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Residents Express Concerns About New Greeneville Fire Station

Residents expressed concerns Tuesday about a proposed site for a new station for the Greeneville Fire Department between Carson and Forest streets to members of the town’s Regional Planning Commission.

Most of those concerns, primarily in regards to noise and traffic around the proposed fire station, were discussed during a meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals following the planning commission meeting. The planning commission members comprise the Board of Zoning Appeals.

A side yard setback variance and an exemption to allow a public building on the property, which is in a R-3 residential zone, were approved by the board.

The action followed comments from residents about the proposed fire station. Dennis Silva, who lives on Forest Street near the proposed location, said that residents now hear sirens from Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Medical Service ambulances as they leave from its station on Forest Street near the Asheville Highway intersection. “The same thing is going to happen with the Fire Department,” he said.

Greeneville Fire Chief Alan Shipley also commented about the department’s plans to reduce noise around the station for the neighboring residents. “We want to be a good neighbor,” he said.

Greeneville Planning Director Logan Engle told the board that the fire department is requesting the side yard setback variance to allow the building to be moved closer to Maude Street and away from the remaining lots in the block that front Takoma Avenue, which have been purchased by the Greeneville Adventist Academy.

The variance is needed because the R-3 zone requires 50 feet of side yard setback for a public use structure, which is much more restrictive than it requires for residences, Engle said. A single family residence is required to have a side yard setback of 8 feet.

The variance would allow the new fire station to be built 20 feet from the property line. A site plan has not yet been prepared for the new station, she said, as the department is still looking at its requirements. That site plan will require the approval of the planning commission.

In addition, the Zoning Ordinance requires that the public use of the property, which is a permitted use, be approved by the board, she explained.


Silva addressed the board as the meeting began, also giving members a document listing his concerns.

While he understands the need for a new fire station, he told the board, he is concerned about the noise and traffic as well as whether the facility would cause his property to depreciate in value.

Silva said he would be opposed to the fire station having its primary access point on Forest Street, adding that the secondary streets are not cleaned immediately when it snows.

The currently vacant property has been used for many years for practice space for children’s sports teams, and there is little open green space in that area for teams to practice, Silva also said. As a grandfather, he said, he was also concerned about his grandchildren playing outside as some are not old enough to realize the danger from traffic.

Another resident on Forest Street and one on Carson Street also expressed concerns about the noise and additional traffic that the fire station may cause. They asked if other locations had been considered.

Shipley said the department had looked at two other properties, but there would be more issues with traffic safety at those and both were in a residential area, as well.

The new station will be a replacement for the existing Station 2 at the intersection of Asheville Highway and Vann Road. That station was constructed 50 years ago, he said, and safe access to the adjacent roadways has increasingly become an issue.

In addition, the structure was built for fire trucks of that time, which did not weigh as much as the vehicles the department uses now, Shipley said. The department has had to repair the floor six times in the station.

When looking for properties, the department looked for property that was in the same area as the existing Station 2 to meet a requirement to keep its ISO rating at the same level, Shipley said. The better a department’s ISO rating, the lower that insurance premiums can be for property owners in the region served by that department. The property on Carson Street is within that area.

The department is considering ways to have less impact on the residential neighborhood, Shipley said, including not sounding its sirens until the trucks travel onto Monroe Street to reach West Main Street.

Preliminarily, the department has plans for the building to face Carson Street with trucks leaving for emergency calls onto a short section of Carson before entering Monroe, he said. Plans also call for a drive-thru type entrance, which would allow trucks to re-enter the station from Forest Street, reducing noise from the warning beeps sounded when the trucks are put into reverse.

In other business, the board approved a variance for the placement of a primary residence behind an existing accessory structure at 216 Oliphant Drive, due to the front portion of the property lying in a flood plain.


One item on the agenda for the planning commission regarded the proposed fire station. The commission approved the combination of the six lots the Town of Greeneville purchased for the new fire station into a single parcel, totaling 1.95 acres.

In other business, a preliminary site plan for a second Eastman Credit Union branch in Greeneville was approved by the planning commission. The new branch is proposed at 845 West Andrew Johnson Highway, beside the Aubrey’s restaurant.

A brick building about 5,000 square feet in size and similar in appearance to Eastman Credit Union’s other branches is planned on the site with 70 parking spaces around the building, according to the site plan. Access to the branch will be given by driveways connecting to Banks Street and a private drive that runs between the restaurant and the ECU lot.

The planning commission also gave its recommendation for approval of a rezoning for property at 3870 Asheville Highway from R-1 low density residential to B-1 neighborhood business. Engle explained that because the property is close to the Greeneville’s corporate limits in the town’s urban growth boundary, the planning commission is required to consider the rezoning request for a recommendation to the Greene County Commission, which will make the final decision regarding the proposal.

