Commissioner Meeting: May 18, 2022. 2:00 p.m.
Tourism Update. A new report from Rockport Analytics was presented by the CVB. All is well.
o. Tourism is always framed as a “major industry” in Brown County. Per the 2020 Report, tourism brings in $12.1 million in wages. The MAJOR INDUSTRY in Brown County in terms of economics is as a “bedroom/retirement community.” This includes people that choose county living but derive their income from outside the county via jobs in other counties, working from home, retirement or investment income. This demographic also supports Brown County businesses. The Total Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) – of county citizens that filed tax returns was over $424 million in 2019. The county is primarily funded by income and property tax. The “State” is primarily funded by income tax and sales tax (thus the support for tourism via an innkeepers tax). An economic and cultural risk to the county is over-tourism. The Gatlinburg-light vision for tourism along with high-density apartments by many can kill the proverbial golden goose.
Veterans Officer – Chris Snell. The Veterans Officer received approval to establish two non-reverting funds. The intent is to raise money through donations and grants for transportation and financial assistance for veterans. Kudos to Chris.
Information Technology (IT) Services. Ric Fox is retiring. Rick spent 15 years with the school system and 10 with the county. He wore a lot of different hats from IT to maintenance. A lot of technological chnges -during this time. The county is in the process of hiring a new IT manager and reviewing requirements related to cyber-security. The school system also has a small staff (3) of IT professionals. It’s a shame that the county leadership does not do a better job of including the missions and functions of the various departments on the county website to recognize the contributions of county employees. High School interns could help write the narratives.
May 19, 2022. Commissioners OK rezoning request despite a negative recommendation by Suzannah Couch
Zoning Decision by the Commissioners. Melanie Voland provided an excellent presentation requesting a reconsideration of zoning for the 24 acres from Residential to Commercial. She made a passionate, knowledgable, and insightful case on the importance of considering residents and quality of life over commercial interests. Her vision which would likely be shared by most citizens should be included in future updates to the County Comprehensive Plan. The current plan was deliberately kept at a level of detail where a good argument could be made for or against a project. This invites corruption into the decision-making process.
Commissioners were not persuaded and reconfirmed their vote. There are restrictions on the zoning to limit development to no more than 5 residential units. However, it’s unclear if other commercial properties can be put on the property. The intent of the property is for tourist rentals. The local landowner asking for the change was referenced by his first name by commissioners Biddle and Pittman. The new owners live out of state.
The Area Plan Commission (APC) voted to recommend a No vote on the change. APC consists of 5 members – 4 voted No and one abstained. Dave Hardin abstained which is normal – he does many of the surveys on the properties being discussed.
The residents opposing the change did not attend the meeting where the commissioners approved the change. Melanie Voland was not aware of the meeting date and time. Given the No vote by the APC, residents may have believed the commissioners were following the recommendations of their appointed officials. It is rare when they do not.