Citizens for Better Government
Blount County Tennessee
Planning Commission Removes Limits on School Overcrowding
In a politically charged meeting on December 12, the Blount County Planning Commission voted to remove the provision in the county subdivision regulations that has limited school overcrowding despite the fact that the Blount County School Board and the majority of speakers at the public hearing were against the move.
The County has limited subdivisions to four lots annually each in areas where the School Board has shown that the schools are “intolerably” overcrowded according to a number of nationally accepted measures. The 4-lot limit was a way of trying to bring growth into line with the capacity of our most important government function – education. The 4-lot limit was not a moratorium on all building. It only applied in the areas covered by five of the eighteen schools in the County. Development continued normally in more than two thirds of the county.
In fact, as new schools were built, several large areas of the county were removed from the 4-lot limit.
Some developers, who were also campaign contributors in the August election, were not happy with the 4-lot limit. They demanded removal of the limit. They saw no need to propose some alternative way of matching infrastructure and growth. They said that school overcrowding is a problem for the School Board and not their concern. Such a position is tantamount to saying that we should stop all attempts to plan orderly growth in the county. In fact, state law requires the county to plan its growth. Throwing out all planning, and accepting overcrowded schools, roads clogged with traffic, and unending double digit tax increases will not achieve any responsible persons’ objectives – least of all those of landowners seeking maximum property values.
None of this seemed to matter to the newly elected Commissioners, who the Mayor appointed to the Planning Board. Tonya Burchfield, Brad Harrison, Scott Helton, Gary Farmer and Holden Lail all voted to remove the 4-lot limit and permit unfettered development growth, even at the price of wrecking our schools.