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Opponents prepare for Monday vote on Jefferson Co. megasite

1:03 AM, Feb 10, 2013   |    comments
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Nearly 200 people met on Saturday in preparation for a vote on the proposed megasite in Jefferson County.

Those against a proposed megasite in Jefferson County are preparing for an important vote on Monday night.

Jefferson County commissioners will decide whether or not to give about $440,000 toward megasite studies.

Nearly 200 people with Save Our Farms and Homes (SOFAH) met on Saturday at Best Western Plus in Morristown in preparation for the vote.

 About 1,000 people have signed a petition against the proposed megasite.

Publicly, it has been said the megasite would require the county to purchase 1,800 acres of land.

According to SOFAH's attorney, Scott Hurley with Hurley Law Firm, it could actually be as much as 2,800 acres.

"It appears what they're trying to do is have some extra buffer and also a connection for a rail line that would come from White Pine, TN down to the megasite at some future point that I assume would also be paid for with taxpayer dollars," Hurley said.
Project leaders hope to lure a major company to be based on land near the I-40 and I-81 interchange.

They say it will pump more than $2 billion into the economy and create more than 5,000 jobs.

But critics, including Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carmichael, have several questions.

"The people should have been talked to upfront and been asked, 'Are you interested in doing this?' But they kept it very secret and any time I feel something has been kept secret, there's a reason why," Carmichael said.

Property owners have started to receive purchase agreements.

"If a farmer, a property owner, a landowner, a homeowner, signs that contract they give up the rights to resist Eminent Domain or to have any say in what their property is worth in the event that Eminent Domain is used," Hurley explained.

Several SOFAH landowners said they would not sell.

"We're going to put a lot of money into this [megasite study] and I believe in personal property rights. If I want to sell my two acres to you to do whatever, that's my right. You ain't got the right to take it from me or to tell me there's a better use for it," said Donna Raybon; her family owns property in Dandridge.

Jefferson County commissioners will vote on Monday at 5 p.m.

They will decided whether or not to fund megasite studies.

According to Carmichael, it needs a super majority (2/3 of the vote) to pass.

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