Low Income Housing Targets Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community – Will Gatlinburg Step Up or Step Aside?

Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community, the largest group of independent artisans in North America, may soon have a new neighbor. The Glades Road loop that houses the popular tourist attraction has attracted the attention of a developer looking to cash in on the low income tax credit program that is offered by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency by proposing a 92 unit low income housing development that will be located at 1359 East Parkway in Gatlinburg. The property in question is located where Glades Road meets East Parkway and would be a highly visible addition to an area that has prided itself on keeping true to its artisan roots.

Last month, Consultant Phillip Vaughn of Nashville and Developer John Huff of Alabama submitted their application for low income housing tax credits on the proposed development that was named Glade Ridge Apartments. A search of the address shows that 1359 East Parkway is the home of Three Jimmy’s Restaurant. According to project consultant Vaughn, it is not unusual for a piece of property to have an unlocatable address, and it is possible that 1359 East Parkway is the closest address to the proposed site. Regardless, Vaughn stated that the proposed site is located at the corner of Glade Road and East Parkway, which is the city side entrance to the artist loop. Should the development be chosen for the competitive low income tax credit, the application deems that all 92 units will be dedicated to low income and Section 8 housing. The Glade Ridge Apartment Development is one of several that have been applied for by Huff/Vaughn, and one of three that are proposed for Sevier County. Because Sevier County is ranked high this year in the point system that has been established to determine which applicants receive low income housing tax credits, it is an attractive location for developers who specialize in this type of complex. Proximity to the proposed complex is paramount because points are awarded on the basis of distance to shopping, schools, libraries, medical facilities, ect. Those that are seeking housing are placed through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency on a need/first come basis, and often are not residents of the area.

Beyond the potential impact to the artist community, other considerations are property value impact, increased security needs, and impact to local schools who may not be able to handle the influx of students that relocate to the area. Most of the successful proposed developments have two or more bedrooms and an average of two children per unit, according to information provided by THDA, unless they are specified as elderly or special needs developments. Vaughn stated in an interview this week that the Glade Ridge Development is proposed as a general development. In some instances, developers or their consultants contact the local government administration and request some form of written support of the project to strengthen an application that may be weak in other areas. Marci Claude, spokesperson for the City of Gatlinburg, replied to an email that questioned the city’s participation in the application process, which included, “… City Officials met with developers 4 or 5 years ago but have no current information regarding a development at 1359 East Parkway.” Vaughn supported the statement, saying that the city did not write any document supporting this project, nor was one requested.

Competition for low income housing tax credits is stiff, and the award date will not come until June. Current movement on the part of the City to clean up areas that are less than tourist friendly are a work in progress, and it remains to be seen if Gatinburg will take any measures to intercede on behalf of an artist community that has recently taken a back seat to moonshine makers and the more commercial businesses that have, arguably, become the new face of the small burg. It is likely that a low income housing development could be an insurmountable obstacle in the bid for tourist dollars, where impression is almost as important as product, and the true artisan is becoming extinct.

Source: K. Depew, News Director