News Briefs

Planning commission approves new sports complex zoning
The Blount County Planning Commission Tuesday night reworked a proposal for the zoning of a Sports Complex District and will send their recommendations back to the Blount County Commission on May 17.

County commissioners referred the original zoning request back to the planning commission after a commission meeting in April in which citizens packed the room in protest of a series of zoning proposals.

In Tuesday’s meeting, the planning commission reworked the proposal to restrict the amount of commercial and residential development in the Sports Complex zone.

The new proposal recommends that sports fields or sports-related purposes must make up at least 60 percent of any type Sports Complex District. The vote was 9 to 3 in favor of the new restrictions.

Commercial development would be limited to 10 percent of the property, and residential development would take up no more than 15 percent. In addition, the proposed zone would require road setbacks and have other restrictions and regulations.

The proposed sports complex zone came about after Blount County businessman Jerry Simmerly bought an option on 230 acres of property on U.S. 411 South near Henry Lane. Simmerly’s plan, if the county commission approves the zone for the complex, would create a for-profit sports complex where traveling softball and soccer teams could play.

Maryville man in custody following Knoxville pursuit
A Maryville man was arrested following a pursuit from Blount County into downtown Knoxville.

Shane William Garner, 36, Wedgwood Drive, Maryville, is in custody at the Blount County Jail. Garner has outstanding warrants in Blount County, and is also wanted in Loudon County for aggravated robbery. Alcoa Police Department has also placed an investigative hold on Garner.

The pursuit began at around 11 a.m. May 1 after deputies were told to be on the look-out for a white Buick following an armed robbery at a convenience store on Alcoa Highway. The Sheriff’s Office was already actively searching for Garner earlier in the day based on information that the white Buick may be stolen and that he wanted to commit suicide by cop.

Following the armed robbery, the vehicle was seen heading north on Alcoa Highway. A Sheriff’s Office deputy who was driving an unmarked vehicle spotted the white Buick near the off-ramp on Alcoa Highway to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Several Sheriff’s Office units as well as the Knoxville Police Department joined the pursuit, which ended on Main Street in downtown Knoxville. After a short foot pursuit, Blount County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ronnie Talbott, along with Knoxville Police Department Chief Sterling Owen, took Garner into custody. Garner was brought to the Blount County Jail.

As the deputy was getting Garner out of his vehicle, Garner fled from the sally port and ran approximately 150 yards. He was captured seconds later by deputies in the parking lot of Blount Memorial Hospital.

Press reports indicate that Garner has a lengthy criminal history in Blount County. Following the foot chase from the jail, he also was charged with escape.

Farmers Market 2007 to begin Saturday
The 2007 Maryville Farmers Market is scheduled to begin on May 5. The market will run throughout the spring and summer and wrap the weekend before the Foothills Fall Festival in October.

The market is relocating this year to the parking lot between CBBC and Molecular Pathology Laboratories between Church Street and East Broadway Avenue. The newly-created Founders Park is situated on the East Broadway Avenue side of the lot.

Another change in the market is the hours. This year the market will open an hour later at 9 a.m. and run until noon or sell out, said the 2007 Maryville Farmers Market president Kristi Falco.

For information or an application to become a vendor, visit or call Keep Blount Beautiful at 273-1259.

Alcoa new bypass street lights going up
The City of Alcoa Electric Department announced on Tuesday that it will begin the installation of the new bypass street lights at 8 a.m., Wednesday, May 2.

Weather permitting, crews will begin installing poles for the lights along the southbound side of U.S. 129 Bypass between the bypass split at Hall Roadand the Louisville Road intersection.

According to a press release, this will require the partial closure of the right-hand, outside lane of the highway as the crew progresses toward Louisville Road. Installation should be complete within a few days, after which work will begin on installing lighting on northbound side of the road.

Lane closures will not be required for the northbound work. If installation is delayed due to inclement weather, work will begin on the first suitable day thereafter. The new street lighting is funded by the City of Alcoa.