The B-1 neighborhood business zoning in the county is restrictive of what types of businesses can be located in that zone, she continued.

The owner of the property would like to build a small building for a retail business there, Engle said, noting that the owner’s family operates a small boutique across the road from the property proposed for the rezoning.

A changing of a lot line between two parcels of property in the 500-block of Tusculum Boulevard was also given approval.

Foggy Morning On Monument Hill

JUDD: Getting The Words Right Makes All The Difference

My journalism advisor at Tennessee Tech back in the 1970s used to tell the story of one of his journalism graduates who got a newspaper reporting job.

One of his first assignments involved interviewing a man known to be hesitant about talking to the press.

The reporter got his interview and wrote the story with great care, trying hard to do a good job so as not to further prejudice the man against reporters.

His phone rang a day or so after the story ran. He answered and heard the man he’d interviewed tell him: “You made me sound like a babbling chimpanzee.” Then came the click of the phone hanging up.

That’s just one illustration of how important it is to choose the right words, whether you are a reporter writing a story, a teacher speaking to a class, a politician orating for votes, a minister presenting a sermon, or a family friend delivering a funeral eulogy.

I was reminded of how easy it is to make errors in a story I wrote a few days ago that included a comment from Richard Southerland, whom I’ve known for many years. I unwittingly typed “Bob Southerland” instead. I’ve known Bob for years, too, which probably contributed to me not noticing what I’d done.

Both, I hope, will forgive the blunder.

Choosing the wrong words sometimes can generate awkward situations. I remember a video clip of a country singer in concert, doing that patronize-the-venue location thing performers always do: “It’s great to be here in Kansas City, Missouri!” The only problem was, he was in Kansas City, Kansas, which the crowd quickly let him know.

There was a banquet speaker here in Greeneville once who spoke about the pleasure of visiting the hometown of President Andrew Jackson. Well, no. Not quite right.

On a more childish level, my first granddaughter, when she was first learning to talk and to sing songs, had her own version of “Bah Bah Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool?” She would sing, “Bah Bah, Black Sheep, have you any weed?” Her parents quickly taught her the right word in case that black sheep turned out to be an undercover Drug Task Force officer.

My dad had his own set of mispronounced words. He pronounced “mustache” as “mush-tash.” The word “area” usually came out as a-REE-ah, the first syllable pronounced as a long A.

Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once referred to the “Alcoholics Unanimous” 12-step program. And an Australian governmental leader publicly assured the world that no single person is the “suppository of all wisdom.”

Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith Show was forever saying things in his own charmingly inept way: Sigmund Frood. Compelshun. The Smith Brothers Institution in Washington. Kleptomineracks. Avaricious reader. Larnyx. Therapetic.

A friend of my father pronounced Beethoven’s name as “Bee-thoo-vin,” “Bach” as “Batch,” and dandelion as “dandy-loin.” Dad had enough mischief in his soul to enjoy correcting him.

Some pronunciations aren’t incorrect, but merely reflect the particular accent of the person saying the word. Former Sun coworker Bianca Marais, who is from South Africa and retains her native accent, always said my name as “Cah-meron,” which made it sound a little more elegant than usual.

Sean Bride, a former coworker from my Tusculum days, is an Englishman who usually pronounced the first name of Eugenia Estes, who also worked at the school at that time, as “You-jeener.” Sean’s wife’s name is Angela, and it usually came out sounding like “Anjuh-ler” when he said it. It’s just an accent thing.

Jonesborough’s Tim Stafford, guitarist/vocalist with the bluegrass band Blue Highway, is a Northeast Tennessean who speaks like a Northeast Tennessean and makes no pretense otherwise. On his Facebook page he even gives his name pronunciation as “TAY-um STAY-ferd.”

Melanie Hilliard, a fellow Greeneville Sun employee, told me she once heard “Tay-um Stay-ferd” introducing a song written by Sting as being by “Stang.”

I once made a joke own my Facebook page about how, had Leonard Cohen been born in certain parts of rural Tennessee, his best-known song might have been “Hala-looyer.” I felt honored when Erin Hensley Schultz, who performs comedy on stage, asked if she could use that line. I am glad for her to do so, if she deems it good enough.

My New York literary agent, Richard Curtis, once told me, in his New York accent, that I have “country boy chahm.” (Translated from Manhattan-speak, that means, “Cameron, you’re a hick but I like you anyway.”)

Sometimes words are not misplaced, mispronounced or misspelled, but are wrongly received by the hearer or reader.

