​Monteagle Sets Deadline for Addressing Zoning Issues

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Sept. 28 Monteagle City Council meeting, the council committed to a timeline for addressing unresolved zoning issues. The city had deferred action pending an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS).

A resident said the MTAS Knoxville office told him there was no “written formal request from Monteagle” on record.

City attorney Sarah Bible said, “We spoke with them [MTAS] several times.” According to Sarah Bible, MTAS promised to send a written opinion. “We have not received one,” she insisted. Attorney Jerry Bible noted the COVID-19 pandemic slowed processes. The attorneys have also requested an opinion from the city’s insurance company.

Vice Mayor Tony Gilliam said, “I think it should be the decision of the board if we haven’t heard anything in two weeks, we take your [the attorneys’] recommendation, maybe convert [the zoning] back to what it was before.”

The board voted to take action in two weeks based on the attorneys’ recommendation if no MTAS written opinion was received. The attorneys, meanwhile, will issue a formal written request to MTAS.

At issue are zoning ordinances which may have been approved without proper notification. A 2019 ordinance rezoned a number of properties at I-24 exit 135 from C2 to C3. Gilliam said the Planning Commission and Southeast Tennessee Development District, which advices the commission, had no explanation for these 2019 rezoning changes. A 2018 ordinance rezoned exit 134 property from residential to commercial. Gilliam previously stated the rezoning occurred to make zoning boundaries follow street lines.

As previously reported in the Messenger in the Sept. 4, 2020 issue, if the 2018 rezoning was not valid, 7 acres of the proposed Petro Stopping Center site will not have the C3 zoning required. No building permit for the project has been issued.

A resident asked about heavy equipment dirt moving at the proposed Petro site. Gilliam said Building Inspector Earl Geary shut the project down, but Geary had to withdraw the order when he determined the developers were operating within their legal rights. “As long as they’re not moving dirt in and dumping, there isn’t anything we can do,” Gilliam said, but he added, “They have wetland there. With this rain, mud may be washing into the wetland. That might be something we need to check on.”

In other business, the council voted to rescind the August decision to end the relationship with 911. Gilliam said the attorneys were addressing the issues of overtime charges to Monteagle by 911 and Monteagle not receiving compensation for handling Marion County’s 911 calls.

In police department business, the council voted to get prices for purchasing a generator for the police department, cost not to exceed $6,000; the council also approved a $1.50 an hour wage increase for police officer Gus Raby who will assume offer training duties.

Asked about progress on replacing the lighting at the two interstate exits, Gilliam said the job would be done by city employees with the assistance of a certified electrician when necessary. Plans call for using the existing poles, switching out the ballasts, and installing LED bulbs, rather than the full replacement originally proposed. Although grant funding was possible with the full replacement option, Gilliam said the city would save $350,000-$400,000 by handling the project in-house and not doing a full replacement.

Updating the community on road repair, Gilliam said the city had developed a road repair plan prioritizing needs and setting objectives. “Eighth Street is the most critical,” Gilliam said. “We’re getting prices [on repair].”

Alderwoman Jessica Blalock announced the Halloween parade is set for noon, Oct. 31. Costumed children will walk from the Monteagle Elementary parking lot to Harton Park for free drinks and trunk-or-treat candy provided by residents and businesses. Blalock encouraged mask wearing and social distancing. “The children will be wearing masks anyway,” Blalock said.