BY KEN LITTLE
The Tusculum Planning Commission reviewed plans Monday for the construction project planned for Tusculum College.
The planning commission approved variances to allow setbacks and building heights for two residential housing buildings that will be built on the campus.
Prior to that action, the Tusculum Board of Zoning Appeals waived city requirements for building permits, and the costs of the permits, to the college and contractors.
"All of the approved construction projects meet the federal, state and local building construction requirements and codes. Tusculum College and the general contractors shall be responsible to maintain and/or repair all street damage resulting [from] the new construction on campus," according to the language of a motion read by Mayor John Foster, a member of the planning commission and board of zoning appeals.
Construction work on the first phase of the multi-million-dollar project could begin as soon as this summer, architect John Fisher recently told commission members.
Fisher's company, John Fisher + Associates in Greeneville, is the architectural firm handling the project.
The work at Tusculum College is made possible through a $39 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Community Facilities loan for the renovation of current space and construction of a new science and math building, it was announced in September.
WORKED WITH COLLEGE
"We worked closely with the college to help them to move along with their construction plans. We made some adjustments in their setbacks, and the costs incurred in building-inspection permits, we waived," said Robert Bird, planning commission chairman.
The planning commission "traditionally handles Tusculum College construction projects in a similar way we did tonight," Bird said.
Randy Davenport, an engineer with Vaughn & Melton, the engineering consulting firm working on the project, showed planning commission members a more detailed site plan of the construction project, which will begin with work connected to construction of the two new residential buildings.
The college dormitory setbacks will be three- or four-feet off the road, Davenport said.
CHANGES TO LANDSCAPE
There will be some changes in the college landscape, including moving some stormwater pipes and utilities.
One gravel parking lot will also be removed, and grass will be planted at the site. But there will still be plenty of available parking on campus, said architect Fisher, who was also at the meeting.
There will be no entrances to the campus off Gilland Street, Fisher noted.
Wetland drainage on the campus will also be improved, and should have the effect of cleaning up College Creek, which runs across campus, Fisher said.
"This will be a real good example of how to handle storm water drainage," he said.
The work will have a "very minimal" effect in terms of storm drainage, Davenport said.
Removing the gravel parking lot near Niswonger Commons on campus and replacing it with grass will give the site more of a "courtyard feel," he said.
A SIMILAR APPEARANCE
The two new residence buildings will resemble the four existing ones on campus. They will be constructed of "non-combustible material" and will include fire sprinklers, Fisher said in response to a question by Bird.
The planning board's action means the city "is going to turn the project over to you guys," Foster said.
"We're going to waive our inspection in lieu of you all having your own inspections," Bird said.
The people in charge will be good stewards of the Tusculum College project, Fisher told the board.
"We appreciate the faith and trust," he said.
The college is currently at the "programming" stage with a planned $15 million science building, prior to detailed plans being drawn up.
In other business, the planning commission approved division of the Deborah Russell Knight property on East Andrew Johnson Highway.
The property will be divided into two parcels.
The planning commission approval is contingent upon property-owners getting signed approvals from the Greeneville Light & Power System, the City of Tusculum, street officials, Greene County 911, and several other entities.