United Way of Blount County launches blog
United Way of Blount County recently launched a new blog to document 2007 campaign chair Dave Bennett as he learns more about the different agencies the United Way supports.

Found through United Way’s website at, the blog chronicle United Way’s 2007 campaign from the perspective of one of the main volunteers in the middle of the action: the campaign chair.

Bennett, who is assistant county mayor, said he welcomes the challenge of sharing his personal opinions about the campaign with the local community and On-line world. Bennett will blog throughout this year’s campaign, and even though the campaign does not officially begin until the end of August, he is already blogging about his experience as campaign chair and visits to United Way agencies.

Currently, Bennett and other United Way volunteers and staff are visiting United Way partner agencies to understand exactly what the community’s contributions fund and the impact those contributions have on the community.

"I am looking forward to sharing the things I see as we visit all of the United Way agencies," Bennett said. "When you really drill down to their core, these agencies are doing the people’s work and are doing such a wonderful job for our community."

For more information on United Way or volunteer opportunities in Blount County, call United Way at 982-2251 or visit

Overbey passes key sexual offender legislation
Representative Doug Overbey passed legislation on the House floor recently that will strengthen the laws surrounding sexual offenders. House members considered House Bill 284 on the floor, and voted unanimously to pass the measure.

The bill will add rape of a child and aggravated rape of a child to felony murder offenses, elevating the offense to first degree murder, thereby making one who committed rape during a murder eligible for the death penalty. Rep. Overbey said he was overwhelmed by the support, as many of his colleagues signed onto the bill as he was presenting.

"I was very pleased with the tremendous support that my colleagues demonstrated," Overbey stated. "I am especially thankful to Rep. Beth Harwell for her assistance in passing the legislation."

Legislators saw a recent public push for stronger laws concerning sexual offenders, spurred by the strengthening of Florida law following the rape and murder of nine year-old Jessica Lunsford. Overbey said in that in some ways, Tennessee laws are stronger than Florida’s Jessica’s Law, and weaker in others, he said.

"What we are trying to do is bring Tennessee law more in line with Jessica’s Law where we can," said Overbey. "Future crimes can be deterred when we send a message to these offenders. We can avert tragedy, but we must be willing to toughen up on this issue."

Center for Strong Communities sets MayFest
The Center for Strong Communities at Maryville College joins with New Hope, Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center, for MayFest 2007, to be held on the Maryville College campus from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 4.

MayFest was formerly an annual fundraiser that was held at McCord Farms to benefit New Hope, Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center. This year, New Hope and Mayville College are coming together for a new celebration of families in the community.

The campus will be filled with a variety of fun children’s activities led by students in Associate Professor Ariane Schratter’s child development class, Bonner Scholars and students in the college’s American Humanics nonprofit management program. Staff from Mountain Challenge program will also provide adventure activities for families during the evening.

There will be face painting, arts and crafts, child safety kits, a moon bounce and inflatable obstacle course for children, musical entertainment, karaoke, and door prizes.

"MayFest is a time to come together in celebration of children and their families, and to strengthen our community by simply enjoying each other’s company," said Dr. Billy Newton, director of the Center for Strong Communities at Maryville College.

The event is part of the Children’s Advocacy Center’s "Making Families Strong and Free" prevention program. According to New Hope’s executive director, Trudy Hughes, MayFest is designed to assist all families in doing the very best they can to encourage and enhance the successful development of their children.

Other sponsors for MayFest 2007 include Boyce Smith and the Alcoa Wal-Mart, Murlin’s Music, Aramark, Foothills Cinema, ThunderWorld USA, Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, Hastings and K-B Toys.

According to a press release, 500 free tickets are available for all activities, including sandwiches and drinks. The event is open to the public, but participants must have a ticket for the meal and prize drawings. For information, contact the Center
for Strong Communities at 273-8894 or New Hope at 981-2000 for tickets while they last.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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