Annexation has become a “dirty word,” said Maryville City Manager Greg McClain.
Population and land area growth in Maryville is a hot topic in the city, from those directly involved in city decisions to those indirectly involved – ratepayers and residents.
McClain said the root of the problem is politically steeped misinformation about growth and development in Blount County.
“The best we can do as a community and as a government, as a planning commission, as a city council, is to strategize about how best to grow,” McClain said. “You’re going to grow up, and you better think about it completely.”
In an effort to get an overall picture of how Maryville city staff, planning commission members, and elected commissioners thought about growth and development through annexation, the city held a table round Monday.
Land Use Planning Administrator Jillian Love briefed attendees on how annexation should and has historically been used.
Love said public health, safety and welfare are a top priority of the annexation, like a county landlord near the outskirts of town with a failing septic system and asking to be part of the town for sewer services.
County property can be annexed to Maryville by two means, Love said, the owner’s application or the passing of a city-proposed referendum.
The topic of individual house annexations elicited different views from roundtable participants.
Some felt that annexations of single-family homes should be taken on a case-by-case basis, while others believed they should essentially not be allowed.
A recent vote by the Board of Commissioners regarding a family wishing to annex to Maryville to attend the school system sparked discussion. The chatter during the work session hinted at a convincing argument made by a father to send his child to the same school his friends and neighbors attended.
Several parties agreed that annexation to attend schools in the city of Maryville was the primary reason people requested the line change.
The main argument for not allowing single-family home annexations was fear of a domino effect – if a property with school-age children is annexed to Maryville, 100 might follow.
“It’s hard to look people in the face and say, ‘I know you live on a street in the city of Maryville, but you can’t be in Maryville,'” said Keri Prigmore, chair of the commission of planning and school administrator for the city of Alcoa. “But I have to take into account that being in education, this five-year plan, it runs out very quickly.”
Others said the public deserved the opportunity to make their case to the planning commission and then to council, as special circumstances may exist.
McClain proposed a different approach to controlling growth and development.
As the land is mapped now, properties within the limits of urban growth in Maryville and properties only in Blount County are zoned for the same development density.
In order to prevent sprawl, which is sporadic urban growth in rural areas, development must stay toward the center, McClain said.
“If I can build as dense here near the mountains as I can near the city,” McClain said, “that’s a problem. A lot of people don’t like the urban growth limit because it allows people to grow in the county… it’s going to grow, we can’t stop it. So if it’s going to grow, push it close to where we can serve it.
Infrastructure, such as roads, sewers and water lines, is more easily maintained in and near cities than on the outskirts of the county.
McClain suggested the county could adjust land use density so that Maryville’s urban growth boundary can accommodate more development than property in the outlying county.