The Origins Of Tellico Village
Tellico Village is more than a simple real estate development. It is part and parcel of a comprehensive plan to bring jobs, higher incomes, and economic growth to Tennessee, specifically Loudon, Monroe, and Blount counties – an area that in the 1960s lagged badly behind the rest of the state in most important economic measures. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a “New Deal” federal agency, fostered the plan that would use the shoreline lands around its proposed Tellico Lake for industrial, residential, and recreational development, with most of the proceeds from that development being plowed back into the local area.
The Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) discovered the Little Tennessee River early in the 20th century and built a score of dams to harness its power for Alcoa’s giant aluminum plant at Alcoa, TN. During World War II, TVA rushed completion of Fontana Dam near the North Carolina-Tennessee boarder in a massive effort to provide power for the secret uranium enrichment process at Oak Ridge.
The final dam on the river was Tellico Dam that TVA started in 1967. Before Tellico Dam was completed 12 years later, it would become a national symbol in the bitter struggle between conservationists and developers. The battle over Tellico Dam made two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court and propelled a 3-inch fish called the “snail darter” into the nation’s headlines. It took a special exemption from Congress to complete the dam in 1979.
Tellico Dam diverts the flow of the Little Tennessee River through a canal into nearby Fort Loudoun Lake, allowing use of the generators and transportation lock at Fort Loudoun to provide additional electric power without the expense of installing an additional generator and navigation benefits without building an additional lock. Tellico Lake also provides additional valuable flood control storage above Chattanooga, one of the most flood vulnerable cities in the nation. Tellico, a tributary reservoir, operates in tandem with Fort Loudoun on the mainstream, limiting annual lake-level fluctuations in Tellico to only about six feet, as compared to 20 to 50 feet on other TVA tributary reservoirs. The unique feature of the Tellico Reservoir, however, is the meticulous planning that TVA undertook on the 363 miles of shoreline and the steps it took to insure that the promised benefits of new jobs, improved income, and economic growth would be realized and shared with the people in the surrounding counties.
The Little Tennessee River rises in the steep and scenic mountains of western North Carolina and north Georgia – an area that receives some of the highest rainfall totals in Eastern America. After crossing the North Carolina border into East Tennessee, the river flows through more gentle topography on its way to join the Tennessee River near Lenoir City. This topography created broad floodplains that, in the years before Tellico Dam, were dotted with fields of corn, tobacco, and hundreds of small dairy farms.
Long before the white man took over the river and the land, the Cherokee Indians claimed the Little Tennessee River as their own. They believed it was a special river. Its waters brought them purification of soul and body as well as providing food and transportation. They located their villages along its shore, some of which carried names familiar to modern-day Tellico Villagers – such as Chota, Toqua, Tommotley, Tanasi, Chatuga, Coyatee, and Kahite.
TRDA and CCI
To carry out its commitment, the TVA encouraged Loudon, Monroe, and Blount counties and the Tennessee Legislature to create the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency (TRDA) as an independent state agency. TVA then turned over the 11,000 acres of shoreline lands to TRDA to manage for residential, industrial, commercial, and recreational development and for wildlife enhancement. The first important element in the plan was Tellico Village. Cooper Communities, Inc. (CCI) of Bella Vista, AR, was selected in late 1984 as the developer for the planned lakeside community. CCI is a privately held company that, at the time, had successfully developed three other planned communities in Arkansas.
The purchase agreement for the 4,806-acre site for Tellico Village highlights the unique nature of the Village and sets it apart from the typical real estate development. CCI agreed to invest at least $10.5 million in infrastructure and amenities in the new community and make cash payment of $2 million. In addition, the Tellico Village Property Owners Association (POA) agreed to lease all roads, amenities, and other common properties from TRDA and make annual lease payments to TRDA. TRDA has used its revenues from land sales and leases to invest in a major job-training facility and to develop a major industrial park that currently provides more than 3,500 jobs to people in the surrounding counties.