located south of I-40 and 2 miles away from the proposed business park, can still be preserved and promoted as proposed in the Ochs Report and the East County Sector Plan Update.

COMMUNITY: This is very unlikely, as the TDC proposed business park, if successful, could not and would not remain the exclusive business development at the Midway Road interchange. Any subsequent development that will surely occur with over 100 acres adjacent to the park that is zoned Commercial will require waste water services and thereby create the "imminent demand" needed to build a new sewage treatment plant on the French Broad River. A new sewer plant would open up the entire East Knox and South Knox County sector, as well as western Jefferson and Sevier County for development, an event eagerly anticipated by Realtors and Homebuilders as evidenced by their vocal support for this plan.

All of the proposed preservation concepts in the Sector Plan do not exist in any ordinance, and as such, are totally unenforceable.

Facts About The Development Corporation of Knox County

The Development Corporation of Knox County (TDC) is a private corporation that is funded by YOUR taxpayer dollars.

TDC wants to spend millions in taxpayer dollars to develop a unneeded speculative industrial park at Midway Road at a time when we are drowning in debt, cutting 30 teacher positions from our schools, losing schoolteachers to surrounding counties because they can make over $10,000 a year more than they can in Knox County, companies continue the exodus from the nearby existing business park, Forks of the River, and they don't have a single tenant for their new Hardin Valley Business Park, which came online in 2007.

Congratulations, 8th District Residents!
Click here to read about our court victory!!!

Click here to read about the lawsuit filed in Chancery Court and to catch up on all the news!


TDC says we need more land for industrial development in Knox County because we're "running out of land," but there is over 380 acres of land in Knox County's inventory.

Besides the business parks, there are acres of brownfields and greyfields (industrial sites that have been abandoned) in our center city area that could and should be revitalized before we go out into the country and destroy greenfields. There is also hundreds of acres of land in new business parks going in all around us in places like Roane County and Blount County, in which Knox County invested $5 million just this year!

It's foolish to waste our scarce resources when the demand is not there now and won't be in the future!


TDC's track record isn't so great - click here to read the facts and decide for yourself whether TDC deserves another dime of taxpayer money.

There's a lot of good reasons why progressive cities have stopped building these types of parks and offering what amounts to corporate welfare to companies that agree to leave their current location and move elsewhere. It often turns out to be not such a good deal after all, by the time all the cash incentives, tax abatements, free infrastructure, reimbursements and pollution problems are factored in.


TDC has said that this development could bring as many as 2,000 jobs - not that they have any specific prospects for their proposed park.

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