I was writing a newspaper story about a church’s new pastor one time, and he’d given me some written material outlining his ideas about what made for an effective church. In reading it, I was puzzled to see that he listed the most important factor in church success to be “a strong puppet ministry.”

Huh? I knew a lot of churches had puppet ministries for children’s services and the like, but it seemed odd to emphasize puppets that much. I looked at the page again. Yep, there it was: “a strong puppet ministry.”

I blinked hard a couple of times, pounded the heel of my hand on the side of my head, gave the page one more look and saw that the phrase was “pulpit ministry,” not “puppet ministry.” I’m glad I got that clarified before writing the story.

Here’s one I have to tell on my wife. We were in a mall three or four years ago, looking at a shelf full of scented candles. Rhonda picked one up, glanced at it, then did a double-take and squinted at it intently. She laughed, showed me the candle, and told me what was going on.

The scent of the candle was “Dockside.”

Rhonda had looked at it way too hurriedly the first time, and read “Dockside” as “Backside.”

Probably not one of that store’s best-selling candles, I’m guessing.

Moral of the story: when it comes to words, follow Davy Crockett’s advice to first “make sure you’re right,” and only then “go ahead.”

Tusculum Planners Endorse TDOT Mobility Grant Application

The Tusculum Planning Commission Tuesday night endorsed the submission of a Community Transportation Planning Grant grant by the city to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The acting president of Tusculum College, Dr. Greg Nelson, was at the meeting to offer the college’s support on behalf of incoming President Dr. Scott Hummel in the grant application process.

The TDOT transportation grant, if awarded, has a $125,000 cap, with a 10 percent local match. City officials hope Tusculum University can contribute to the local match should the grant be awarded.

Mayor Alan Corley, also a planning commission member and member of the Tusculum University Board of Trustees, met recently with a TDOT official and Chase Milner of the First Tennessee Development District about projects that might address transportation needs in the city.

“The more I talked about transportation needs the more they focused on that grant,” Corley said.

Pedestrian safety and more efficient traffic control are two topics regularly raised by citizens, and applying for the TDOT grant was suggested as a means to find solutions.

The grant will be formally submitted by the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Commissioners, which discussed the grant application at its December meeting.

“The mayor and aldermen need the blessing and approval of the (planning) commission to move forward on this,” said Dale Landers, planning commission chairman.

Milner, Rural Planning Organization coordinator with the First Tennessee Development District, is assisting the city in preparing the grant application to TDOT.

Milner said the city and Tusculum University will jointly submit the application for TDOT’s 2019-2020 Community Transportation Planning Grant in an effort to create a Community Mobility Plan.

If funded, the mobility plan “will help to identify the existing multi-modal, and the future transportation systems as planned by the University Master Plan” that may include roadways, public transportation, rail, bicycle and pedestrian facilities “that are needed to safely serve the current and anticipated travel demand in the growing population and student body,” according to information furnished by Milner.

The Community Mobility Plan will “help to strengthen the connection and community vision” between city transportation planning and the university’s Campus Master Plan, which was last updated in 2002.

“The planning commission recognizes the increasing vehicular and pedestrian traffic around the campus of Tusculum University as well as vehiclar traffic on East Andrew Johnson Highway, the Tusculum Bypass, Erwin Highway, Harlan Street and Sam Doak Drive is posing additional safety issues for both drivers and pedestrians,” the resolution adopted Tuesday night said in part.

Milner gave planning commission members information that specified some of the improvements that might be made through resources provided by a TDOT grant.

The CMP would analyze transportation factors in the city, including roadway design deficiencies along Erwin Highway and State Route 107, roadway capacity issues, pedestrian and traffic safety issues, and intermodal issues such as bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation.

A study of a proposed Shiloh Road closure and development “of alternative collector roads surrounding the university,” using Gilland Street as a possible bypass collector, also may be undertaken if a grant is awarded.

The city could then apply for subsequent grants to implement recommendations of a CMP, Milner said.

The city must provide information to Milner by Jan. 24 to submit the grant. The area that would be earmarked for improvements also includes businesses and residential property, in addition to churches.

“It’s kind of a unique area someone with expertise really needs to take a look at,” Landers said.

Landers said there is a much greater traffic volume in Tusculum than when the Campus Master Plan was last updated in 2002.

Tusculum University will partner with the city in shaping a new plan reflecting more students and traffic in the university area, Nelson said.

“The answer is yes, this university will play a part in doing that,” he said. “From my viewpoint, all the reasons are here for moving this ahead. I don’t have any problems committing the new president (Hummel) to this.”

Nelson said the university will take a proactive role in the application process.

