By Joe Rector
The Karns community is up in arms over the proposed construction of Belltown. This development is supposed to be a community within itself. I’ve never known what that is, but the developer, Smithbilt Homes, declares it offers the best of living. It also will bring as many as 4000 people to the community. That will lead to many headaches for residents already located in Karns. At the same time, similar problems exist in communities next to Karns.
Within one mile of my home, I’ve counted six signs for use on review on plots of land. In every case, new bunches of houses or apartments or condos are to be built. That’s in addition to the new developments that are already under construction at the corner of Karns Valley and Beaver Ridge Roads and at the intersection of Emory and Henderson Roads.
All of these new places dump more traffic onto roads that are narrow and haven’t changed much in size since I was a boy. One proposed plan would be built on the back of a subdivision, but residents fear that the traffic will be dumped onto a road that is narrow and was never intended to support that many cars. When citizens voice their concerns about the overflow traffic that backs up during morning and evening rush hours, the head of roads and engineering always says, “There a lots of narrow roads in the county.”
Some parcels of land have been denied rezoning requests, only to be submitted again by another company or the same one, and for some reason, the requests are granted. Residents speak out against the continuous building. They tell of horrible traffic backups and wrecks, and in some cases, they present water problems caused by the runoff of water.
Their complaints fall on deaf ears. Why is that true? The people appointed to the zoning board are charged with the task of looking at properties and using common sense to decide what is best for the existing subdivisions or homes. County commissioners sometimes listen to appeals on land zoning, and too often, they seem to automatically fall in line with developers.
The most recent answer to concerns in our areas about traffic is, “The new Schaad Road project will take care of the problem.” Well, that project isn’t finished yet and might be a year or more off. These new subdivisions are slapped together in much less time than that. Too, all these extra cars are going to be traveling on streets already in existence, the same ones we’ve been told are typical of many county roads. If 4000 people move into the Belltown project, how many more cars will that add to the steady stream of vehicles that already travel Emory Road and Karns Valley? Has a traffic study been completed? How many children will live in all these new places? Has Knox County Schools taken that into account in its 5 and 10-year growth studies?
I have nothing against new developments…to a point. However, when they begin to crowd existing neighborhoods and cause major inconveniences for folks, the time has come to put a moratorium on building. When the infrastructure can accommodate all, then those projects can continue.
The overdevelopment of land is also causing problems with wildlife. Skunks, “possums,” and raccoons travel through neighborhoods where those critters once lived and thrived. I’ve lived in Ball Camp all but a couple of years of my life. This past Tuesday our dog Sadie began barking and ran to the fence enclosing the pool. Amy and I turned to see what the problem was, and for the first time in my life, I saw a deer run across our backyard, jump a fence, and scamper into the field behind us.
It’s time for the zoning commission and county commission to support those of us who already live here and listen to our objections. We elected one group of commissioners, so why on earth would they back businesses over constituents?