Developers looking to build a 38-lot housing complex along a mountaintop near Engle Town Road were turned down for preliminary approval by the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission, despite meeting the minimal preliminary requirements.
As proposed in the preliminary plans, the Heartland planned unit development (PUD) calls for 38 lots to be carved from a 40.8-acre tract of land. A PUD is a term reserved for a planned, clustered community with at least one non-residential building, and generally involves common areas for residents.
The city planning staff reviewed the request for the commissioners, expressing apprehension over approving such a dense development in the absence of public utilities — sewer and water. “(The) staff’s not real crazy about the overall concept of doing a Planned Unit Development this way,” said Karl Kreis with the planning department.
Just this month the planning commission and staff members met at a workshop and discussed a possible rule change which would require public utilities for all PUDs. “We’re in the process of maybe amending our regulations to deal with this situation. But, we don’t have anything in place now that would disallow it,” Kreis said.
After a motion was made by Commissioner Robert Young to go ahead with the plan, nearly two minutes of silence went by without a second to his motion.
“I know it’s taken us a couple meetings to get everything we needed, but we did try to comply with all the requirements that staff had,” said James Temple, representing the developer. “We feel like we can do something up here that will look good and we’re going to try to do a quality development.”
The concerns among the commissioners revolved around a set of septic tanks and wells in close proximity to one another, causing a potential health hazard to drinking water. Temple explained he had received approval from Mike Blazer, director of the environmental health department. He explained a material called bentonite can be placed around each well to a depth of 50 feet to ward off seepage. “We worked with Mike Blazer on this and he feels like we have a good layout. This has been done before in other parts of the county,” Temple said.
“What we have done is: On the hillside below the houses, there will be designated a specific area for a drain field and its reserve for each and every lot,” Temple said.
“The septic has been the issue for the past three, four months with this development, and it’s still an issue,” Commissioner Bill Howell said. “If I was the developer, I would want to know the answers to these same questions we’re asking before I started planning my subdivision.”
But Temple disagreed. “From the outcome of our meeting, the layout that I had, based on the information that Mr. Blazer had, we do have enough distance between the drain fields so that one drain field won’t affect the one below it,” he said.
“I think what he wants to do is get some kind of idea, if we go out and do all this soil testing we can get final plat approval to meet all the criteria,” Temple said. “But we’ve got to have a place to start and that would be the preliminary plan, tonight.”
In the end, the motion to grant preliminary approval to the Heartland development died due to a lack of a second from the commission.