From the Department of Interesting Theories: What if the Hillside and Ridgetop Protection Plan is actually part of a global plot?
That seems to be the belief of one of the principal critics of the plan, local engineer Gary Norvell. Norvell was actually on the city-county task force that spent nearly three years putting together the Hillside plan, which was adopted last December by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. But Norvell quit the group as it was completing its work, accusing it of being overly restrictive on hillside development. Since then, he's been one of the most outspoken voices of opposition, and helped write the alternative plan that the Knoxville Chamber introduced last week.
The Chamber's plan generated a long discussion over on KnoxViews, including a critique by local environmentalist and Metro Pulse columnist Rikki Hall. Norvell, to his credit, actually waded into the generally pro-Hillside Plan waters there to respond. But after saying that "the goal of this plan written by MPC was to create an enormous amount of control over any proposed development such that our community will be unable to keep up with the demands of its population in the future," he then veers off into unexpected (and, for us anyway, entertaining) territory. To wit:
"I am also very concerned about the strong association the supporters of this plan have with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international global sustainability movement in Bonn, Germany. Even though their efforts seem noble on the outside, the goal of this organization, with the help of the United Nations, is to control every aspect of our individual lives through the local control of water use, fines and taxes for "carbon footprints," and other indefinable concepts."
Well, that sounds ... wait, what? Can it be true? Is our own MPC working in league with a "movement" in Germany to "control every aspect of our individual lives"?
If you're curious, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives is an association of 1,220 local governments around the world who share a broadly defined interest in sustainability, environmental protection, and so forth. Knoxville joined in 2007, under the leadership of Mayor Bill Haslam, in order to "take advantage of the resources offered to members, including access to case studies, software and methodologies developed to assist governments working towards greater sustainability at the local level." Or, you know, possibly to turn over control of all aspects of our daily lives to some shadowy cabal in Bonn. Hard to say, really.
Norvell's creative interpretations of all this wouldn't be much more than amusing if he weren't being offered as a Serious Voice of Reason by the people opposed to the Hillside Plan. Unfortunately, this kind of thing has marked the opposition since last winter, when assorted angry developers started coming to meetings on the plan and screaming and yelling about how it was just another Obamacare. (Yeah, we didn't understand that one, either.) And, not surprisingly, they are being picked up by some of the legislative opponents of the MPC's work, like County Commissioner Jeff Ownby. A few days ago, Ownby opined on his Facebook page, "When we talk about stainable development we are inching closer to the Agenda 21 that we are a member of in the City. This is a U.N. Program that is over seen from a group in Germany, I don't want someone in Germany or the U.N. Telling us where..."
On the plus side, Ownby may have accidentally hit on some common ground there. There's a good chance that nobody is actually in favor of "stainable development." Sounds messy.