“It’s just a matter of, lets get aboard and make it happen,” he said.

With the Niswonger College of Optometry set to launch in fall 2021, there will be more students on campus, with the possibility of even more in coming years as other professional schools open at the university, Nelson said.

“You are going to see more students on campus,” he said. “We will do what we can to get this grant.”

Corley said sidewalks along Erwin Highway and other long-discussed safety issues may be addressed in the TDOT grant.

“In the past, we haven’t had a lot of professional guidance. I hope this gives us a plan,” Corley said.

Milner said the awarding of TDOT grants should be announced in the spring. If bids are approved in the summer, work could be underway by fall on the plan, he said.

Pedestrian safety, roadway deficiencies and sign deficiencies are three priority areas that could be addressed if a grant is awarded, Milner said.

“It’s really a way to put into place some 21st century improvements on the campus and in the community,” he said.

Gov. Lee Says He Will Sign Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that he’ll sign into law a measure that would assure continued taxpayer funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies even if they exclude LGBT families and others based on religious beliefs.

The GOP-controlled Senate gave the bill final passage on the first day of the 2020 legislative session after it was initially approved by the House last April. The bill was sent to the Republican governor amid warnings by critics of possible negative consequences for Tennessee’s reputation.

Lee’s communication director, Chris Walker, confirmed in a statement Tuesday evening that the governor would sign the bill. Earlier, before the Senate vote, Lee declined to weigh in after saying he had not read the two-page bill.

“We are off to a fine start this session,” state Sen. Steve Dickerson joked while debating against the bill earlier as the lone Republican opposed.

A handful of states to date have enacted similar legislation including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, Mississippi and Michigan. But Michigan agreed in settling a lawsuit to no longer turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections.

Nationally, supporters argue such measures are needed to protect against potential lawsuits hostile to the group’s religious beliefs. However, critics counter that the proposals attack LGBT rights and limit the number of qualified families seeking to adopt or foster needy children.

“This bill is solely about freedom,” said Sen. Paul Rose, the Republican sponsor of the bill.

Rose conceded he thought the bill wasn’t necessary, pointing out that President Donald Trump’s administration is currently proposing a rule that would impose the same protections. Yet he said he advanced the bill this year because there was no guarantee Trump would be reelected later this year.

Trump’s proposal would rescind an Obama-era rule that prevented foster care agencies from receiving federal funds if they discriminated against families based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ultimately, 20 Republicans approved the bill while five other Republican members simply voted “present” even after some questioned the bill’s benefits.

Dickerson was the only Republican to join the Senate’s five Democrats in opposition. He said the bill would allow certain groups to limit the families where children could be sent, adding “I expect that waiting list to increase somewhat.”

He added, “This will have a direct fiscal impact on the state, not to mention the humanitarian impact and emotional impact on those children who ... will now be in a foster setting for a longer time.”

In 2011, Illinois declined to renew its state contract with Catholic Charities adoption services due to its policy of refusing child placement to same-sex couples. Catholic Charities has also stopped handling adoptions in Washington D.C., Massachusetts and San Francisco over concerns they would be required to act against their religious beliefs.

If the proposal becomes law as the governor has signaled, current adoption practices in Tennessee aren’t expected to change. Some faith-based agencies already do not allow gay couples to adopt. But this measure would provide legal protections to agencies that do.

For example, denied applicants couldn’t sue an agency for damages if the religious belief or moral conviction was cited as a reason.

The legislation sparked opposition from civil rights and foster advocates.

“The foster care system is at a critical juncture where it is required by new federal law to reduce the number of children placed in harmful group homes and to expand family home options for children who cannot safely return to their family of origin,” said Currey Cook, counsel and director of Lambda Legal. “Children who need more homes, not fewer, should not suffer as part of efforts to chip away at equality for LGBTQ families.”

Over in the House, lawmakers had less on tap on opening day though an unrelated political development unfolded.

Republican Rep. David Byrd confirmed he doesn’t plan to seek reelection this year. Byrd had been accused of sexual misconduct by three women when he was their high school basketball coach and a teacher decades ago, before being elected. He was reelected in 2018 despite the accusations.

Byrd said he told GOP colleagues in an August closed door gathering that he wouldn’t run again, as The Tennessean had reported.

“I told my caucus I wouldn’t go run, and I hate to go back on my word, even though I’m getting a lot of pressure put on me in my district to run,” Byrd told The Associated Press.

Byrd had apologized to one of the women in a phone call she recorded in early 2018, but didn’t detail his action and denied anything happened with other students.

He said he might change his mind and seek reelection if protests continue over the allegations. Another Republican has filed for his seat.