Imagine Monteagle: This Plan Is for You!

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

What does Monteagle want to be when it grows up? Monteagle has a complex history — the summit of the trail crossing into Georgia in the early 1800s, a stopover point for the Mountain Goat Railroad fostering commerce in the mid-1800s, the home of the educational initiatives Fairmont College and the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly in the late 1800s, and in the mid-1900s the home of Highlander Folk School teaching strategies for nonviolent change to up and coming civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet for all that, Monteagle has always had a small-town vibe. At the present, though, Monteagle is experiencing heavy commercial and residential development pressure, an explosion in real estate activity coupled with an explosion in outdoor-based recreational opportunities. Imagine Monteagle! What is Monteagle’s future? What are the hopes and desires of the residents? At the Imagine Monteagle planning event, Thursday, April 25, from 5:30-7 p.m., at City Hall, representatives from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will meet one-on-one with residents to learn the answers to those questions and draw up a road map for Monteagle’s future.

Tennessee Annotated Code requires towns to “develop a general plan on which to base zoning and land use decisions,” said Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson who spearheaded the effort to engage the AIA group to assist Monteagle in the planning process. “Every town that has zoning is required to have a general plan to guide how a town develops.” According to Wilson, Monteagle had a plan when the town adopted zoning in the mid-1980s, but the plan has since been lost.

“Some of the town’s regulations reference a general plan,” said Mayor Greg Maloof. “In the past there has been great debate on points when we didn’t have one to guide us.”

At the planning event, AIA Community by Design professionals will host focus-group tables to talk one-on-one with residents about topics key to determining the town’s future: land use; place making (historical preservation, urban design, and understanding a place to make it a better version of itself); downtown development; economic development; and recreation-based tourism.

“Monteagle and the Plateau are changing rapidly,” Wilson insisted. “If residents don’t take control of the process, things may not develop in ways they appreciate.” Confiding his personal thoughts on economic development and tourism, Wilson said, “If you create a great place where people want to live, people will want to visit. Economic development and tourism will happen on their own.”

As Imagine Monteagle bonus attractions, the first 150 residents attending can enjoy free barbecue, and there will be a bounce house for kids.

“We especially want input from young families,” Wilson stressed, “They are the ones who will most immediately reap the consequences of the planning.”

The Community by Design planners will incorporate the information from the Imagine Monteagle event and from an earlier visit last October into a first-draft general plan for the town. Friday will be spent brainstorming and strategizing. At 5 p.m., Saturday, April 27, at City Hall, the planners will present the plan to the public. Here, again, input will be welcome. A final draft will follow. The plan will then go to the council for a vote and possible further revision.

“We’re very thankful for the hard work the AIA steering committee is doing on this project,” Maloof said, “and for the individuals and organizations hosting them.”

Under Wilson’s direction, Monteagle submitted a detailed application requesting planning assistance from the AIA. The AIA does not charge for the planning services the organization provides. The only cost to Monteagle is transportation, food, and lodging. A grant from the Lindhurst Foundation helped offset some of the costs, and residents and businesses too numerous to mention have stepped forward as hosts and helpmates, the Edgeworth Inn, Morton Memorial Methodist Church, Mountain Goat Market, the Smokehouse, and High Point, to name just a few.

“Monteagle has a lot of positive trajectory,” Wilson said. “This is about making sure we acknowledge our past and involve our residents in the trajectory forward.”

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