Chronology of the Proposed Development on the Boeing Property
As reported in the pages of The Oak Ridger and the Knoxville News-Sentinel

Large development planned - October 26, 1999 - Proposed development on the Boeing property is described to the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board. Plans for development of the 1,216-acre parcel include an 18-hole golf course, 500 homes, shopping centers and light industry. 

Planners discuss Boeing site project - October 29, 1999 - Representatives from Oak Ridge Properties, a limited partnership that has a contract to purchase the land from Boeing, addressed members of the planning commission to familiarize them with the project.

Editorial - November 1, 1999 - Editorial speculates about the economic feasibility of the proposed development.

Planners tour Boeing site - November 11, 1999 -  Homes with old abandoned cars and horse pastures could be seen to the west from the road on the west edge of the property. From other areas the planners could see smokestacks and water towers at the K-25 site. A real estate agent pointed to an area of the property where developers have discussed the possibility of building an airport.

DOE may release deed restriction - November 29, 1999 -  Partners involved in the Oak Ridge Properties deal have had meetings with DOE representatives concerning the deed restriction that limits the Boeing property to industrial use. They say DOE officials have been supportive of lifting the deed restriction. Developer R.O. Hutchison sees the property as a resort and retirement community.

Major development plan - December 1, 1999 - Accompanying map shows the proposed project layout, including an 18-hole golf course -- which was later deleted.

City staff opposes rezoning - December 8, 1999 - The main concerns expressed in economic development staff memos are the city's current lack of available land for industrial use and an excess of residential lots in the city.  In his memo, trants planner Luke  Stapel says the proposal is contrary to "smart growth" initiatives. "Leapfrog development such as this is costly and inefficient. Comprehensive plan policies support more centralized cohesive development patterns." The proposed development is described to include a 9-hole golf course, 500 residential lots, a hotel/conference center, land for industrial use and a shopping center.

Planning staff supports rezoning - December 9, 1999 - City planning staff noted that the area of the site most suitable for industrial development in the center of the parcel would remain zoned industrial. Other areas are too hilly for industrial development and warrant the requested zoning changes by Oak Ridge Properties.

Boeing site project gets first approval - December 10, 1999 - The Planning Commission zoning committee recommended rezoning, after Oak Ridge Properties increased the amount of industrial land from 198 acres to 464 acres in the most recent proposal.

Planners to consider Boeing rezoning - December 15, 1999 - The land is currently zoned for industrial use (IND-2). Oak Ridge Properties has requested several zones for its development -- residential (R-3), industrial (IND-1, IND-2), office (O-2) and buffer areas (RG-1).

Boeing rezoning OK'd by planning board - December 17, 1999  - The Oak Ridge Regional Planning Commission  voted 6 to 4 to recommend rezoning of the Boeing property from industrial to mixed use. The proposed development now would include a 9-hole golf course, river view homes, apartments and condominiums, 462 acres of industrially zoned property, and an area for a shopping center.

Boeing property plan draws questions - January 4, 2000 - At Monday night's Oak Ridge City Council meeting several residents voiced their concerns about losing valuable industrial property and the environmental impact the development would have on the site and its future use.

Environmental Quality Advisory Board says Boeing site needs environmental sampling - January 7, 2000 - EQAB voted to advise City Council that environmental surveying work should be done on the site and in the adjacent river and floodplain before the city votes to change the property's industrial zoning status to allow homes to be built there.

Oak Ridge City Council votes 5-2 for rezoning on first reading - January 19, 2000 - City Council approved on first reading an ordinance to rezone the Boeing site for mixed-use development. Council members and a few residents raised questions about whether a current development proposal is the best use of the land. Questions were also raised about the environmental safety of the area. 

State to investigate development site - January 19, 2000  - Over the next two weeks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials will examine 182 acres of floodplain bordering the Clinch River and the Boeing property to make sure it's safe for those who would make their home there.

TDEC finds hot spots along Boeing property - February 4, 2000 - State officials have discovered several spots along the Clinch River on the floodplain strip near the Boeing property showing higher-than-background levels of radioactivity.

