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Firestorm brewing over alternative lifestyle lodge

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

rclawrence@bellsouth.net

A quiet rumble. That's the way zoning officer Kay Christopher described the public firestorm that's starting to brew over a plan to bring an adult resort to Roane County.

"You know it's about to hit," Christopher said.

Christopher said her office has been bombarded with phone calls over the Rosebud Lodge.

The proposed resort and campground will cater to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Pictures on the Rosebud Lodge Web site --www.rosebudlodge.com -- show same-sex couples, including two men kissing, two men sitting in a bath tub and one person who appears to be dressed in drag.

The Rosebud Web site doesn't mention Roane County by name. Riverfront property just west of Knoxville is the description given about the location, but a phone number on the site belongs to Gary Foster of Kettering, Ohio.

He is also listed as the applicant on a zoning request form that was filed with the county zoning office. When contacted Tuesday, Foster seemed confident that the resort, described as clothing-optional three weeks of the month, will come to fruition. He said the location is the perfect spot for it.

"It's between Nashville and Knoxville and not far from Chattanooga," Foster said. "It's a high-traffic area. A lot of people come in there for the Smoky Mountains, Dollywood and things like that. It's a very good area, especially for fishing and boating."

According to the county zoning office, the property that would be home to the resort is located at 920 Skyline Drive. The property, about 60 acres, fronts the Clinch River and is next to Cedar Lake Retreat. According to county property records, the land is owned by Robert F. Whiteside Jr., and its appraised value is $704,500.

There are plans to put a health club, pool and dorm-type housing on the resort. Foster said if the rezoning is approved, the resort could be open by August.

"I've already been down there several times," Foster said. "My Realtor is handling everything right now."

Foster said the resort would be for adults only.

"If you go into a lot of campgrounds, you'll see that they have things going on for just adults without the kids," Foster said. "This will be a place where we don't want the kids, so the adults can just enjoy themselves."

The property is currently zoned A-2 (developing agricultural) and would need to be rezoned to C-1 (general commercial) in order for the Rosebud Lodge to do business there. That's where public opposition could come into play. The county commission has the final say on whether or not to rezone the property. Christopher said people representing several local churches are among the many who called her office to inquire about the proposed resort. No one has expressed a positive opinion, Christopher said.

They will have the opportunity to voice their opinions formally. Christopher said the request to rezone will be on the planning commission's agenda for its May 21 meeting and appear on the commission agenda for its June 9 meeting. Both meetings will be held at the courthouse.

"I don't think the courthouse is going to be big enough to hold all the people," said Warren Kocher, a member of the planning commission.