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Ear to the Ground

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Rumble in Ritta

The outlook is grim for H.T. Hackney's plan to put a wholesale distribution center in rural Ritta community. Although Hackney last month won a round at the Metropolitan Planning Commission level, which voted to reject its own professional staff's recommendation and allow commercial zoning in the agricultural/residential area, it is unlikely that County Commission will follow suit when the community's appeal is heard this month.

Despite heavy lobbying by Knox County Development Corporation chief Pat Wood, whose son-in-law Mike McClamroch is Hackney's lawyer, insiders predict that Hackney will end up on the short end at Commission. In fact, Commissioner Mike Arms attended a Chamber Partnership breakfast meeting Tuesday and pronounced the Hackney project "dead in the water."

Later, Arms said that he has received phone calls and mail from Hackney opponents, "...but I haven't received the first bit of information from Hackney. The city and the county have both worked with him (Hackney chief Bill Sansom) to find other sites. The community is claiming that this is a classic case of spot zoning, and I have heard nothing to refute that. I would like to see evidence of willingness to compromise with the community, and I haven't seen any evidence of that, either."

Signgate Resolved

Meanwhile, Knox County will not be taking action against H.T. Hackney opponent Barbara Harvey after all. Harvey, who has a sign in her front pasture alerting the neighborhood to public meeting times and to the benefits of joining the neighborhood association, got a threatening letter a few weeks ago from a Knox County sign inspector who said her sign was illegal and must be removed. County Engineering and Public Works chief Bruce Wuethrich has ruled that Harvey's sign is "grandfathered" because she has had it since 1983—before the latest sign codes were adopted.

Beer Bash

Microbrewers were rolling out the barrels this week after heading off a potential threat to their ability to sell kegs from their own premises (not to mention the ability of the rest of us to buy those kegs). A bill surfaced in the state Legislature out of nowhere last week—or out of Chattanooga, actually, which is more less the same thing—to allow only licensed distributors to sell kegs. State Rep. Howard Kerr of Maryville says the sponsor was Rep. Bill McAfee, whom he suspects was acting on behalf of "the malt beverage association." Seems the high-volume distributors are stewed at the very small inroads microbrews have made in Tennessee, and wanted to subject them to the same high taxes and license fees the big boys operate under. (That those taxes and fees might be prohibitive enough to keep the little guys out altogether was presumably just an added bonus.) But microbrewers, including Calhoun's and New Knoxville Brewing Co., rallied their troops via an email and phone campaign. "The microbrewery people from around the country pretty much wore [McAfee] out," says a satisfied Kerr, who was prepared to battle the bill on the house floor. "And remember, he was the floor sponsor of the governor's income tax last year, and he got worn out on that too. He's probably tired of his phone ringing." McAfee withdrew the bill early this week.

Moody Blues

Wanda Moody, who sued her County Commission colleagues for voting to allow Sheriff Tim Hutchison to oversee building of Phase One of the Justice Center, sits in on the depositions of other commissioners, much to their chagrin. Irritation is building, and no one should be surprised if, come redistricting time, Moody and John Schmid (probably the second-least popular commissioner among his peers) find themselves residing in the same commission district—possibly forcing them to run for the same seat.