John Schoonmaker (Rep)
Knox County Commissioner
John Schoonmaker for Knox County Commission
How will you address housing and business growth in Knox County?
As a member of the Farragut West Knox County Chamber, I have been extremely supportive of our business community.
In the 5th District, we have a need for more flexible use office space for startups and small businesses to encourage future business growth. Countywide, we should continue to work with our existing business base to find additional opportunities such as supplier chains for current businesses and have them relocate to our area. With regard to housing, the 5th District comprises one of the largest bedroom communities for the county and is almost at capacity. In order to expand our county's housing opportunities, we need infrastructure improvements in the East and South County areas. I am not against growth or development, but I do think we need to consider the impact of growth and development on our infrastructure and develop a plan to take care of the increased wear and tear that will result from additional growth and development.
What will you do to increase affordable housing for low income families in the county?
In the 26,000 acres of my district, the Town of Farragut controls about 40% of the land, and the City of Knoxville controls about 4.5%. That leaves approximately 55% of the 5th District controlled by the County. Unfortunately, there are not many tracts of land in that 55% that are still available for housing development. A successful location for low income housing should be close to retail shopping areas and be adjacent to KAT's bus line for transportation needs. Currently, this service only extents westward to Seven Oaks Drive. I believe City Council and County Commission should develop a joint task force to discuss the available locations in the city or county that would be most practical for low income housing. Then, we could partner with the state and federal government for grant opportunities to assist with funding these new housing opportunities.
Will you support increasing the county's property tax rate to pay for infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
I do not support a property tax increase, nor do I support a sales tax increase. As chairman of the Commission's Finance Committee, I have the knowledge and experience to find other ways of increasing funding for issues that are important to the citizens of Knox County without the need to raise taxes. Last year, I wrote and filed a bill with the TN State Legislature that will save over $1 million annually for the Town of Farragut, Knox County, and the City of Knoxville combined. Additionally, a new law was passed that will allow a larger percentage of collected sales tax revenue to flow into Knox County from purchases made online. This new law does not increase sales tax, it just reallocates the funds to the county. A portion of these two funding sources could be earmarked for infrastructure. These are just two examples of ways the County could stay on budget and still take care of needed improvements.
What issues have arisen since the March Primary that are relevant to your office and how do you intend to address them?
The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated our community. As a result, Knox County Government has taken a big hit financially. As Chairman of the Finance Committee and member of Knox County’s Investment Committee, I continuously review the financial data on a weekly basis to monitor our financial position in light of these new developments. In addition, I will continue to assist businesses with getting answers from the State of TN on the proper guidelines to follow regarding the constantly changing requirements. Another issue that has resurfaced is the 5G wireless structures. In 2018, I was involved in formulating the county’s regulations governing the installation of the 35’ structures. Unfortunately, the Federal Government and the State of Tennessee stepped in and stripped the county of imposing regulations on the wireless carriers. I will continue to assist our community in doing whatever we can to reduce the negative effects of these new intrusions into our neighborhoods.