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Harmony developers buy Camp Montvale for $4 million

The group building a restricted residential development on Chilhowee Mountain announced Wednesday they had paid $4 million to the YMCA of East Tennessee to save Camp Montvale at the foot of the mountain.

Harmony partner James Tomiczek said his group is partnering with Friends of Camp Montvale to operate a children’s camp.

"At the same time, we’ll be working with Bill Clabough with the Foothills Land Conservancy to put a conservation easement there. We’ll end up with a conservation easement on all the land surrounding the camp and at the heart of the property will be where the camp operates."

Tomiczek said Wednesday that he attended a similar camp to Camp Montvale for six years growing up in Pennsylvania. He said his experiences at the Christian-based camp shaped his life and solidified his values.

"My daughter went to Camp Montvale the year before it closed and was crushed when she found out the camp was closed," he said. "I didn’t realize at the time I would have the opportunity to save it. Now I have the opportunity to be a hero to my daughter and give that experience to kids in Blount County."

Tomiczek said Camp Montvale has positively impacted many children since it opened, and the investment was worth it.
"It cost a lot of money but the reward the kids will experience, you really can’t measure that type of reward," he said. "We’re so happy to be able to do it and be a part of it."

A press release issued Wednesday night said Harmony Property Group, LLC, has closed on the purchase of more than 400 acres of land, which the YMCA of East Tennessee has operated as Camp Montvale since 1948.

"Our board decided to sell this property to Harmony because of their dedication to protecting the environment and their plans to serve the future camping needs of our community," said Jim Dickson, president/CEO of the YMCA of East Tennessee.

"We look forward to helping them in any way we can during this transition in order to make their future plans for the camp successful."

The YMCA board of directors chose Harmony from a group of several prospective buyers because of their interest in preserving the property for use as a camp.

Bryan Roberson, president of Friends of Camp Montvale was enthusiastic about the purchase. "We are so lucky that Harmony is willing to make an investment that will allow Camp Montvale to continue serving children and families in Blount County and throughout East Tennessee," said Roberson. "We just can’t thank them enough for their generosity."

Tomiczek said the Harmony Group is giving the Friends of Camp Montvale use of the land to prove they can run an economically successful camp. The move is a win-win for the community and the camp, he said.

"We are confident that it is economically feasible for the Friends of Camp Montvale to operate a youth camp on our property, and we want to help them prove that," said Tomiczek. "It took innovative thinking, cooperation among the many parties, and a financial risk for my partners and myself to make this happen, but we’re very glad to see the project coming together."

Clabough thanked the Harmony Group for their gift. "As the executive director of the Foothills Land Conservancy, I am excited about talking to the Harmony Group and Friends of Camp Montvale so that we can start the process of establishing a conservation easement on the Camp Montvale property that will protect it forever," he said.

Harmony is developing a 281-acre site close by the Camp property called, The Overlook at Montvale and is using proceeds from that development to help finance the transaction. Eighty-one acres of the Overlook site will be developed under very strict development standards, the press release said.

"The Overlook is a unique development, and it is one that we should hold up as a standard for others to follow," Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said, in the press release.

"With its plans for preserved green space, covenants, restrictions, environmental guidelines, not to mention its efforts to keep open Camp Montvale, it is exactly the type of development we need to encourage in our county."

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