Developers have proposed building a large townhome neighborhood on a vacant commercial property located off E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. Spanning about 95 acres inside Maryville city limits, Walmart had purchased the property in 2015 with intentions to build a store.
Since the property is in a commercially-designated area of the city known as the business and transportation zone, Maryville Board of Zoning Appeals had to first sign off on granting townhomes as an appropriate use — special exception — for the property.
In a 3-2 vote, the request to build 150 townhomes off the highway passed in the BZA. Suzette Donovan and Clint Woodfin voted down the request, with Gary Best, James Tomiczek and Mike Brown voting favorably.
Before the vote, residential neighbor Hunter Ramsey to the north of the property said he was concerned the development would cut off his and several neighbors access to their homes.
“A 150 new potential neighbors, definitely just a little uneasy feeling, I guess you could say,” Ramsey said.
His and several other properties are accessible from Woodland Acres Drive, which cuts through the middle of the 95-acre property. And it’s a privately-maintained roadway, meaning the city doesn’t own the land under it.
When Walmart purchased the property, Ramsey said they never found a solution for access.
A representative from project builders Home Development Inc. committed to working with property owners of the neighboring homes to ensure a solution was in place for everyone.
Deputy Development Services Director Jordan Clark said the role of the BZA is to consider whether or not the requested use of the 95 acre property is appropriate for the area. He encouraged Ramsey to attend all public meetings considering the townhomes in the future.
Next month, Maryville Planning Commission will further consider details about the design of the property, and Clark said the city wouldn’t be able to formerly designate it for townhomes until the access issue is solved.
Tomiczek preemptively asked what amenities would be available on site, which the development representative said would be marketed around $200 per square foot. And each townhome would average 2,600 square feet.
A swimming pool and large community building would be built, among other amenities the representative mentioned. Developers also plan to route a greenway extension through the property.
BZA member Woodfin, who voted against the townhomes, asked about potential strain additional residences that target families could create on Maryville City Schools. It’s now proposed to have four and three bedroom, two story units.
“One of our standards for granting a special exception is will it create an impact on public services,” Woodfin said. “Schools being a public service, if we have an influx of 300 initial children, that’s going to really give on our schools.”
“The school question isn’t necessarily a matter for the BZA to take up as an evaluation of a use,” Clark said. “It’s one of the services the city has to provide.” He further added when the city evaluates whether a development request is an appropriate use for a property, public education is considered the same as providing emergency response like police and fire.
“So if we started down the road of telling people we won’t approve your development because of the school system, then we would never be able to approve hardly any development in the city,” Clark said.
MCS is designing an expansion to Maryville High School that will create space for middle, intermediate and high school students — planned to have a first stage complete by 2025.
Number of townhomes — and potential increase in MCS enrollment — will depend on whether developers are able to encourage commercial businesses along the front of the property.
The development representative said they would keep property along the highway unbuilt for about a year to see if anyone is interested in buying it to open a business.
“We’re not giving up on commercial stuff,” he said. “We’re trying to hold it as long as we can to try and see something happen there. But if it never happens, we’re going to finish up with all these 150 (townhomes).”