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'Megasite' divides Jefferson Co. residents

11:33 PM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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More than 250 people attended a meeting in White Pine Tuesday night to learn more about county leaders' plans to develop a local megasite.

The meeting took place at the Smoky Mountains Expo Center. Visitors talked with leaders one-on-one about the project. They also got to see concept maps about where the project would go.

Currently, planners are eying a megasite just west of the I-81/I-40 Interchange in Jefferson County. It would stretch all the way from Talbott Kansas Road, south past Sam Martin Road.

Previous story: Megasite could attract new business, jobs

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Director Garrett Wagley said the site would be 1,860 acres large. He also said about 100 people would be affected by the plan.

However, Wagley said county leaders have no intent to use eminent domain to remove property owners from their land. He also said residents in the affected area would be given fair market value for their property.

More Information: See proposed Megasite Map

"We know that people need to improve their station in life or they're not going to be willing to talk about selling their property," Wagley said.

More Information: East Tennessee Regional Megasite

He said that the county is currently at the beginning of an 18- to 24-month process to attract a job-creating automaker to East Tennessee. Wagley told 10News county leaders met with the consulting group, McCallum Sweeney, at Carson Newman University to discuss the plan Tuesday morning. McCallum Sweeney was the organization who first approached Jefferson County with the idea of developing a megasite. It told leaders certified site could initially create anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.

Previous story: Some Jefferson Co. residents concerned over megasite 

That news excites some Jefferson County residents who attended the meeting, like Mark Hostetter. He said he thinks the megasite idea would have a positive impact on the county.

"It will just grow the guy in a big way," Hostetter said.

Others disagree.

The Wood family has owned a 600-acre family farm in Jefferson County for 100 years. They currently raise 600 heads of heifer on their property, which they say they are not willing to give away.

"We're not in favor of it in this place; this is the wrong site," said farm owner Jean Wood.

More Information: Save Our Farms flier

The Woods will hold an organizational meeting Thursday for residents and farm owners who oppose the plan.  The meeting will be held at The Hampton Inn on 126 Sharon Drive in Dandridge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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