Grainger Today Correspondent
BLAINE – The city of Blaine has given Todd Claiborne a six-month extension to complete his project on the Fox Farm property with the condition that he will be shut down if he is not through. Claiborne had asked for two more years, but neither the board nor weary neighbors have inclined to be that lenient. Following debate at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Knoxville attorney Ben Mullins suggested the compromise. Indicating it was against his better judgment, Alderman Larry Edwards moved that the board go along with the suggestion. “This is not a storage yard. You (the board) have discretion to either grant or deny the extension. Give him six months to get to grade,” Mullins said. He noted that Blaine had incorporated in 1978 to stop the city of Knoxville from putting in a landfill. “This isin that tradition,”he said. “I wouldn’t give him another day. But my motion isto give him a six-month extension from today and require him to post a $1 million performance bond for completion. Ifheis not finished, shut him down,” Edwards said. The motion was supported by seven of the eight board members present, with Alderman Michael Hopson abstaining. Those voting in favor were Edwards, Mayor Patsy McElhaney and Aldermen Marvin Braden, Ronnie Kitts, Michael Fennell, Charlie McKnight and Darrell Williams. The controversy has raged for nearly three years since Claiborne first proposed starting a mining operation on the property. He backed down after strong public opposition and said he would build an equipment storage pad and prepare the property to market for development. A court-ordered settlement required him to bring the space up to the level of Rutledge Pike. But opponents, including Edwards, have insisted he has dug a large hole and is continuing his mining operation. Claiborne insisted at the meeting that he has been hampered by weather and other conditions that prevented him from completing the project by next month’s deadline. But Mullins and attorney LeAnn Wilson countered that his arguments had no merit. Wilson, who lives near the project, said she had hired an engineer to review the project. “The engineer said his reasons for requesting an extension are not valid,” she said. She added that she could offer proof that her property has been devalued due to the project. Other residents came forward to complain about damage to their property from the blasting orthat their property had lost value.