Property owners should be notified for true transparency

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
April 17, 2011

On Lyons View Pike, near Cherokee Country Club, there is an empty 70-year-old mansion on 24 beautiful waterfront acres owned by the University of Tennessee.

I am considering gathering a group of friends as a task force to compose a plan for the recommended use of this house. Specifically, if UT ever wants to use the building, it would be required to dedicate one room as a multi-screen theater for my friends and me to watch football and basketball during bowl season and the NCAA tournament. The east side of the lawn would be set aside for an annual tractor pull and motor-cross course.

Then we will get Knoxville and Knox County to approve our recommendations and direct the appropriate government department to use the plan when deciding what UT can and can’t do with the house.

Here’s the beauty of my Extreme Home Takeover Plan. We’ll never tell UT what we’re doing to its property.

Sound crazy?

If you own property in Knox County (either inside or outside the city limits,) then pay attention. It’s not so farfetched.

For the past three years, a task force has been developing a plan that, if approved by both County Commission and City Council, would be used to promulgate new regulations regarding the use and development of property within all of Knox County.

No potentially effected property owner has ever been personally notified of this plan or if it places new restrictions on the potential development or use of his property.

I am a strong proponent of personal property rights. Surprise, surprise.

My objection, however, has nothing to do with my philosophical objection to its premise. It is simply morally wrong to institute the largest effective land use overlay without individually notifying each of the potentially effected property owners.

What excuse was originally given for not providing written notification? A lack of $17,000 for postage and post cards.

The creation of the plan cost $300,000.

Someone doesn’t want to notify the potentially effected taxpayers because they know the response: 5,000 angry and confused Knox County property owners trying to cram into the City County Building.

Proponents of this plan argue that the process has been a community collaboration from the start. Commissioner Tony Norman noted, however, that the public meetings sometimes drew only one or two public participants.

The people who would have been at those meetings were like me. I had no idea that task force members from Sequoyah Hills and Island Home, some with philosophical predispositions to little bitty houses on little bitty lots, were making decisions about the future of my east Knox County farm.

The new buzz phrase coming out of the City County Building is “transparency.” If our elected officials actually believe in that concept, they will not send this plan back to MPC for reconsideration. They will not micromanage slope degrees or home densities.

They will stop the process - then notify every potentially effected property owner. And when those taxpayers show up downtown, the legislators will listen to every one of them, whether they own one acre or one hundred.

That is transparency.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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