Over recent months, the KP-SHA Facebook page has updated the neighborhood about the situation at 3222 Kingston Pike – the old Christenberry home. The present plans for sale of this property raise a number of issues at the heart of KP-SHA bylaws: preserving the historic integrity of Sequoyah Hills, keeping Kingston Pike safe, and protecting Sequoyah Hills from further high-density development, by maintaining our R-1, single-family home zoning.
A developer currently under contract to buy the property proposes to save & restore the historic home and build 24-28 condos behind the home. This appears to satisfy one of our by-laws --- saving the historic home. However, changing the zoning to RP-1 (high-density development) in order to build condos sets a precedent that threatens EVERY other historic home with acreage on Kingston Pike. This means that we would be saving one home, but encouraging the loss of many others. Furthermore, this developer has requested to change the home from residential to commercial, which would require a Use on Review and raise further complications.
If the RP-1 (high-density) zoning is approved, a precedent will have been set. It will be difficult for MPC or City Council to deny a future developer what they have granted this current one. If this goes through, we can expect our riverside homes to be destroyed one by one, replaced by high-density structures. This would not only change our historic and unique cityscape from Kingston Pike, but also our idyllic views from the river.
This zoning request and planned development also raises important safety issues for everyone who travels on Kingston Pike. This home sits on one of the most dangerous curves in Knoxville. KP-SHA has counted over 40 fatalities there. Knoxville Traffic Engineering stated that adding 24-28 condos would have the same effect as adding 100 units and warned of the repercussions. A Traffic Engineering Professor at UT reached out to us after studying the property and pleaded for us to fight the development: "Many more people will die if you allow this." The developer paid for his own traffic study, which showed sight lines to be adequate. The UT Professor looked at the study, however, and called it "deeply flawed." Regardless of what any traffic study says, the truth is that over 40 people have already been killed, and this development will exacerbate the danger.
There are two things to consider if we "win" and RP-1 is NOT granted. First, it is possible that the home will be demolished; the owner has already pulled a demolition permit. But remember, even if we lose this home, we will have added a layer of protection over all of the others. Second, our current R-1 zoning allows for many single-family homes on the existing five acres. It is possible that a developer will want to build an unsightly subdivision, visually polluting both Kingston Pike and the river. This is unlikely because of lower profit margins for the developer, as well as the existing traffic safety issues - but it is a possibility.
Finally, KP-SHA realizes that the odds are slim of getting an “angel” buyer to purchase the property, restore the home, and use the entire property for a single family. This is a very expensive proposition for one family. The best compromise for the neighborhood would be for the five acres to be divided into three or four lots, with the historic home being saved and single family homes being built on each remaining lot. Knoxville’s Traffic Engineering stated that this proposition would be ideal and would have little or no ill effects on the safety on Kingston Pike. There is possible outside interest for this proposition.
Just down the road, another historic home on three acres of riverfront property is also under contract. Its developer is taking exactly this approach. He is saving the historic home and selling two remaining lots as riverfront property for a single home, with no changes to our zoning laws. The KP-SHA has supported this plan.
The rezoning request will be taken before City Council in the coming weeks.
Kingston Pike Sequoyah Hills Association