City, County to meet again to discuss VA

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Mark Raymie and Brian Hatch sign documents that transfer ownership of the VA District to Marion County. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

The Knoxville City Council and Marion County Board of Supervisors recently met in a joint session to review the status of the Knoxville VA District, or the former Veterans Affairs campus.

Board of Supervisors’ Chair Mark Raymie reports that Confluence, the firm hired to help plan the campus, provided an update on its progress. Interviews of community members, as well as each city council member, will be conducted as part of Confluence’s process. The firm will report to the supervisors.

Marion County owns the land, but the Knoxville VA District is a partnership with the City of Knoxville. The County has approval of the land use, but it must fit in with the desired plan for Knoxville and have the City’s support.

Included in the discussion is the infrastructure changes necessary to accommodate development. All utilities on the campus were connected and each building’s sewer lines fed to a treatment plant on campus, separate from the City’s.

Raymie said this is a “massive” project, one in which the County has never tried to take on before. The information gathering phase is intended to help the County better utilize its funds for what is necessary to make the land compatible for development.

An archaeological study has been completed, but the work was affected by COVID-19. Raymie is unsure if any time was truly lost.

The Request for Proposal is out now, as marketing two of the campus’s historic buildings for 60 days was required by an agreement among the County, City and State Historical Preservation Office. At the time of interview, no one had shown interest in either building. If there is one interested, the prospective owner must meet certain requirements. Plans must fit in with the overall vision for the district.

“It’s not just dollars alone, you have to have a plan,” Raymie said.

The council and supervisors plan to meet again in a little over three weeks. No date or time has been set.