June 2007 News

01 Jun

On March 30, UT had arranged for the conference on Quality Growth at the Convention Center . Among the 700 mostly local attendees were also a few members of the TSK. The topic comes to life again on the front page of the Knoxville News Sentinel of June 1, 2007 . It showed a picture of what quality growth may mean to some people but not to others: a moderately sized mountain side on which I counted 38 three-storied condo cabins, side by side and on top of each other, rentals for tourists that allow them to view the Great Smoky Mountains , like from a football field grandstand. A 400-cabin development in the area is presently on hold. It is good to know that there is local resistance brewing against this kind of defiling of the landscape in a growth environment in which every one can do as he pleases. There are no regulations on hill and ridge development. The accompanying article said “Government officials are hoping to find solutions, starting Tuesday, when the (Sevier) county and its municipalities will hold a public information meeting in Pigeon Forge.” One just wonders why this meeting and probably many more have not been held before and what this meeting will accomplish, now after so much damage has already been done. And in the meantime,

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external money keeps on rolling in fueling the plowing over the country and mountain sides. It has been said time and again that local success is “location, location, location.” So why have the ones responsible not taken action preventing the ultimate killing of the goose that lays the golden egg?

To some extent it is a deja-vu. A hundred years ago the paper mills and the logging companies came in with fists full of money and started cutting down the southern forests leaving behind a ravaged land that to this day has not recovered. Today we wonder why did the democratically elected government not stop them? But then it was the wood that was so vital for development, and now it is the vistas. Today the greatest threat to mountain lands, apart from the exotic pests that are being fought on many fronts by scientists, is second home development in the mountains. It

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is not even a vital need. So far, the Smokies have remained off limits, but the onslaught only stops in spitting distance from their boundary. It is not only here that mismanagement of mountain land is going on. Million-dollar homes hail from the cliffs of the Tennessee Valley Divide in the Carolinas and in Georgia . Multistory condo towers are overlooking the and Grandfather Mountain. Posterity will ask our generation why did we not do anything to stop this “madness in the mountains.”

It seems urgent to provide local governments and their taxpayers with a life cycle cost analysis of these developments. It would probably require that the builders and their clients create an endowment fund for the special infrastructure that these mountain developments need, such as mountain road construction and maintenance, power and water supply, environmental damage control, fire fighting, etc. If this is not done, the general taxpayer may be faced with crushing taxation in the future, after local government has been saddled with liabilities beyond its economic means and the developers have made off with their profits. It should be up to the people to decide if they want to accept this kind of risky commitment. But at this time none of the decision makers may have the necessary information to make informed decisions, because this information probably does not exist, as also no plans exist of how development should proceed. An individual property is not an island. It is embedded in a web of other properties and while it may be

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