Property rights advocates oppose five-county plan

A PlanET forum discssion group

Residents discuss their vision for a five-county region that includes Anderson, Blount, Loudon, Knox, and Union Counties during a Tuesday forum at Anderson County High School in Clinton.

CLINTON — Although the two sides appeared to engage in a civil discussion, a Tuesday forum again pitted planners and property rights advocates against each other.

The property rights advocates oppose the drafting of a five-county regional development plan known as PlanET.

“I am concerned more about freedom of choice and personal property rights,” said Lynn Byrge, an Anderson County resident and owner of Active Electric in Oak Ridge. He attended a PlanET forum on Tuesday at the Anderson County High School in Clinton.

A protest car at the PlanET forum in Clinton

Those who protest the drafting of a five-county regional development plan are concerned about losing their property rights.

Opponents of the three-year plan, funded with help from a $4.3 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant, draw a connection between PlanET and an international resolution passed in 1992 that was designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas.

“It’s Agenda 21, straight out of the United Nations,” Byrge said.

That resolution has drawn greater scrutiny as activists across the country tie it to a range of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy, according to The New York Times.

But the officials helping to develop the local plan, and currently collecting public input in a week-long series of forums, say they are only asking East Tennesseans to share their vision for the future of the region.

“We have no preset goal,” planner Rob Kerns said. He works for Wallace Roberts and Todd, a planning and design firm based in Philadelphia that was hired to run the PlanET project.

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