​Sewanee Village Update: Bookstore, Drainage, Second Homes

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
In his monthly meeting updating the community on the Sewanee Village Plan, Special Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor Frank Gladu discussed the new bookstore conceptual design, drainage and the controversial second homeowners issue.
The regents approved the conceptual design for the new bookstore slated for location between the post office and Tower Community Bank. The artist’s rendering shows two gabled buildings connected in back, one building for a community book store and the other offering Sewanee logo gifts and apparel. The design calls for tables out front and minimal food service, hot and cold beverages and perhaps pastry. The book store isn’t intended as “an eating destination,” Gladu stressed.
The house presently on the bookstore site will likely be razed, Gladu said. “It’s 20 feet high, so it couldn’t be moved far and the mover couldn’t find a buyer.” Relocation costs, a new foundation and renovation expenses combined to make moving the house financially impractical, he explained.
Turning to the subject of drainage, Gladu said development in downtown would “increase impervious surfaces.” A storm-water study currently underway proposes “to figure out ways to deal with the runoff.” While some of the water could be “piped,” Gladu cautioned simply moving it faster downstream could cause erosion. “We’re looking for ways to slow the water down,” he said, citing the possibility of holding basins.
Data from engineers and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation working to identify features in a wet area slated for cottage court style housing might warrant “altering plans,” Gladu said. “I don’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer unless ‘no’ really is ‘no.’” He pointed to the stream landscaped with rocks in Elliot Park as a potential drainage solution for the cottage court, or, variously, “we might make a park there.”
Sewanee resident Diane Fielding asked about plans for single family homes in the downtown area. Gladu said the cottage court housing would be small, single family residences built by a developer. Plans for downtown only included five or six lots where individuals could build homes.
“We live on Tennessee Ave., and we feel like we’re being priced out of the community by second home owners who don’t contribute to community life,” Fielding said. She and her faculty husband moved to Sewanee three years ago from Colorado. They have two young children and desperately need a larger home, but they can’t afford any of the homes offered for sale.
Fielding noted changes since moving here. “There are so many empty homes now,” she said. Otey Parish’s vibrant youth program dwindled to just a small handful of participants, and it had gotten difficult to find enough children for a soccer team.
“Other young faculty families who came here at the same time as us are moving to surrounding communities and sending their children to preschool in Chattanooga and Tullahoma,” Fielding observed. “Young faculty up for tenure wonder where they will live and if they should leave.”
Gladu sympathized with Fielding’s plight. He said Parsons Green, with its permanent resident requirement, was intended as reasonably priced faculty and staff housing, but there was no cap put on the price that could be asked when the homes resell. University housing policy isn’t producing “the desired results,” Gladu said.
He cited a suggestion that the University limit the number of single family homes that can be purchased by second homeowners, perhaps a 20 percent to 80 percent ratio.
Fielding would like to see the University incentivize permanent residents, whether faculty or not. She noted the lease fee was only waived for University employees, a bonus that might be extended to all permanent residents.
Gladu favors the downtown area housing having a permanent resident requirement.