They’re at it again

By Joe Rector

A drive up most side roads here in Ball Camp and most other neighborhoods in Knoxville will find the topsoil scraped away and heavy machinery cutting roads and drains and sewer lines to squeeze too many houses onto too little land. I’m an old coot who’s in a foul mood about the entire thing.

These small farms that were created several years ago are being gobbled up by developers. In their hurry to buy every available piece of land, they don’t seem to consider the impact on communities throughout our region. I’ve heard that a housing shortage is the reason for so many new developments being built. I don’t buy that. With the high prices that sellers expect and high-interest rates that now are slapped on mortgages, many who are interested in a new home have decided to wait for a bit in hopes that those factors turn downward. Of course, I don’t see how people can buy a house anyway. Young people often face mortgages of $1500 and up each month. In our younger years, we’d have had to choose between a house and eating.

The infrastructure of Knox County isn’t that great either. I’m speaking of the sideroads and backroads on which many of these developments empty. Some roads have no shoulders; others weren’t built to allow today’s bigger autos to pass each other. Does the person in charge of roads still declare that people are going to have to get used to these conditions? Around here, we’re told that the Schaad Road extension will ease the snarls of traffic that have motorists sitting still every morning and evening.

I’d argue with those who say such things that, yes, the new roads will help traffic flow. However, people aren’t going to stay on those roads. At some point, they are going to exit and drive toward their homes. All of a sudden, people are stuck in a snaking line of cars that’s even worse than before because the developers have built so many subdivisions and apartment complexes on these still inadequate streets.

Yes, I am partially complaining because I’ve lived in the area all my life but for the years I was at college. In past years, the night was dark; as kids, we played in the yard until the sun set. Then it was time to eat supper, do homework, take baths, and go to bed. The night threw a blanket of black that nothing but the stars or the moon could penetrate.

No dark exists now. Hillsides are covered with houses and apartments. Streetlights illuminate yards and parking lots. Also, a steady stream of cars zips through the darkness. A family is lucky if it has a backyard that backs up to a wooded area. They have the privacy that so many others crave.

I still reserve my empathy for wildlife. Animals have no say when the dozers or graders rip through their nests and knock down their homes in the trees. Their only choice is to escape to a safer place. Too many times that means animals invade these new developments. People whine that critters are raiding their garbage cans and gardens. My reply is the land was their home first, and they destroy gardens in areas where once ample supplies of food were available.

I will say it again: folks of my generation are in this world but not of it. I don’t want to go back to my youth; I don’t want to stop all development; I don’t want Knoxville to remain a town instead of a city. However, I do want better planning to be done before multiple developments are slapped up almost overnight. I want money to be invested in widening the roads where we live, not just highways that move from Point A to Point B. Last of all, I want our countryside preserved. The hills in Hines Valley are beautiful, but they are being scraped clean so that houses replace views of the trees.

The time has come to listen more to the citizens of the county and less to the developers. We should have some say-so as to what our communities become. For the most part, elected officials don’t much care what citizens want as long as more tax revenues can fill the coffers, but for what will that extra cash be used if not for better infrastructure? It’s time to hit the “pause” button.