Sewanee Council: Proposed District Expansion, Cell Tower

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the March 22 Zoom-format meeting, the Sewanee Community Council reviewed the proposed expansion of district boundaries to include all residents within the 37375 zip code. The council also received an update on the cell tower, learned details of the Arthur Knoll Spring Clean-up, and heard from Nicky Hamilton and David Shipps, who spoke about the newly created Office of Economic Development and Community Relations.

Commenting on the rational for expanding the council boundaries to include the entire 37375 zip code, council member June Weber said people arrived at the polls in November not knowing their district and not knowing where district boundaries were. Sallie Green, superintendent of Leases, said, “The new district map helps us know what district to let people vote in.” (See photo.) Green added expanding the districts also increased the potential pool of council representatives.

“Expanding the districts won’t add a lot of households,” Green acknowledged. Provost Nancy Berner said it would be useful to know the number of households per district to avoid implications of gerrymandering. The council plans to vote on the proposed district expansion map at the May 24 meeting. Green thanked committee members Spike Hosch, Theresa Shackelford, Lynn Stubblefield, and June Weber for their work on revising the map.

Updating the council on the cell tower, Treasurer and Vice President for Finance and Operations Doug Williams said “in reviewing the site, the FCC and State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) determined there would be likely adverse effects on the historical character of the Domain by the erection of the cell tower there [at the football field site].” Williams said the determination triggered a process in which the University worked with SHPO to develop a mitigation plan. The revised plan has been sent to the FCC for review and approval. Williams declined commenting on the specifics of the plan prior to approval, but said “it involves investments in the historic aspects of the Domain.” Williams predicted “best case” scenario the cell tower would offer service by mid to late summer and “worst case” scenario by early to mid fall. “An attractive aspect of the location was it provides coverage to a very wide area, not only the populated parts of the Domain and the Village, but also the hiking trails,” Williams noted.

Council member Mary Priestley announced the Arthur Knoll Spring Clean-up Day, on Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Volunteers will gather at the downtown Mountain Goat Trail head. Following the cleanup, the Blue Chair will provide snacks and volunteers will gather in Angel Park for the award of a plaque and certificate. Priestley thanked Green and William Shealy, superintendent of landscape planning and operation, for helping coordinate the event.

Hamilton and Shipps, who joined forces to form the Office of Economic Development and Community Relations, spoke about the department’s goals and priorities. Shipps, vice president for economic development and community relations, highlighted the importance of attracting and retaining 475 new students each August in the “increasingly competitive” higher education business. He stressed the impact of “a flourishing and developing Village and other concerns Domain wide” on “not only making Sewanee a delightful place to live, but also in attracting employees and potential students.” Shipps said his office would be the main contact point for downtown planning, formerly headed up by Frank Gladu, who recently retired.

Hamilton, assistant vice president for government and strategic partnerships, said her current focus was pursuing the University’s goal of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” through partnerships with “regional, national, and local organizations to improve our relationships or create new relationships.” Hamilton gave the example of a “joint social justice and wellness program” with Spelman College geared toward Spelman students experiencing the outdoors and Sewanee students experiencing urban environment.

The council set the following meeting dates for the 2021–22 academic year: Sept. 13, Oct. 25, Jan. 10, March 28, and May 23.