CAPPE takes fight to Alcoa Commission

2003-02-27

by Thomas Fraser of The Daily Times Staff

It was a fairly simple item for consideration: A resolution to voice the Alcoa City Commission's support for the completion of the Pellissippi Parkway extension.

And as it often goes, the simplest things draw the most attention.

Seven members of Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension (CAPPE)
showed up during a called meeting of the Alcoa Commission Wednesday to
voice their displeasure at the resolution.

Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson introduced the resolution at the behest of
the Blount County Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee, which
voted unanimously in support of the completion of the extension of
Pellissippi Parkway to East Lamar Alexander Parkway.

Held up in court

The Pellissippi Parkway currently terminates at Cusick Road; completion of
the highway from Old Knoxville Highway to East Lamar Alexander Parkway
is currently halted by an injunction successfully sought by CAPPE.

``There is growing opposition to this project,'' CAPPE member Richard
Furgerson told Alcoa Commissioners before they voted on the resolution.
``There is a court fight going on right now, and it is premature to
consider the resolution at this time.''

The next legal step will be for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to consider an appeal from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration requesting that the agencies be allowed to withdraw their original Environmental Assessment of the project.

CAPPE members are arguing for an Environmental Impact Statement, a more
detailed analysis of the environmental implications of the road's construction.

``The EA didn't give anyone enough information to make an informed decision,'' CAPPE Communications Committee chair Nina Gregg said by telephone after the meeting.

Environmental impact

Several CAPPE members at the meeting asked how the commission could make an informed decision without an EIS.

``The EA done by the state is totally inadequate in addressing those
issues,'' of urban sprawl, air quality and water quality, CAPPE member
Marilyn Wiberley told the commission. ``It's premature and ill-advised
for the commission to vote to approve a resolution for a project that won't
be implemented at this time.''

Gregg said regardless the outcome of the appeal, the group will seek to keep
the injunction in place until an EIS is performed.

Johnson said the intent of the resolution, which argues that ``completion of
the final segment is feasible, logical and necessary to meet the overwhelming traffic concerns facing Blount County today,'' was for the new governor and TDOT commissioner to ``hear another side of the story.

There are people in Blount County that favor this project, and want to see it
completed.''

Alcoa Commissioner Clint Abbott suggested that if the environmental impact
study indicates the project cannot proceed without unreasonable environmental impacts, ``we would not be able to do it.''

Johnson agreed: The project would become a ``moot issue.''

Commissioner George Williams moved for passage of the resolution; Commissioner John Widner offered a second. The resolution passed unanimously, and will be forwarded to the Blount County legislative delegation and the TDOT commissioner.

City lodging tax

Commissioners also passed a resolution that could clear the way for imposition of a 1 percent lodging tax within the city limits. That would mean travelers within Alcoa would be paying a 5 percent lodging tax.

The private act, which will likely be considered with a renewal of the county 4 percent lodging tax, will have to pass both houses of the General Assembly.

After it passes in Nashville, the Blount County Commission will have to once
again give its formal permission for Alcoa to implement its 1 percent tax.

Blount County Clerk Roy Crawford's office will receive 2 percent of annual
revenues for collection services. The city anticipates bringing in about
$120,000 a year after the tax takes effect sometime in May, Johnson
said.

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All materials Copyright 2002 Horvitz Newspapers.