Boeing site gets final rezoning approval - February 8, 2000  - Oak Ridge City Council voted 5-1 to rezone the property from industrial to a suite of mixed uses. Councilman Leonard Abbatiello opposed the rezoning and said he had concerns about providing fire and police protection to an area that is so far from the rest of the developed part of the city. He said didn't want taxpayers to subsidize a housing development in western Oak Ridge.

EPA calls for review of Boeing deal - April 3, 2000 - The EPA Regional Administrator for Region 4 says that under the Superfund law EPA must agree before floodplain land adjoining the Boeing property can be transferred from DOE to a local development company. The letter also addresses DOE's intentions to adjust deed restrictions on the Boeing property. Because of the deed restrictions calling for industrial use, EPA has assumed the land is contaminated and has therefore asked DOE to carefully evaluate the property before allowing the restrictions to be lifted.

Plans for Golf Course Scrapped -- April 17, 2000 - The proposed golf course is eliminated from the development plan, ostensibly to provide more land for housing. Also, Oak Ridge Properties has requested that 26 acres of relatively flat land in the central portion of the site be rezoned from industrial to business. 

Oak Ridge Planning Commission's Zoning Subcommittee supports rezoning request - April 21, 2000 - The Zoning Subcommittee supported the request but the Planned Unit Development Subcommittee declined to make a recomendation on revisions to the housing plan of the 1,216 acre mixed-use development. 

Rezoning Boeing tract is on City Council agenda  - May 5, 2000 - Oak Ridge Properties requested that 26 acres of the 1,216-acre site be rezoned from industrial to general business. The developers envision that the 26-acre parcel could support such businesses as a day-care facility, a health club, a dry cleaners, a golf practice facility and a food market.

City Council approves rezoning on first reading - May 9, 2000 - This change reduces the industrial zoned area by 26 acres. They later affirmed this change on second reading.

Boeing development awaits OK from DOE - August 9, 2000 - Reports that DOE must clear some environmental hurdles before transferring floodplain land adjoining the 1,200-acre Boeing-owned site. These hurdles are a NEPA environmental assessment and EPA/state concurrence that the floodplain is uncontaminated. The DOE-owned floodplain strip would provide river access to landowners of the development.

Chamber seeks support for Boeing property development - November 13, 2000 - DOE is holding a public meeting on its environmental assessment for the floodplain transfer. The meeting is at the Chamber of Commerce office.The newspaper article says the meeting is about a 1,500-home development on 1,200 acres of land owned by Boeing. It says that in order for the development to happen, a 182-acre strip of flood plain along the river must be transferred from DOE to Oak Ridge Properties. Chamber president Parker Hardy says "This is really important for Oak Ridge; it's a tremendous boost to the city's economy." A spokesman for the prospective developer says residential lots would range from one-half to three-quarters of an acre in size and the development would include condominiums and luxury waterfront homes.
For more information, see the Chamber memo about this meeting.
Note by AFORR: Contrary to the implication in this article, the 1200 acres proposed for development up to this point do not include any of the floodplain land. However, now that the floodplain is in play, the development is described as including waterfront homes.

Development of Boeing site waiting on DOE - December 21, 2000 - Reports that DOE action on the floodplain strip is delayed at least until January 2001.

Another hurdle for Boeing land -  January 19, 2001 - discusses the letter that the Southern Environmental Law Center sent to DOE Oak Ridge Operations to urge them to stop selling and leasing ORR property -- including the Boeing floodplain strip -- without fully complying with NEPA.  A companion article, TVA concerned about environmental assessment, discusses the Tennessee Valley Authority's concerns about the proposed transfer of the Boeing floodplain strip.

Larger protected area sought on Boeing land - January 22, 2001 - The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) says that the proposed set-aside areas to protect natural areas are not big enough.

On January 31, 2001, DOE signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to allow the floodplain sale to go forward. See news accounts on the January 30 meeting and its aftermath for details.

