Wow, today’s Knox County Board of Zoning Appeals was great theater. The last item was a deferred item, the property is located from out in Northeast Knox County near the Knox County Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility, the Knox County Work Release Center, Knox County Sheriff’s Training Center and the Old Penal Farm. I am not sure when the first jail was built out there, but it had to have been 1940’s or sooner.
In 1994, when I served on the Knox County Commission Jail Inspection Committee (the committee was formed in part due to a Federal Judge order to reduce jail overcrowding) inmates were in the old jail, in the Detention Facility, in the Work Release building and the City County Building Jail, four facilities. Anyone that built or bought a home before the first jail was built out there might have a reason to complain. Anyone that has built or bought knew they were living near facilities that housed inmates overnight.
Now, enter Acadia Healthcare owner of Villages a residential behavioral health facility in Blount County that has been approved to build on property near the Sheriff’s many buildings off Maloneyville Road. Acadia has Attorney Ben Mullins, the Wise Springs neighbors have Wayne Kline. Kline came with Dr. J. Sidney Alexander (whose website boasts of medical expert) Kline also came with Sheriff Tom Spangler, who reported the number of calls the Blount County Sheriff had received from Villages this year. Spangler worked as Training Director for Blount County Sheriff between his retirement for Knox County and being elected Sheriff in 2018.
Only 6 of the 9 members of the BZA were present. A majority of five is still required to vote for anything. After extensive debate, Board Member Rebecca Longmire made a motion to uphold the appeal, which would not have allowed the facility, it got a 4-2 vote. Board of Zoning Appeals Chairman James Corcoran read a letter from Knox County Juvenile Judge Tim Irwin about the need for this RESIDENTIAL Treatment facility. So, it was ultimately postponed until December 2020 meeting.
A discussion was held about zoom meetings versus live meetings. Board Member Bob Thompson said that Members Jamey Row and Clyde Anderson would NOT attend an in person meeting. I hope there are emails to the group of that nature from Row and Anderson. As the BZA are subject to open meetings law and surely Thompson has not deliberated to a conclusion with Row and Anderson about zoom versus live meetings.
Knox County Law Department Attorney Daniel Sanders shared with the ones in attendance that some Knox County Commissioners have expressed concern about some BZA Members not meeting in person. The members of the BZA are appointed by the Commissioners and serve at the pleasure of the Commission.