Residents on Riversedge Road in Louisville are worried about their new neighbors.
Nearly 19 acres of Alcoa land on Topside Road is being developed into an office building and vehicle lot for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a business with a vested interest because of its proximity to McGhee Tyson Airport.
But safety concerns and potential traffic issues have brought around 20 Riversedge Road residents to two Alcoa planning meetings thus far to express their fear that increased activity in the area spells danger and inconvenience for the lakeside homeowners.
The project involves spaces for more than 100 vehicles to park and varying internal roads on the lot which allow employees to travel in and out of Topside Road and Riversedge. It will also allow them to travel around the large campus on golf carts.
Thus far, only heavy grading and some construction has taken place on the project, which was approved by Alcoa planning commissioners late in 2018 and may wrap up in the next year.
Regardless, it is set to become a bustling central location for Enterprise where sedans, vans and semi-trucks alike will be coming and going daily.
A dangerous spot
“It’s bad now, but it’s going to get worse,” Al Green, a Riversedge homeowner said in an interview. Along with fellow Riversedge homeowners Robb Unger and Orlando Lomascolo, Green has taken the podium at public city meetings, talking about how the low visibility at their road’s intersection with Topside and the high speeds at which people drive are already an issue.
“It’s about them coming out on our road when really it’s not necessary,” Green said, referring to Enterprise’s vehicles. “They’re trying to accommodate their employees — which I know that’s what it’s about. But it sure is making a mess for this neighborhood.”
Green and Lomascolo both said traffic in the area around peak commute times gets bad enough on Alcoa Highway that people use Topside to get around the delays. Cars go too fast, traffic gets backed up, and ultimately, residents trying to get out of Riversdge neighborhood — a dead end road — are getting the short end of the stick, Green indicated.
With more cars going in and out on a day-to-day basis as a result of Enterprise operations, residents say the situation is just waiting for a serious accident and major local delays to happen.
“Trying to get out near five o’clock ... I’m never even second in line,” Lomascolo explained of the Riversedge-Topisde intersection delays. “When you pull up there and you’re 12th or 15th in line, they’re coming out and you got to sit there and wait on them, it could take 45 minutes to get out.”
Lomascolo and others said they had hoped access to the new campus would have been more restricted to the access point just down the way on Topside Road near Singleton Station Road.
But for these residents, the issue isn’t only about convenience: it’s personal.
“They know our concerns, but nothing’s changed,” Green said. “I’m gong to tell you. I have grandkids ... The first time somebody gets hurt up there, I’ll be at their next meeting.”
And Green said he’s not the only person in the area concerned about safety for newly-licensed teenagers who are coming to visit their grandparents’ homes on the lake.
Despite residents concerns, plans for the site have not changed significantly.
Alcoa City Planner Jeremy Pearson said the site has gone through several layers of planning and approval and that the city has done its due diligence in posting meetings and meeting notes in public.
Residents say they would have appreciated a sign in the area alerting them to upcoming development so they would have had time to address it earlier in meetings. But the city is not required to put a sign up or knock on residents’ doors before a development is approved.
“The agendas are published in detail,” Pearson said. However, he added there is no formal requirement for either the city or a developer to reach out to a neighborhood that may be affected by a development as significant as the Enterprise project. “From a site development standpoint, at this time we do not have any other notifications,” Pearson said.
However, the project has undergone several stops and starts, even being deferred this summer as planners took a more concentrated look at access issues.
“(For) a developer to engage the neighborhood,” Pearson added, “is not a bad thing.”
Enterprise representatives have appeared at several meetings to address both commission and resident concerns. Enterprise Holdings Operations Supervisor Elizabeth DeJong has talked one-on-one and publicly to the Riversedge residents.
DeJong took time to explain to residents and commissioners exactly who will be working on the campus and how much traffic the company expects. She said that “only a handful” of employees will need to use the Riversedge access point and that any trucks entering the site will use Topside entrance.
“The problem is we have a lot of peaks and valleys in our fleet,” DeJong said during a Sept. 19 meeting. “So you’re going to see twice a year during our fall and our spring pull, you’re going to see those numbers really jump up for the truck traffic ... 10 to 12 a day, maybe.”
She stipulated that the campus will not look like “a truck station, but that there will be trucks consistently entering the area full of cars and exiting without them.
“That’s another area of communication that we have no problem implementing with our team,” DeJong told gathered residents. “If we need to make sure we are coaching our drivers, ‘Hey this is the direction we need you to go ...’ that’s not a problem for us.”
These reassurances, however, have not alleviated all residents’ concerns. Green and Lomascolo said that short of something like a roundabout, the area is going to be congested and more dangerous for both residents and Enterprise drivers alike.
They expressed in meetings and interviews they wished there had been more communication from the city and Enterprise about the project before designs were finalized.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s East Tennessee operations are centered out of Knoxville and the development will bring tax revenue to the Alcoa where the airport’s commercial footprint continues to grow.
The Enterprise development project has not been on the planning commission agenda for the past months and will not be addressed in Thursday’s meeting outside of further resident input.
For the moment, the campus will be developed as approved by the planning commission.