Boeing land sale nearing closure - February 13, 2001 - Sale is expected to close before the end of February. The prospective developer says their next step is a market study to assess the need for housing and what types of houses to build.
Note by AFORR: Did you actually believe that they were committed to the plans they described previously? Or that the people who spoke at the January 30 meeting about Oak Ridge's desperate need to develop this tract for new housing were being sincere?

new$54 an acre?!?! That's about what the federal government paid in 1942 for the land that is now the Oak Ridge Reservation -- but this is 2001 and that's the price that a developer paid DOE for the Boeing floodplain strip. According to the deed we found at the Roane County Courthouse, on February 6, 2001, Oak Ridge Land Co. LLC bought 182 acres of floodplain from the U.S. government for only $9,828 -- just $54 an acre!! That's about five miles of shoreline on Watts Bar reservoir -- for less than 40 cents per foot of lakefront! AFORR president Dev Joslin told the press, "For the price of dinner for two the other night, I could have bought an acre of wetlands. I could have traded in one of our cars for the whole 182 acres." Local newspapers covered this story on February 28: Read Cut-rate land sale by DOE angers critics (Knoxville News-Sentinel) and Boeing flood plain sale price criticized (The Oak Ridger).
Note by AFORR:This is sad news indeed for those of us who want to maintain the Oak Ridge Reservation for future generations. Not only will high-value riparian habitats be lost to development, but through this cut-rate land sale the U.S. public will subsidize the developer's profits, and DOE has lost even more of our trust in its ability to serve as a steward of public resources.

The City of Oak Ridge will pay $191,000 for engineering services necessary for providing the former Boeing site with water from the Cumberland Utility District. For details see the Oak Ridger news story about the March 19, 2001 City Council meeting.
If $191,000 is just the engineering costs, taxpayers can expect to pay at least 10 times that amount for the actual water supply lines -- all to subsidize construction of lakefront homes on land that used to belong to all of us.
The newspaper story says that City Manager Paul Boyer told City Council that these funds would come from a grant received through the Partners for Progress program. This may be true, but local taxpayers should remember that Partners for Progress is also supposed to be footing most of the bill (estimated at about $20 million) for infrastructure development and improvements for industrial development at the Horizon Center (ED-1), K-25, and the former Clinch River breeder site. Grant money spent on a new water system for lakefront homes is money that cannot be spent for these other purposes -- and city and county taxpayers should expect to be asked to make up the difference.

Document search is magical mystery tour - Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 25, 2001 -- "All but unbelievable!" Frank Munger tries to track down documentation of the professional appraisal that was allegedly the basis for the $54/acre sale price, and discovers that no one can produce documentation of the appraisal -- not DOE, not the developer, and not even the [unidentified] appraiser! Read the column. After reading it, if you believe that there ever was an appraisal, AFORR has a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, New York.

Developer to donate 100 acres - Knoxville News-Sentinel, May 15, 2001 -- Mike Ross, president of Rarity Communities Inc., announces that his firm will give about 100 acres of the 182-acre floodplain to Oak Ridge for a public greenbelt that will include walking, bike and nature trails, and picnic areas. The same article announces the DOE Inspector General's report [PDF file, 55 kB] concerning the transfer, in which the IG found that the entire land transaction was an inappropriate use of DOE's authority under the Atomic Energy Act and that the land was sold at an unjustifiable discount. (The IG obtained a copy of the appraisal report that was previously unavailable to Munger, and it showed a value substantially higher than $54 per acre.)
Note by AFORR: Not only is it clear that the developer's announcement was timed to divert attention from the serious criticisms in the IG's report, but we believe that the developer expects to clear a large profit from federal tax deductions that are based on the property's real market value.
We also fear that the developer intends to make this area a groomed park -- an amenity to attract home buyers -- not keep it as a natural area.

City to get land for greenway - The Oak Ridger, May 15, 2001 -- "Just as the controversial sale of the Boeing flood plain was being deemed 'inappropriate' by a federal audit, the private developer who obtained the land announced Monday he was giving the city of Oak Ridge a significant portion of it to be used as a public greenway."

Reservation lands: Can we get past the polarization, mistrust? - The Oak Ridger, May 15, 2001 -- AFORR-authored guest column discusses need for land-use planning and addresses several misconceptions being repeated by the business community, including misstatements about the Boeing floodplain transaction.

