Meeting Discusses Future Developments in Sevier County

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - From time to time, Mother Nature and Tourist Development in the Smokies clash.

Monday night, more neighbors are now concerned that hillside and ridgeline rental home development is getting out of control, and just what to do about it was in question.

Monday, all eyes were on this document. The emerging concepts report for hillside and ridges. The Saratoga Associates Architecture Firm worked with the county as well as Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Pittman Center to produce it. Monday, the public got the first view of the document that could change their view of the Smokies.

Bumper To Bumper Traffic. Shining Neon Lights. Big changes since Laura Trundle brought property in Sevier County nearly 50 years ago.

"And not all of it for the good," Trundle said.

Even the view from her own back yard.

"We used to look out and see a mountain and now we look out and see cabins on spindly legs," Trundle said.

Turned into prime real estate in the Smokies.

"And when it rains here comes the mud," Trundle said.

Right into the stream just outside her home.

"I would like to see some regulations by the county," Trundle said.

Turns out, so would they. Monday kicked off two days of meetings with an architecture firm, government officials, and you. A brainstorming session to set:

"The initial direction for potential rules and regulations for hillside and ridgeline development," Matthew Rogers from Saratoga Associates said.

The county has zoning restrictions where these can be built and nestled atop the Smokies. The view may be great, but so are the problems.

"Including slope failure, landslides, as well as environmental concerns like erosion of sediment and your water body," Rogers said.

And the road is paved for more rentals to pop up soon.

"There are benefits to developments, but at the same time you have to balance environmental concerns," Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said.

And safety. Besides clearing the land for what some call an eyesore, there's also concern that hillside developments like this can be dangerous.

"A lot of people have seen them where they're literally supported by stilts over a ridge, and that's a problem," Rogers said.

A problem that's giving Trundle cabin fever.

"I've traveled around the world and no place is any prettier," Trundle said.

A view she doesn't want ruined by these rentals.

The four guiding principles of the document are:
First, no project should have a substantial negative impact on the environment.
It shouldn't be most defining feature of the hillside.
Third, the number of units should decrease and the slope incline increases.
And lastly, projects should consider both positive and negative impacts.

These can change with your input. A second meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night from six - eight o'clock at the the Sevierville Civic Center (200 Gary Wade Blvd).

After that, the architecture firm will present it's final recommendations in August. Then it's up to the four communities and the county to officially decide how to move forward to protect the mountains.

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