Megasite Aftermath: Effort Now is to Stop the Intermodal in New Market with Focus on County Government

Property owners in New Market opposed to Norfolk Southern’s plan to build a transportation transfer point, where trailer trucks will gather to be loaded and unloaded off trains, have hired the attorney that led the fight that stopped a proposed “megasite” on the other side of the county.

Knoxville attorney Scott Hurley told the group in a meeting last week that it is time to stop fighting the railroad—the railroad is going to do what the railroad is going to do. They are buying farmland and clearing the site.

Hurley said the group’s effort should parallel the victory over the megasite—focus on the Jefferson County Commission and educating taxpayers about the estimated $23 million in county funds that will be needed to close roads (and the tunnels that take them under the railroad tracks) and replace them with another road for access. That’s the amount of infrastructure the county would have to provide in order to make the site work, according to a University of Tennessee study. He believes that if the county makes it clear they will not pay for the changes, the railroad will drop the project.

County government will have to be convinced that the costs of roads, bridges, and utilities outweigh the benefits. The county has been asked to get a site plan and timeline from Norfolk Southern to see who will be affected by road closures and get a precise figure on the cost to the county.

The site sits between Andrew Johnson Highway and the entrance to a peninsula of farms and homes on the Holston River. Access to the peninsula is through a series of tunnels under the Norfolk Southern tracks.

Hurley told the group a big part of the effort will be to dispel some myths about the project.

When the “intermodal” was announced it was in conjunction with a proposed industrial park and hundreds of jobs were touted. What has not received much notice is that the proposed industrial park has gone away and only the contract workers operating the intermodal will have jobs. A similar sized facility in Virginia has 15 employees.

Another myth is that the project doesn’t affect people in other parts of the county. But hundreds of trailer trucks driving the 12 miles from the interstate every day and millions of taxpayer dollars make the project of concern from Chestnut Hill to White Pine to Jefferson City.

The Save Our Farms and Homes group that defeated the megasite proposal is still organized and active and will help with the effort, Hurley said.

County leaders, as is their wont, seek progress, jobs, and a better tax base. I feel their pain. I’m all about progress and jobs and a better economy. I think most of the people in SOFAH and Jefferson County Tomorrow feel the same way. Most of us are conservative Republicans, after all.

But big industrial projects usually get a tax abatement. The economic value to county government is jobs and paychecks. As a practical matter, and as a matter of economics, it matters little if the jobs are in Knoxville or Morristown.

The proposed megasite and the cost involved for the return was just a dumb idea. Having a daily trailer-truck convention on New Market farmland a dozen miles from the interstate is also a dumb idea. Doing it for 15 jobs is just stupid. No matter its convenience for the railroad, it is a major inconvenience to truck drivers and to county residents.

Jefferson County is a bedroom community for Knoxville and Morristown. It has lakefront homes on Douglas and Cherokee, farms, and small businesses. The quality of life can’t be beat anywhere. Ask the snow birds who live on the lake in Dandridge.

And if the time comes that the trucks do roll into New Market and the outcry requires a new four-lane road from the interstate to handle the traffic, the rest of the area’s taxpayers will also pay a price. Norfolk Southern won’t be paying for it, you will.

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Comments » 2

drmraybon#210499 writes:

Sunflower Power!!! Please, plant sunflowers, wear sunflowers! The sunflower is the symbol of JCT and wearing them shows your support, just like wearing a green ribbon shows your support of SOFAH. We citizens of Jefferson county need the SUNSHINE on our county government.
Very factual article! Kudos! One oversight is that New Market Elementry school is literally a stone's throw from the footprint of the site. Noise, dangerous traffic, air pollution, threat of major train derailments, etc... and sitting right there on top of it- several hundred school children. Did you know that if all the trucks that Norfolk Southern says are going to be using this site each 24 hours were lined up end to end they would stretch over ten miles? Now, if you want some 'reality' programing?? Just show up at a Jefferson County Commission meeting! The characters are just so real to life! Last meeting was conducted in a total power blackout! The courtroom has NO lighted exit signs or any 'emegency' type lighting. Finally one commissioner did go to his work truck and bring back a flash light. Everyone else struggled on with light source from eletronic devices. The citizens who came to participate in OUR government??? We were left in the dark and could not hear anything that went on (budget was the topic!!) After more than an hour, I went home totally disgusted. There are a minority number of commissioners who do a great job of being knowledgable and informed. And, they do challenge the 'good ol' boys club' of EDOC and Chamber of Commerce. But, the majority just ask how high when the chairman cracks his whip and says JUMP! Since the EDOC (an NGO who gets 160K county tax $ and has ZERO accountability) tried to obliterate my home and community with that Megasite I have attended every county commission meeting. Will be doing that until I draw my last breath, too, just to protect myself from their terrorism!! Anyone want to know more? Check out the SOFAH and JCT websites for future meetings. Unlike EDOC and Chamber of Commerce, our meetings are open to public and SUNSHINES on us all!!!
Have a blessed day. If you ate some food this morning?? HUG a farmer and say thank you! Get out and enjoy our green open spaces before EDOCs and Chamber of Commerces pave them all over and render it a hell hole.
Donna, the lady farmer in overalls and pigtails

Mr_Bighead writes:

I'm so sick of all the NIMBY's claiming that this is about farms. There is very little farming going on in New Market, and this new intermodal facility will only impact a few "farmers". East Tennessee hasn't had an agricultural economy since the 1940's. People need to accept the reality that we have an industrial economy that requires growth and progress.

Jefferson County is easily 90% Republican. So what happened to their enthusiasm for economic growth, property rights, and the free market? Norfolk Southern bought the land fairly without using eminent domain, and it's theirs to use as they wish. Now these so-called-Republican NIMBY's are falling over themselves to get the government to step in and restrict the evil corporation because its plans don't fit with their backwards agrarian fantasy. This is the kind of restrictive activism I would expect from residents of California or Massachusetts. Just exchange "farmers" for "wetlands" or "diversity".

Our county government makes a rare positive and forward-thinking decision that will benefit 99% of our residents, and we get all this opposition based on nostalgia and fear of change. The FACT is that none of the people involved are professional farmers, and even if they were, that's no reason to trample on property rights. If the NIMBY's didn't want this site to be built, they should have outbid Norfolk Southern for the land. That's how capitalism works. Don't like it? Maybe you should move to Boston or San Fransisco.

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