By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

The future of a large portion of wooded land at 1400 Merchant Drive was decided Tuesday. The hilly property, protected from several developments in the past, was approved to go from Neighborhood Commercial and Agricultural to LRN-6 multi-family residential neighborhood zoning.

The Knoxville City Council approved the planning commission’s 13-0 recommendation in favor of developer Merchant Holdings LLC with the promise that 30 acres will be set aside for possible open or park lands under the eye of Legacy Parks.

Councilman Charles Thomas said that talks with the Norwood Neighborhood and Debbie Phillips lead to an agreement with the developer.

“The right one has finally come along,” Thomas said of the many efforts to develop the land. He harkened back to the late Lynn Redman’s leadership in stopping prior development.

Councilwoman Lynne Fugate recalled the Girl Scout’s ownership of the undeveloped land and the sale of the land to a cell tower builder. She said she supports keeping much of the land open to the public.

South Knoxville residents’ opposition to South High Senior Living becoming a drug rehabilitation facility won. The rezoning resolution was removed from the city council agenda as McNabb Center pulled out of the deal with facility owner Rick Dover. The former high school building at 825 Tipton Street was too close to Dogwood Elementary School to become a residential rehab center.

South Knoxville Councilman Tommy Smith moved to strike the request.

Other zoning changes included a property at McCalla and Pelham Road going from General Industrial to Highway Commercial District. A property at 1301 East Weisgarber Road went from the Office designation to Industrial Mixed Use and three properties on Nash Road were approved to change from Light Industrial to Mixed Use.

A residential property on Dresser Road was approved to switch from Low Density Residential to Mixed Use General Commercial and a lot at 355 South Gallaher View Road went from Office Park to RN-6, multi-family residential.

Another residential lot, at 299 Nash Road, was approved to become general industrial from RN-1 residential and an agricultural zone on Central Avenue became an RN-3 residential neighborhood.