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Neighbors still have a stake in Buffalo Valley

Johnson City Press • Apr 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The estimated 150 property owners along Buffalo Valley Golf Course may have a long wait ahead to learn the fate of their big green neighbor.

After Johnson City shut down the financially draining course in December, the Town of Unicoi and a group of neighboring residents talked about getting into the golf business to protect their properties. So in February, the Town of Unicoi submitted a $400,000 bid to buy the dormant course from Johnson City.

But the 60-day deadline for Johnson City to respond to the offer passed with little more than a peep, and the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Monday to withdraw its offer and seek the return of its $40,000 deposit.

As Staff Writer Sue Guinn Legg reported, town leaders not only were concerned with the lack of response but also with the condition of the property. Since the shutting down the course, the city has removed some sod and topsoil from the course.

“We can still re-bid it,” Alderwoman Kathy Bullen said in moving to withdraw the town’s bid. “But the property we bid on is not the same property that is there today.”

Johnson City officials tell us, however, that crews have removed only about one-quarter acre of topsoil from rough areas that do not affect Buffalo Valley’s fairways. The city also removed 300 to 400 feet of sod from around the No. 6 tee, which had already been used as sod nursery for some time, and placed it in Lions Park.

Although the city has pulled permits from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for further soil removal, Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the city would do nothing more at the course until the City Commission moves ahead with decisions on the property’s future.

“What we’ve done out there hasn’t hurt (the course) one bit,” Pindzola said.

Meanwhile, the city has issued a request for proposals to possibly retain a real estate broker to market Buffalo Valley for sale. Three proposals have been received, but no action has been taken so far.

While that property is certainly valuable, Johnson City should keep the neighbors’ interests in mind as it moves toward a sale or other solutions. The impact from any development should be minimized as much as possible.

It’s also in the Town of Unicoi’s best interests to stay involved in the Buffalo Valley discussion — even if it doesn’t get into the golf business.

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