Blackberry Farm is looking to expand operations in Walland. To do that, the resort will have to rezone thousands of acres it already owns on Chillhowee Mountain from rural to commercial.
The resorts wants to build "Blackberry Mountain" on 5,200 acres in Blount County. It's about 20 minutes away from the main property and about a half hour from the airport.
The luxury resort bought the land 10 years ago. Now, owners want to re-zone the property for commercial use.
On Tuesday, dozens of people in the community showed up to the Blount County agenda committee meeting to voice their concerns.
Public comment lasted two hours, well past expected into the later evening hours, all of which were complaints about the proposed rezoning measure.
"It's nearly impossible to get out on the highway sometimes," one person said to commissioners. "Once this resort is built, it's going to be like the guy said -- like Six Flags Over Walland."
Blackberry Farm, in a letter to the commission sent before Tuesday's meeting, noted the three biggest concerns from people were area conservation, public access to the land, and an increase in traffic.
Matt Smith, director of development for Blackberry Farm, spoke to the crowd, saying the company wants the best for this area.
"Our intention is to add value to Blount County, to Walland, to be a great neighbor, to do all those things," said Smith.
After a short recess, commissioner Shawn Carter motioned to send the rezoning item back to the planning committee, saying he's on the planning committee and hadn't seen this amount of opposition before.
The commission voted 17-0 with one abstention to table the rezoning request. They'll send it back to the county planning committee before any action is taken.
On Saturday, a meeting was held to hear what the community thinks about the prospects of expansions. Reviewers were mixed.
Take, for example, Lee McKinney, who said his family has lived on the property for five generations.
"Anywhere you go, you're going to have progress or the community will die, or the community will never grow," McKinney said.
Blackberry Farm drove much of that progress. The luxury resort bought land for its proposed "Blackberry Mountain" ten years ago. Now, ownership wants to grow it by re-zoning more than five thousand acres of the property for commercial use.
The resort said this would give the general public access to some of the farm's amenities. And, in theory, McKinney is okay with it - if the resort respects its boundaries.
"I'm proud of what I own and I hope they're proud of what they own," McKinney said. "I want them to do what they want to with theirs, and I'm going to do what I want to with mine."
But not all of his neighbors were on the same page at first. This meeting was about answering their questions - about how this will impact their families, how fast the organization would want to move, and more.
The resort said it understands community concern, and that the rezoning is about being able to use the land it already owns, not encroaching on other people's property.
"Blackberry is a place that does care about this land and this community," marketing director Sarah Elder-Chabot said. "We want to provide a business and be a neighbor in the best way possible."
Here is a live Twitter feed from the Blount County Commissions' meeting Tuesday night: