Commentary on Southpass

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SouthPass is: urban sprawl
SouthPass is not:  economically, environmentally or socially sustainable
By Barbara Moorman
The city staff says in its recommendation for SouthPass approval: [the project] does not contribute to sprawl.
Urban or suburban sprawl is “the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area.”
It’s “elimination of rural land by urban development.”
What is the city calling this project if not sprawl? “Greenfield development.”
Greenfield development is “urban fabric” replacing rural land on the outskirts of a city. In other words, sprawl. The houses may be packed together, but it’s still development taking over rural land and it still means people driving to it and driving from it. It’s not next to downtown, medical facilities, mall, courthouse, city hall, library, etc.
Even though the 2025 plan was written after the SouthPass contract was signed, the 2025 plan claims not to approve of sprawl. So to resolve the contradiction, the city tries to redefine sprawl. Whatever name they put on it, this project will spread urban development over rural land on the outside edge of a city.
What’s wrong with sprawl? It’s not good for the community economically, socially or environmentally. As for this project in particular:
1) It’s not economically sustainable especially in today’s chaos and uncertainty. It relies on speculation and on mortgage subsidies and lending. Sprawl is always expensive to the taxpayers — road costs, costs of police, fire, trash pickup, sewer, water, dealing with more car wrecks because more driving, illness from more pollution haze and more emotional pressure, etc. Do we know year by year, or in five-year increments, how much SouthPass and the ball fields will cost? Do we know what each element will cost? Can we know cost estimates are accurate and based on reality? If they’re accurate, are they higher than the city can afford? Are there unforeseen economic problems that ought to be considered? There is no adequate, detailed economic study of the proposal.
2) It’s not environmentally sustainable. How many animals and birds will be driven into smaller and smaller habitats? How many plant communities will slowly disappear because of changes in the bluff and forest ecology? The people doing this project don’t have any notion what lives on those bluffs or in the woods. Animal life isn’t considered, but there are many hundreds of species that live there now. How much more air pollution haze will this add (remember it’s a regional tournament venue plus 11,000 new inhabitants)? What temperature rise will result from more pavement? This land should not be zoned for dense development because of springs, shallow ground water, and creeks, and because of the environmental importance of the higher elevations. This is a massive project and will have massive impact but the city isn’t giving us a study of the impact. It should be our right to know.
3) It’s not socially sustainable. Will this subdivision make the city a healthier, tighter-knit community?
Will it further divide the wrong side of the tracks from the parts of town where people are probably breathing a sigh of relief that this thing isn’t going in near them? Whatever your answer is, it can’t be based on a study because there is no study. It can only be based on speculation. Is there a requirement for public transportation adequate to really reduce car traffic?  Where’s the mandate for nearby medical facilities? Does the ordinance include demand for school, hospital, city hall and library annexes? There’s talk of police, fire, etc. but no promises, no requirements, no penalties if hopes aren’t fulfilled. How will a dog park, paved trails, and a noisy amphitheater help the stability and quality of life of this part of town?  Aren’t these features to visit but not to live near? How practical is this scheme really? The plan is for a huge athletic complex and a lot of other things that might be considered nuisances if they were on Mount Sequoyah.  The “findings” by the staff claim that we rural residents will be adversely impacted by noise, pollution, lights, etc. Absolutely. But so will the 11,000 people they think will move in. Who on earth would move there in the first place or stay long enough to create a real community?
Re-examine this plan now.

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