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A reader addresses A21 and Regionalism in Tennessee
We are investigating the extent this has taken place in N.C.
Remember--it's always about the money!
 

Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

 

I have done a great deal of research regarding Plan ET over the past two years, and have tried to approach it with an open mind. Unfortunately the more I peel back the Plan ET onion; it only appears to get worse for all the residents of Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union counties. And as you will learn, it also gets worse for your respective county governments as well. I would much prefer to be brief with this letter; however there are so many issues involved with Plan ET that brevity would not suffice.

 

The best place to start is with the original $4.3 million dollar HUD request for the five county area of Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union. The two main authors of this grant proposal request were The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization and the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission. Both these authorities would have us believe that there were no strings attached and no pre-determined outcome for Plan ET. However, if you access page 58 of a HUD document called NOFA, (Notice of Funds Available for HUD's Fiscal Year 2010 Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Project), it states the following:

           

Mandatory outcomes from the creation of a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.

 

l  Creation of regional transportation, housing, water and air quality plans that are deeply aligned and tied to local comprehensive land use and capital investment plans.

l  Aligned federal planning and investment resources that mirror the local and regional strategies for achieving sustainable communities.

l  Increased participation and decision-making in developing and implementing a long range vision for the region by populations traditionally marginalized in public planning.

l  Reduced social and economic disparities for the low-income, minority communities, and other disadvantaged populations within the target region

l  Decrease in per capita VMT, (vehicle miles traveled) and transportation-related emissions for the region.

l  Increase in the share of residential and commercial construction on underutilized infill development sites that encourage revitalization, while minimizing displacement in neighborhoods with significant disadvantaged populations.

l  Increased proportion of low and very low-income households within a 30-minute transit commutes of major employment centers.

l  Transformation of isolated, opportunity-poor, highly segregated areas into diverse neighborhoods that are open and accessible to good jobs, good schools and good environments

l  Increased proportion of homes and rental units affordable to a full range of household incomes close to high-quality transit service in urban areas or within traditional town centers in small towns and rural areas.

l  Decreased number of neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty and minority segregation.

l  Increased proportion of affordable housing units that have high access to a supermarket or grocery store that provides qualify fresh foods.

l  Increased proportion of affordable housing units located close to walking trails, parks, green space, and vital amenities such as hospitals and schools.

l  More equitable distribution of housing that is affordable to all income levels throughout the target region

l  Improved health outcomes that result from creating safer, more walkable neighborhoods.

l  Decrease in the rate of conversion of undeveloped land into utilization across the region.

l  Increase in the share of developed land in rural areas that is tied to existing infrastructure systems

l  Increase use of compact development as a tool for regional planning, either to accommodate population growth or to adjust to population decline within the target area.

l  Increased proportion of the local population adequately prepared to participate in the core economic growth sectors of the region.

 

I cannot imagine why any town, city or municipality would accept HUD federal grant money knowing that the above mandates are in place. And the Plan ET proponents are telling us that there was no preconceived plan, and that the plan will be a result of public input.

 

In their grant request proposal, they mention several times the need for public buy-in and consensus, but when Plan ET gets implemented, upwards of 95% of the citizens in the five county area will not have been involved in the planning process, or for that matter even know of Plan ET. And yet their property rights will be adversely affected.

 

If you access the City of Knoxville newcomers website; www.cityofknoxville.org/newcomers/ they state the following: The Metropolitan Knoxville area was ranked the “best place to live in the United States and Canada” among cities with a population of fewer than 1 million. They cite 55 sources such as CNN, Forbes, USA Today, etc. that back up their claim of how wonderful the Knoxville area is.

 

The same city of Knoxville, in their Plan ET HUD grant proposal request state the following: “Like much of Appalachia, the Knoxville regions struggles with poverty, substandard housing, and poorly funded education systems, inequitable access to employment, limited transportation options and air and water quality concerns. Steady population growth and urban sprawl exacerbate these issues.” So, on the one hand it is the best place to live and on the other a horrible place to live. And while they are trying to recruit people to move here, they claim that the growing population is one of the main problems.

 

 

Plan ET is a regional effort. Regionalism rolls up your community into a larger regional planning area that greatly shrinks your influence over what regulations are passed, and will reduce the authority of the five County Mayors and Commissions to act on behalf of their citizenry to protect our private property rights. In essence, regional planning trumps the rights of local government and local citizens. The pitfalls of regionalism are as follows:

 

1.      Regional councils replace much of the local officials’ authority with unelected board members, (in our case Knoxville will likely be the regional leader).

2.      As the regional council matures, local rule diminishes, leaving citizens with more distant and reduced representation.

3.      Once a region is formed, the ability to oppose sustainable development is limited.

4.      Generally, when the regional council accepts grant monies, all tethered communities are bound by the grant stipulations. (pg. 58 of HUD NOFA mandates outcomes).

5.      Regional planning often includes tax base sharing which promotes wealth transfer by forcing community members to pay for services in other locations. (Anderson, Blount, Loudon, and Union counties will be required to subsidize the large expansion for a mass transit system in Knoxville).

6.      Regional planning often includes “no growth boundaries” that force housing into urban and inner ring suburban areas. This reduces homebuyers’ choices and artificially inflates the value of some properties, while reducing it for others.

 

 Local rule is the only way to protect our private property rights and we do not want to cede these rights to the regional authority, (which in this case would appear to be Knoxville). Please keep in mind that, with this scenario, a large portion of your county  property taxes would be diverted to the regional authority i.e.; Knoxville. Our property rights must be defended at all costs. Most officials do not want to steal anyone’s property rights, but in their zeal to go “sustainable”, many planners look at the environment, the region, and the globe first and private property rights are considered last.

 

Plan ET like most regional sustainable development plans will call for substantial increases in mass transportation, (light rail, buses or both). Since it would be cost prohibitive to bring mass transit out to the suburbs, the only other solution is to bring the suburban population to the city. This will require massive rezoning and relocation. Mass transit systems are not fully funded from fare box revenue, but rather they depend heavily on taxpayer money for their support. This too would require tax money from Anderson, Blount, Loudon and Union counties. Most mass transit requires subsidies in the range of 70%.

 

I attended the Loudon County Plan ET workshop at the Loudon County Technology Center in Lenoir City on 04/26/2012, and was 1 of about 110 people in attendance. I can assure you that at least 100 were dead set against Plan ET. 10 proponents of Plan ET out of 47,000 Loudon County residents is not consensus or buy-in.

 

One of the saddest ironies is that one of the biggest drivers of Plan ET/Sustainable Growth is the climate change, greenhouse gas emission issue. It is important to understand that close to 90% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the natural evaporation process from lakes and streams, leaving man responsible for the remaining 10%.

 

Real estate ownership is the main way Americans save money and accumulate wealth. They use real estate to improve their lives, start businesses, and leave money to their children. Homeowners tend to protect their environment and build more stability for their own future. When people lose all or part of their private property rights, they often lose their greatest source of wealth, well-being and security. Plan ET cannot help but harm these cherished private property rights.

 

As a tribute to your success as a governing body, I think the Knoxville area, and the five county area in general currently offers a wonderful way of life. Please help stop any effort by “big government” and regionalism to alter this way of life we currently enjoy.

 

I apologize for the length of this memo, and there is a great deal more that could be stated to support my resistance. I would be very willing to speak with any of you at any venue and at any time to further discuss this dire scenario.

 

It is my understanding that the respective Commissioners in all five counties have the authority to vote to reject Plan ET. I passionately urge you to do this to save our private property rights.

 

Respectfully Yours,