Pigeon Forge planning officials took their first official action on a proposed change to their subdivision regulations requiring municipal water service and public sanitary sewer systems for all Planned Unit Developments (PUD).
The planning commission meeting opened with a public hearing regarding the proposed changes, in which only one person chose to speak.
Pigeon Forge developer Richard Balk disagreed with the requirement of municipal water saying that many of the safety concerns can be mitigated through adequate dedicated water storage to help fight fires.
PUD is a specialized designation that allows for more strategic clustering of buildings in particular areas of the construction site. This allows for better use of building space and ensures the remainder of the property will remain undeveloped as open space and common areas within the community.
According to Pigeon Forge Director of Community Development John Jagger, inaccessible developments pose several safety concerns.
“We’ve run into a couple of projects where people have proposed PUDs in the Planning Region in mountainous terrain, with narrow streets and no public utilities,” Jagger said.
“Units are clustered together in much closer proximity with PUDs. The issue is a loophole where density is increased, leaving urban-type density in rural areas where roads are not up to the task,” he said.
Steep and narrow roads cause problems with accessibility with emergency services, especially large fire engines. A lack of public water only adds to this dilemma, as tanker trucks must be hauled long distances with limited amounts of water to combat house fires.
Fire officials also worry about closely clustered homes where fires can spread quickly from building to building.
Balk responded to the safety concerns: “From my standpoint, I personally have about 10,000 gallons and my neighbors have about 30,000 gallons, all which is available to fight fires.”
Balk said that this state approved system is regularly inspected by state officials.
“I think this is a very bad idea and I think we should allow the state approved water systems,” said Balk, further emphasizing the financial burden of the tremendous costs associated with running water lines to areas in the city’s planning region.
Jagger said that the amendment came out of discussions with the planning commission regarding confusion among the current regulations.
“It’s a bit unclear in our current regulations as to whether you can have PUD style of projects where you don’t have public utilities,” said Jagger. “And yet it does reference the health department’s approval of those.”
“The planning commission has discussed this for the past two or three months and asked staff to prepare and amendment that would clarify the situation with the intent of requiring that PUD layouts should be served by municipal public utilities,” said Jagger.
Jagger emphasized that this would not change anybody’s right to subdivide their property into conventional lots.
This proposal would define water service as municipal water service, which could be a line either from the City of Pigeon Forge, Sevier County or the City of Sevierville.
It specifies public sanitary sewer systems which could be city systems or state approved sand filtration systems.