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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