Over the last ten days, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the proposed development at Western Plaza. In order to fully understand what has occurred, I believe that it is important to clarify the history of HB2156 which sought to remove the building height limitation of 35 feet from Western Plaza. In essence, the Bill would treat Western Plaza the same as virtually all property West of that location.
HB2156 was filed on 1/31/2018 by Representative Rick Staples. It was then assigned to the House Transportation Committee on 2/5/2018 and later passed by this committee. Several local representatives serve on this committee, including Representative Eddie Smith. You can review the complete history of HB2156 here: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB2156
At the March 5th Executive Board meeting of the Kingston Pike Sequoyah Hills neighborhood association, I was asked to obtain a copy of HB2156 and confirm that the bill was limited only to the property at Western Plaza. As such, I forwarded the bill to representatives of the neighborhood association that same week. On March 20th, the House Transportation Committee heard HB2156 and it was passed unanimously by voice vote of all committee members, moving the bill forward towards the House floor for a vote. The video can be seen here: http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=354&clip_id=14892&meta_id=336774
Then, on April 8th, two months after HB2156 was assigned to the House Transportation Committee, and almost 3 weeks after voting to move the Bill forward, Representative Eddie Smith held a meeting with residents of Sequoyah Hills. I was also in attendance. The majority of those in attendance expressed support for a mixed-use development at Western Plaza, but also indicated that they weren’t comfortable moving forward without an actual plan for the proposal. Based on the very valid concerns of these citizens, I worked on a possible resolution for City Council to consider. The resolution requested that the Knox County delegation consider amendments that would give voice to the concerns of the neighbors at the meeting.
However, as events unfolded that day, it became clear to me that HB2156, in its current state, needed to be withdrawn rather than amended. At first, I thought that a resolution could address the issues raised by our concerned neighbors, but I soon determined that there was not enough time left in this legislative session for a plan from the developer to be, not only created, but reviewed by neighborhood representatives. Therefore, I called Representative Rick Staples and expressed these concerns to him directly. Following our discussion, Representative Staples took the appropriate action to “hold on the desk” the bill. This effectively suspended consideration of HB2156 in this session.
I want to be clear: I stand with the neighborhood majority who support the concept of mixed-use in Western Plaza. Like those in attendance, I believe a concept plan needs to be presented to the neighborhood for consideration and feedback. In the coming weeks, I will continue to meet with neighborhood representatives, the Bearden Council, and the developer to review any proposed plans and set up opportunities for neighborhood input.
I want to extend special thanks to the members of the Kingston Pike Sequoyah Hills neighborhood association and Bearden Council for their collaboration, constant communication, and hard work on behalf of our neighbors in District 2.