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Naked Lunch?

It stands to reason that Kenny Siao, owner of two popular West Knoxville eateries, Stir Fry and Mango, knows a lot about Asian cuisine, so opening a sushi bar in Homberg Place is hardly a stretch for the energetic restaurateur. But he's an eclectic kind of guy and is also fond of tapas, a Spanish-influenced delicacy that has become popular out yonder in California, so he's decided to combine the two concepts for his new restaurant, which may or may not be called Cha Cha Cha. News of this soon-to-arrive cultural smorgasbord has unnerved at least one of his new neighbors-to-be, who has spread the alarm: a topless sushi bar is coming to Bearden. We hope they were consoled upon hearing that it's a tapas/sushi bar.

Mayor, Save My Firehall!

Worsham Watkins' plans for locating a new cineplex on the site of the present downtown Firehall No. 1 appear to have dead-ended.

According to Deputy to the Mayor Frank Cagle there's no way Mayor Victor Ashe will recommend spending the $5 milion it would take to demolish and relocate the firehall that sits just east of Henley Street along Summit Hill Avenue.

That would relegate any cineplex that WW may come up with to another location—perhaps in the same nearby block where a new office tower is contemplated and where both the garage and theater could be served by the same parking garage.

Election Evolution

The price of success and happiness is getting off the Knox County Election Commission. Republican Steve Roth has informed his colleagues that he will be resigning next month because he's gone and gotten himself a life.

Seriously, Roth is newly-married (his Hungarian-born wife, Zuzi, has joined him here and will be attending graduate school at UT). He is managing partner at Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, where he has also been made a board member. The result is he has little time left for the pursuit of election excellence.

Leading contender to replace Roth appears to be Paul Crilly, a UT engineering professor who ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature and has been a vocal critic of election commission procedure. Crilly is a leader in the anti-abortion group Tennessee Volunteers for Life.

You Mean This is About Money?

Critics of the $30 million project to widen 2.6 miles of Route 321 along the Great Smoky National Park at Gatlinburg were quite perturbed when TDOT allowed construction to start, even though a number of permits have yet to be approved. The permits are needed so TDOT can reroute streams and work on national park land. They also need to have their archeological survey approved.

TDOT officials say they're going to work around the areas that need permits (although the archeological survey covers the whole stretch). But what if the permits are never approved, or require drastic redrawing of the plans? TDOT spokeswoman Louanne Grandinetti says TDOT had to move ahead because it has a construction contract it has to honor. "You're talking about holding up this multi-million dollar process. They can still work in those areas," she says. "Our job is to build a highway. There's absolutely no reason not to do it."

So, does this mean that in TDOT's world, business contracts supersede the public review process?

Billboards in Voters' Gunsights?

The billboard lobby appears on its way to winning a battle in City Council next Tuesday. But it's likely to lose the war, as anti-billboard forces gear up to bring a ban on new billboards to a referendum vote next fall.

Council is expected to spurn the unanimous recommendations of a mayoral task force and the Metropolitan Planning Commission for a total ban and opt instead for a partial one. This councilmanic compromise would permit new billboard locations along interstates while effectively precluding them on other roads.

A highly vexed member of the task force, lawyer Nick Della Volpe, is launching a petition drive that would place a total ban on the ballot (unless council approves it within 20 days after receipt of the petition). It will take the signatures of about 5,500 registered voters to set the petition process in motion, but anti-billboard activists shouldn't have much trouble collecting them. To judge by a recent mayoral survey showing that 64 percent of Knoxvillians believe the city already has too many billboards, adoption of total ban shouldn't have much trouble at the polls as well. The vote would probably take place in conjunction with next September's council primary election.

A complicating factor is that Della Volpe's petition goes further by way of reducing the maximum size of non-interstate billboards and otherwise. The trouble is that these restrictions raise sticky questions under the state law that grandfathers existing billboards, and Della Volpe is being encouraged by other anti-billboarders to steer clear of them and keep the proposition simple.

March 15, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 11
© 2001 Metro Pulse