A new video produced and released by East Knoxville's Park City Preservation Alliance (http://www.preserveparkcity.org/) is making the rounds on social media this weekend as a rallying cry to "Save Caswell Park." The video is a response to the City of Knoxville's proposal to re-zone a portion of the park from its protective "Park & Open Space" zoning to a planned residential development, effectively transferring public park land to private hands for housing.

To watch and share the video, visit: https://youtu.be/nKdtzEDJDWE

The ten minute documentary style video explains some of the history of the formerly segregated park, including the history that part of the park had been sold before (in the 1920s), and that several parks serving predominantly Black neighborhoods had been sold during the period of urban renewal.

The video captures the idea that when West Knoxville park land was threatened with residential development, the law was literally changed to prevent that from happening (giving rise to the City's protective "Park and Open Space" zoning, also known as OS-2). When an East Knoxville park serving a diverse, lower income neighborhood is again threatened with development, the City Administration says that law doesn't even apply.

Tuesday night's City Council meeting will determine if a secretive "Land Acquisition Committee" vote to dispose of park land, a planning commission recommendation based on misinformation, and five Council votes and two readings are all that stand between public park land being sold or given away for private development.

Snipping of ordinance proposing to give away Caswell Park.

This is the first real test of the City's Park & Open Space zoning. The reality is that if the zoning is not protective of this park, it doesn't protect any park, and everyone's neighborhood park is just one development proposal away from being given away.

To watch and share the video, visit: https://youtu.be/nKdtzEDJDWE

To write your Council members and weigh in, visit http://knoxvilletn.gov/government/city_council/city_council_members.

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission will decide on October 10, 2019 whether to recommend rezoning of a roughly 1 acre section of Caswell Park for residential development, but the cutoff for public comments is a full week earlier: October 2 at 3 PM.

Residents are scrambling to get comments in with little over a week since the plan to rezone public park land to high density, planned residential development was revealed at the City's single public information meeting held September 23 at the Knoxville Area Urban League in the Parkridge Community of East Knoxville.

With the clock ticking down, over 25 residents responded to an action alert urging planning commissioners to consider a 60 day delay on the premise that public park land should never be sold or given away for development without extensive opportunities for public input and oversight. Parkridge residents in particular feel the single, short-notice public meeting and single week to submit comments to the Planning Commission does not qualify as "extensive public review and input" called for by City Council in 2010 when OS-2 zoning (Parks and Open Space District) protective of public park land was first proposed in response to efforts to develop 5 acres of Lakeshore Park as supportive housing.

Community activists say needed public review and input has been hampered by the Community Development Department's "active misrepresentation of the status of the land" giving rise to "misleading reports in local news coverage reporting the status of the public park land." City officials are quoted in the Knoxville News Sentinel asserting the parcels up to be rezoned are "adjacent to" rather than "part of" Caswell Park: "not actually part of Caswell Park," despite the City's own records and Council votes confirming the parcels are indeed part of Caswell Park.

A letter-writing campaign posted at https://actionnetwork.org/letters/write-planning-commission-to-oppose-caswell-park-rezoning points out the City's rezoning application filed with the Planning Commission "improperly characterized" the existing land use, recording "vacant land" instead of "Public Parks" logged in the "Existing Land Use layer" in KGIS. Inspection of KGIS shows the parcels in question no longer have a street address, even though the Planning Commission's website directs users to look up street addresseses for the three parcels forming Caswell Park's southeasternmost portion.

More missteps to justify a 60 day delay are cited, including a notice of rezoning in the Knoxville-News Sentinel noting a current zoning of "Open Space" rather than the full name of the current zoning district (Park and Open Space). Whether this oversight was an instance of intentional or simply accidental misinformation is unknown, just as the effect of any misinformation on public discussion of the rezoning cannot be known. Still, many area news outlets reported the parcels in question are "adjacent to," rather than part of, Caswell Park, likely because the City sent a media advisory to that effect.

Will these discrepancies and the outpouring of public support for delay and further public discussion be enough to sway commissioners? We find out on October 10, 1:30 PM, at the City-County Building.

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