Saving Foster Falls: Staking Out Unique Ground

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“We’ve staked out unique ground,” commented Friends of South Cumberland Executive Director Ned Murray about the agreement reached with Tony Perry, developer and majority owner of the proposed Woodlands Preserve subdivision adjacent to Foster Falls. The Friends took a public stand opposing the project over a year ago. The proposed site borders Little Gizzard Creek for three-quarters of mile. The Friends argued the 135-acre, 79-unit development threatened the creek, falls and fragile eco system with the potential for septic tank run off; erosion; pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer runoff; flow disruption; as well as taxing already strained fire, police, and ambulance service. Nonetheless, Murray conceded, “The owner has the legal right to build there.” The Friends decided to try a different approach.

The agenda for the April 2, 2024, Marion County Planning Commission meeting called for a vote on the Woodlands Preserve preliminary plat. Two days before the meeting, Murray contacted Perry and invited him to tour the area, attend a School of Theology lecture “The Sacredness of Water,” and join the Friends for dinner at High Point appealing to Chicago-based Perry by pointing out the location was reputedly Chicago gangster Al Capone’s stopover.

Perry accepted the offer and changed his plans so he could stay another day. Rescheduling of the April 2 planning commission meeting resulted in the Friends having 10 hours with Perry. After attending the lecture, hiking Shakerag Hollow with Bran Potter, and touring Sewanee, Murray, Friends’ Board Chair Tom Sanders, Friends’ Land Conservation Chair Bruce Blohm, and Perry sat down to business.

“We explored all avenues,” Murray said. The Friends even offered to buy the area bordering the creek. The cost was unreachably high. But the Friends got Perry’s ear with the argument, “let’s bring science into this.”

The result: a higher level of protection and assurances than the Friends had hopes of achieving by any other means. An MOU outlining the agreement reached calls for an environmental impact assessment (with the Friends and Perry each paying for half); ongoing water testing of Little Gizzard Creek before, during, and after construction (both where the creek enters and leaves the property to take into account the possibility of runoff from other sources); buffer zones to protect the creek; measures to reduce soil impact during construction; and educational signage and literature to promote conservation. Post construction, responsibility for testing and remedying negative impact will fall to the Home Owners Association. A task force composed of representatives from the Friends and Perry’s company, A. Perry Homes, will oversee following through on the MOU’s provisions.

At the rescheduled Marion County Planning Commission meeting April 9, Murray appealed to the commission to use the tools at their disposal to regulate and oversee development. “Anything that discourages people from visiting our parks – or that diminishes the visitor experience – is detrimental to our community and the economy,” Murray insisted. “The benefits of more tax revenue must be balanced against other sources of economic impact from tourism, jobs created, and public relations, not to mention the potential costs to the county for various kinds of maintenance, repair, and cleanup.” In closing, Murray said, “We don’t want to work with developers. We want to work with you. We hope that our work on this project with Mr. Perry … will be an example for you, a model for moving forward.”

The planning commission had previously reviewed the subdivision’s preliminary plat in March. “The majority of recommended changes had not been addressed,” said Marion County planner Garrett Haynes. At the April 9 meeting, the commission voted against approval. “[To move forward with the project] it’s a matter of them making the changes necessary to meet the minimum requirements and resubmitting. I expect they will,” Haynes acknowledged. However, a more serious problem may confront Perry, water supply. Haynes is investigating whether Tracy City has sufficient water to serve the subdivision as the plat proposes. Engineering would be needed to determine if wells are a feasible option. Perry did not respond to an inquiry about his plans.

“The Friends do not believe that a housing subdivision is the best and highest use of that sensitive land,” Murray said. But he stressed, “An environmental impact assessment will provide a higher level of scrutiny than what the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requires. Mr. Perry has offered a significant number of assurances and commitments intended to prevent and mitigate impact to the land and water during construction and long afterwards. Because we’re at the table, we can monitor progress. We’ll know when and what moves are made.”

2024 June
2024 May
2024 April
2024 March
2024 February
2024 January
2023 December
2023 November
2023 October
2023 September
2023 August
2023 July
2023 June
2023 May
2023 April
2023 March
2023 February
2023 January
2022 December
2022 November
2022 October
2022 September
2022 August
2022 July
2022 June
2022 May
2022 April
2022 March
2022 February
2022 January
2021 December
2021 November
2021 October
2021 September
2021 August
2021 July
2021 June
2021 May
2021 April
2021 March
2021 February
2021 January
2020 December
2020 November
2020 October
2020 September
2020 August
2020 July
2020 June
2020 May
2020 April
2020 March
2020 February
2020 January
2019 December
2019 November
2019 October
2019 September
2019 August
2019 July
2019 June
2019 May
2019 April
2019 March
2019 February
2019 January
2018 December
2018 November
2018 October
2018 September
2018 August
2018 July
2018 June
2018 May
2018 April
2018 March
2018 February
2018 January
2017 December
2017 November
2017 October
2017 September
2017 August
2017 July
2017 June
2017 May
2017 April
2017 March
2017 February
2017 January
2016 December
2016 November
2016 October
2016 September
2016 August
2016 July
2016 June
2016 May
2016 April
2016 March
2016 February
2016 January
2015 December
2015 November
2015 October
2015 September
2015 August
2015 July
2015 June
2015 May
2015 April
2015 March
2015 February
2015 January
2014 December
2014 November
2014 October
2014 September
2014 August
2014 July
2014 June
2014 May
2014 April
2014 March
2014 February
2014 January
2013 December
2013 November
2013 October
2013 September
2013 August
2013 July
2013 June
2013 May
2013 April
2013 March
2013 February
2013 January
2012 December
2012 November
2012 October
2012 September
2012 August
2012 July
2012 June
2012 May
2012 April
2012 March
2012 February
2012 January
2011 December
2011 November
2011 October
2011 September
2011 August
2011 July
2011 June
2011 May
2011 April
2011 March
2011 February
2011 January
2010 December
2010 November
2010 October
2010 September
2010 August
2010 July
2010 June
2010 May