DOE land was sold to developer at price far below appraised value - The Knoxville News-Sentinel, May 16, 2001 -- Frank Munger finds that a DOE staff member unilaterally decided that the appraised value of the Boeing floodplain strip was too high.

Developers of Boeing site to use town-center model - The Oak Ridger, July 31, 2001 -- Reports that the developer has hired a market research firm and a planning-architecture firm to aid in deciding how to develop the property. (What happened to the plans that formed the basis for those urgent requests for rezoning?) The article hints at the disparity between the developer's usual pattern of building developments that attract "up-scale" homeowners, versus local boosters' statements that the city needs new homes that will be affordable for young families.

Rarity Ridge poses multi-use changes - The Oak Ridger, Friday, August 24, 2001 - News story on a presentation to the Oak Ridge Regional Planning Commission about the latest concepts for development of the former Boeing property.

CIP: Water, sewer $4.85M for west end - The Oak Ridger, Wednesday, October 24, 2001 - Article tells about the city budget impact of extending utilities to serve Rarity Ridge and other "west end" development, including various DOE properties that are being converted to private industrial development or have been requested for development. An excerpt says:

Cost to set up service to Rarity Ridge is slated to run $2.3 million in FY 2003, with almost $1 million of that tab being picked up by an Environmental Protection Agency grant. An additional $600,000 ticket is targeted to begin laying pipe to connect the Heritage Center/Horizon Center areas to Rarity Ridge.
Infrastructure for waste-water service to Rarity Ridge is expected to cost $700,000 in FY 2003, and a connection from Horizon Center to the waste-water treatment plant at Big Turtle Park is slated to cost $1 million.

Rarity Ridge clears hurdle - The Oak Ridger, Friday, November 9, 2001 - A subcommittee of the Planning Commission endorsed a proposal to change the city zoning ordinance to accommodate the proposed development, now stated to be 1,500 homes (on 1,200 acres) designed as a "Traditional Neighborhood Development."

Rarity Ridge vision: Back to Mayberry - The Oak Ridger, Friday, December 28, 2001 - Feature article about the traditional neighborhood development concept being proposed by Rarity Communities for the former Boeing property. The proposal would require that the city adopt a traditional neighborhood development zoning ordinance, which allows for a pedestrian-friendly village atmosphere with a town center. Mike Ross of Rarity told the Oak Ridger that he plans eventually to build 1,200 to 1,500 dwellings, with the majority of housing in the $130,000 to $180,000 price range.

'New Urbanism' headed for OR - The Oak Ridger, Friday, December 28, 2001 - Discusses Harbor Town -- on the edge of downtown Memphis and the only traditional neighborhood development in Tennessee, as a prototype for the Rarity Ridge development. (Never mind that Rarity Ridge will be convenient to almost nothing, unlike a neighborhood in the heart of Memphis.)

Clearing to begin soon at Rarity Ridge - The Oak Ridger, Friday, January 25, 2002 - Steve Byrd, city engineer, told the Planning Commission that the developers of Rarity Ridge are ready to begin surveying roadways, and have requested a grading permit for their roads.

Citizens voice concerns on Rarity Ridge project - The Oak Ridger, Tuesday, January 8, 2002 - Describes comments made by members of the public at the City Council meeting where Council gave final approval to the new traditional development section of the zoning ordinance.

Ask Incky : Will Rarity Ridge be a gated community that will restrict Oak Ridge residents from entering? - The Oak Ridger, Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - The answer is "No."

Joint panel to smooth strategic plan differences - The Oak Ridger, Monday, February 25, 2002 - In a meeting between city officials and Oak Ridge schools officials, school superintendent Randy McCoy pointed out that housing developments such as the proposed Rarity Ridge represent a direct and immediate cost to the schools. "If one student from Rarity Ridge needs transportation, we must go get them," McCoy is quoted as saying, noting the nine-mile distance from the proposed housing development to the nearest public elementary school.


Map of the Boeing property and other tracts available or proposed for development.

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