Meeting held to discuss Seymour incorporation

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 11:30 PM

The idea of making the unincorporated community of Seymour into a city met with some resistance at an information meeting on the topic Thursday evening, including a county commissioner who questioned whether the discussion was premature.

Around 50 people came to the meeting at Seymour High School, and several members of the audience seemed to be set against the idea of incorporating the community, which is generally considered to stretch into portions of Sevier and Blount counties.

Local resident Patrick Doyle led the meeting. Doyle said he hadn’t made a decision himself yet on whether he favors incorporation, and that the meeting was meant to start a discussion about the topic. “This is not an ‘I'm all for incorporation (meeting),’" he said. “This is just to start a discussion.”

However, the information he presented came from a web site called “incorporateseymour.com,” and focused on the potential benefits of incorporation. The front page includes the statement. “The community of Seymour will take a major step toward its goal of becoming an incorporated municipality Jan. 9.” The web site, and Thursday’s presentation, mentioned the possibility of returning petitions by June 3 to have the matter placed on the ballot of an upcoming election.

Doyle said a group of local residents and business owners had been talking about incorporation, but didn’t identify those parties even after members of the audience asked who had brought up the idea and gathered the information and called for the meeting. He said some of those people were in the audience and could identify themselves if they wanted; at that time no one did so.

Potential benefits he mentioned included having a local body to address problems in the community, the opportunity to have a community center, improvements to infrastructure including Chapman Highway and Boyds Creek Highway, and more money to support schools in Seymour.

Some people in the audience interrupted him to say the benefits would mean new taxes and additional government.

Doyle estimated that the property tax for an incorporated Seymour would be up to $204 a year for a piece of property with an assessed value of $160,000. He said he got the figure by calling Nashville, presumably meaning someone in state government. However, the presentation never said how they arrived at a budget for the proposed government.

County Commissioner Bill Oakes, who represents Seymour, attended the meeting and spoke up at the urging of some of the people in attendance.

“I feel like some of the things Patrick has presented to us are factually incorrect,” he said, noting he wasn’t sure the estimated property tax was accurate because he didn’t think it could cover the costs of starting a new municipal government.

Moreover, he said, there’s a process mandated under state law for communities looking to incorporate, and there are several steps that he felt should have been completed before the idea was pitched to the public.

“There’s a procedure you have go through and I think this group is ... way ahead of where it needs to be,” he said.

Those steps include forming a steering committee and developing a plan of services for the community.

“There are tons of things that have to be done before these discussions can even happen,” Oakes said.

Doyle said they would be interested in starting a steering committee and including Oakes and some other commissioners.

Commissioners Buster Norton and Harold Pitner also attended Thursday’s meeting.

After the meeting, several residents interviewed by The Mountain Press said they didn’t favor incorporation.

“I don’t think we’re ready for this year,” said Glenn Hutchins.

Nolan Julian also said he didn’t think the community was ready to take the step.

"In 50 years, this place has grown like it ought to grow,” he said. “I don’t think we need to come in here with a (city) government.”

Another meeting about incorporation is set for Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in Seymour HIgh School.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com