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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Crossville city council rescinds contract to provide land for shooting park project

Following over 18 months in discussions and occasional action on a location for a proposed shooting sports park, the Crossville city council voted to rescind a sales contract it approved in February for a portion of the city tract of land off of Albert Frye Road.

The project has became controversial in the last few weeks as residents and property owners in the vicinity of the property became aware of what the proposal may mean to their use of their property and they expressed concern over possible property values.

Council initially agreed to essentially donate (sell for $1) 146 acres of the 217 acre site to the the nonprofit corporation that has been formed to operate the shooting sports park. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency would fund the over $2 million for most of the construction costs. The group hopes to attract tournaments and other competitions that would bring in visitors from outside the area that would stay in local hotels and spend money here.

Council considers rescinding  contract on Albert Frye property

After numerous meetings since June of 2015, the council approved the sales contract on the land to the nonprofit at the February regular council meeting and residents near the property became aware of the project and the proposal. They organized and began to contact officials to find out more and circulate a petition opposed to the planned location.

The March regular council meeting attracted a crowd of project supporters and those seeking to have the project location moved. Council approved a motion requiring the nonprofit hold a public hearing with property owners and area residents after contacting them by mail. Before the group could get much done on that action, the council called a special called meeting barely within the 24 hours notification requirement to rescind the the February action.

Because both parties had signed the sales contract that said the property sale would close before April 1 there could be legal ramifications to arbitrarily ending the contract but the resolution rescinding the contract prepared by city attorney Will Ridley referenced section 3.2 of the contract that said, “Purchaser understands that seller is a government and can only purchase or sell land subject to the requirements of its charter and state law. The seller understands and agrees that the contract is subject to the successful completion of all requirements, including but not limited to, advertising the sale of property without public objection.” Councilman J. H. Graham read the resolution aloud at the meeting, “Whereas during the March work session and March city council meetings several members of the community spoke in opposition of the land transfer and have further submitted a petition in opposition and whereas public objection to the transfer has clearly been set forth.”
Council members L-R J. H. Graham, Danny WYatt, Mayor James Mayberry, 
Pamala Harris and Scot Shanks

Graham moved to approve the resolution to rescind approval of the contract receiving a second from councilman Danny Wyatt.

Councilman Scot Shanks asked how many property owners who have homes in the area were affected by the shooting sports park? Graham said that a petition by those opposed to the site was signed by 42 people. Graham said that a “clear majority” of property owners on Albert Frye Road were opposed to the location for the shooting sports park.

Shanks sought further clarification including a show of hands of who was present at the called meeting who lived on Albert Frye Road. Some 7 hands were raised. After some back and forth it was determined there were 5 homes in the immediate vicinity with another two near the end of the road.
Albert Frye Road residents identify themselves to council 

“I think the issue is noise, fear of the unknown,” said Shanks, “but has there been any kind of testing done to determine what the sound of these guns going off and how loud that's going to be?”

One audience member said that they could hear the other shooting range in their back yard and they are over a mile from that location.

Mayor Mayberry addressed the issue saying, “This discussion started June 11, 2015. There has been a total of 7 either work sessions or council meetings in reference to the shooting park. The members of the shooting park board, TWRA, US Fish and Wildlife services, State Senator Paul Bailey, Crossville city employees all have dedicated many hours in advancing to the point we are now and where construction could begin. All the environmental studies and surveys have been approved and secured a highly sought after grant.”

Mayberry continued, “For years this community has complained that there is nothing for our youth to do.” Mayberry listed several ball sports, tumbling and cheering but added there is a large group of kids that are interested in shooting sports. He talked about an email he got from a mother who said her son was unable to compete in other sports but he can shoot. “The city spends thousands of taxpayer dollars to promote our community for tourism. We wouldn't have to spend any on this facility's promotion. When competitions are held here the local hotels, restaurants and campgrounds will benefit greatly but the main thing I want to emphasize is the positive effect this will have on our youth and families. You can't put a price on that.”

Mayberry pointed out that the property location is right by the Interstate and there is noise from it 24/7. He added that he had gotten a copy of an email from someone at Deer Creek who wanted the city to come up with a noise ordinance to quiet down I-40. That comment got a chuckle from the audience.

“As far as I'm concerned, I feel we have a valid contract that needs to be honored. It really bothers me that this council will vote to approve and agenda item and expend employee's time and effort and taxpayer's dollars on a project and possible even receive a grant to later decide to abandon it,” concluded Mayberry.

Ms. Harris said the situation was not good and that it was not an easy position for the council to be sitting in. Harris said she had weighed the issue seriously over the past week adding, “I want this community to have a shooting park. I think it is a wonderful thing for this community to have.”

Harris continued, “The whole thing, in my opinion, was handled somewhat poorly from the front end. None of us did our due diligence and homework as well as we should have and that includes the nonprofit and the city. We all have to take responsibility for that. There should have been a public hearing and an opportunity for people to speak out.”

Councilman Wyatt made a short comment saying, “We don't have zoning in the city or county. That's a bad word around here. It would make it simple if we did (have zoning.)

Councilman Graham called for the question and when the vote on rescidning the contract was taken, council members Graham, Wyatt and Harris voted in favor and Mr. Shanks and Mayor Maybery were opposed with the majority approving the resolution to rescind the contract.

Following the meeting, Crossville shooting Park, Inc board member James Wattenbarger described the council's action as “a big loss for the kids.” He added that the loss of the over $2 million grant would be a big financial loss and there was an unknown economic impact if the project is lost. When asked what was the next step, Wattenbarger said he didn't know yet.          

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