There has been disagreement in East Tennessee over whether local governments and officials ought to be working on a five-county regional development plan known as PlanET.
A Saturday forum will allow residents to hear from both sides. Two officials helping to develop the plan are scheduled to take part and so are two speakers who plan to discuss the “pitfalls of central planning for sustainability.”
“What we really want is for people who are undecided about it all to come, and listen to the two groups on the panel presenting their views, then taking questions from the general audience,” said Oak Ridge resident Robert Humphries, who provided information on the five-hour forum.
The forum begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bearden Banquet Hall on Kingston Pike in Knoxville. It will feature Mark Donaldson, executive director of the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission; Jeff Welch, director of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization; and Don Casey and Ken Freeman. Casey and Freeman are described in event materials as smart growth and sustainability experts who helped pass pro-property rights legislation in Alabama.
The forum has been organized by the nonprofit Tennessee Liberty Alliance.
“While planning activities of any nature is always a wise thing to do, questions abound regarding those who are making the decisions without oversight from the citizens that are to be served by the planning efforts,” a TLA press release said.
TLA said there is a range of questions about the planning effort.
“The main concerns seem to be centered around the amount of authority that the un-elected commissions have in regards to individual rights to property,” the press release said.
Those who have supported PlanET say they are hoping to build regional cooperation, help create jobs, and understand important community issues. Officials describe the project as a regional partnership of nonprofit representatives, business leaders, and planning and transportation experts, and residents in Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union counties.
Meanwhile, those who have opposed the drafting of the plan say they are concerned about losing their property rights. They have tied it to an international resolution known as Agenda 21 that was passed in 1992 and designed to urge nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas.
PlanET is funded with help from a $4.3 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant. The three-phase planning process began last year and is managed by the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Several forums have been held in Oak Ridge and Anderson County as part of the planning process.
A finished product is due by Jan. 1, 2014.
More information on Saturday’s banquet is available at www.tnliberty.org.
More information on PlanET is available at www.planeasttn.org.