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Knox Co. Commission discusses incident involving KCSO at McAlister's, proposes asking TDOT for new highway bypass

Knox County Commission also approved moving forward on plans for a large development called Belltown in NW Knox County.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County commissioners Tuesday discussed a large proposed development between Powell and Karns and a resolution expressing interest in a future interstate bypass around the county during their monthly work session.

The commission also discussed a November incident involving three Knox County Sheriff's Office deputies at a McAlister's Deli. The incident received a lot of attention after the KCSO spokesperson said on social media that a 15-year-old cashier refused to serve the deputies.

The mother of the server, who is the sister of Anthony Thompson Jr. who was shot by Knoxville police officers in an armed confrontation in 2021 in Austin-East High School, called KCSO's comments untrue and said the cashier was nearing the end of her shift and went to ask a co-worker for help. The store eventually fired the 15-year-old, saying she was too young to work there.

The cashier later spoke about the incident during a commission meeting, saying that she lost her first job and "watched my name and character be drug through the mud and destroyed via social media because of Kimberly Glenn, a communications director for Knox County Sheriff's Office who failed to do her job accurately and has yet to face the consequences of her actions."

Commissioner Dasha Lundy called for the commission to discuss the incident.

They also discussed whether to approve the Belltown Planned Development Preliminary Plan. The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission voted to conditionally approve the plan in December.

As part of the plan, developers would need to pay for improvements to West Emory Road, such as building a traffic light and they would also need to build crosswalks and turn lanes into the development. Developers would also need to limit the density of Belltown to no more than 1,200 residential units in most areas.

It would be built on more than 300 acres located between Karns and Powell, spilling over into Anderson County The plans say most of the space would be used by single-family homes, on the northern side of West Emory Road.

On the southern side, Belltown would have around 93 acres made up of a mix of townhomes, multi-family apartments, commercial space and a park. The park would be around 40 acres large and would be turned over to Knox County for its management after the Legacy Parks Foundation develops trails and a kayak launch, according to reports. 

Developers would need to deed the public park for the foundation, or similar non-profit, before the Final Play for the first phase of the development is certified.

A future bypass?

Commission also discussed a non-binding resolution on the agenda that would encourage the Tennessee Department of Transportation and state legislators to start working on a new highway bypass around Knoxville.

Commissioner Larsen Jay said a bypass is needed to keep up with the growth of the city and county. 

"I think those growth pains are a good thing, but they are things that you cannot ignore," Jay said. 

Knoxville is located at a major crossroad for the East Coast, where I-40 and I-75 meet. He sees traffic as more development, more services and more goods for the region. 

If traffic back-ups continue and get worst, he said people and businesses will not want to be in East Tennessee.  For him, this resolution was a way to get ahead of the problem. 

The bypass does not have an assigned location. Larsen said a large project like this can involve other counties, and take decades to complete as well as millions of dollars.

The commission did not formally vote on any of the proposals when they met on Tuesday, since it is a work session meeting. They will discuss the items and then vote on them during their regular session meeting. 

Right to Life Month

They also considered a resolution to recognize "January as Right to Life Month in Knox County and honor the efforts of the Right to Life movement." It is also explicitly meant to encourage anti-abortion treatment advocates to continue their efforts.

The resolutions said anti-abortion advocates acknowledge Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, as "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."

The resolution was proposed by Commissioner Rhonda Lee, an attorney and new commissioner.

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