East Tennessee County Revisits Campground Zoning

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November 7, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Blount County Planning Commission in eastern Tennessee might want to get ready for a much-contested proposal to allow commercial campgrounds in some sections of the county to land back in its court.

As a Tuesday public hearing on the matter approaches, at least one Blount County commissioner thinks the zoning amendment is still not ready for prime time, The Daily Times, Maryville, reported. District 10A Commissioner Gerald Kirby, who also sits on the planning commission, does not think the proposal will pass as currently written.

“In my opinion, it will probably come back to the planning commission. I don’t think we will pass it. I really don’t.”

The Blount County Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The proposal would allow campgrounds to be built up to 5,000 feet down roads that directly intersect with those specified in the proposed regulations. These include generally the Highway 411 North corridor leading to Maryville, Highway 321 corridor leading to Townsend, and the Highway 129 corridor leading to Tallassee.

The proposed regulations would also allow recreational vehicles to camp at a campground for up to 270 days. The campgrounds could be built on a minimum five-acre plot.

This is the third time that the commission has sent the resolution to the full Blount County Commission for consideration.

In general, Kirby supports the idea of the zoning amendment but thinks there are further revisions needed. “We need some regulation on (campgrounds),” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”

In specific, there are concerns from some members of the community about the allowable length of stay in a campground. “Really, the main thing is the time frame — not letting them stay there too long,” Kirby said. “That isn’t too big of a thing for the planning commission to change.”

Townsend’s approach

The city of Townsend, which allows campgrounds, takes a different approach in its regulations. In contrast to the proposed 270-day limit for county campgrounds, the city has established that “a recreational vehicle shall not remain in a recreational vehicle park for more than 30 days in any 90-day period.”

Townsend City Commissioner Michael Talley said the regulations have worked out well. “The intent was not to allow any long-term camping. We haven’t had complaints or concerns regarding that, to my knowledge.”

Campgrounds have been an important draw for Townsend, Talley said. “They contribute to a lot to the visitation in the Townsend area. They are very well-received by our residents and visitors to Townsend.”

Larger lot size

Kirby also advocates requiring a larger minimum size for the campgrounds. “I was pushing for the 10 acres. I don’t think five is enough.”

The public hearing will be important for gathering further feedback about the proposal, he said. “We’re trying to get everybody’s input on it,” he said. “You’ve got the people wanting nothing changed, and you’ve got the people wanting things to change. You’ve got to look at is it a betterment for the county?”

Kim Soltero, a county resident who lives at the base of Chilhowee Mountain, has been following the issue closely. She doesn’t think the proposal would be a betterment.

“I don’t think the proposal is a good plan as it’s written,” she said. “I have a lot of concerns about it. Of course, I’m concerned because it is fostering high density housing in rural areas.”

The regulations do not go far enough in protecting the natural beauty of the county, she said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

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