Public hearing set on city’s Sullivan annexation plan

Gary B. Gray • Jan 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Johnson City’s annexation of 64 acres along U.S. Highway 11E in Sullivan County will get a second reading and public hearing tonight at the City Commission’s regular meeting.

Despite a recent finding the property has been subdivided and has two owners — one who is seeking only to rezone his property for now, and another who wants to get started on the residential development of Cedar Crest — the path to annexation appears clear.

Tom Bachman, the original owner, sold a 20-acre chunk of his land to Wade Hughes, and Highlands Engineering is preparing plans for residential development on this tract. The entire 64 acres sits to the southeast of U.S. 11E and is bound on two complete sides by city-owned land.

Johnson City’s Urban Growth Plan allows the annexation, but Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey said last week said the move takes development possibilities away from Sullivan County, adding that “It’s got a bad smell to it.”

“We’ve met with the developer, and he’s OK with the annexation,” Steve Neilson, Johnson City’s long-range planning coordinator, said Wednesday. “Frankly, I think we’ve got a much better product than we previously thought.”

Commissioners also are expected to take up the issue of repairs at Cardinal Park at a 3 p.m. meeting.

At their Jan. 5 meeting, commissioners were disappointed alternate bids had not yet been put out to replace the park’s aging left field wall.

A more than $162,000 offer from Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors to demolish the existing wall and build about 390 feet of new wall is the only bid on the table at this point. Architect Tony Street told commissioners at that meeting he had drawings ready and could put bids out immediately to replace the fence only. That was the last public word on the issue.

Commissioners also will consider the city’s purchase of the Cutshall Automotive property at 110 Commerce St. with funds from the Storm Water Utility Fund.

The settlement price on the property, which is located near U-Haul, is $149,600. The city also is willing to add another $40,000 to that for relocation and re-establishment costs to the company. A downtown detention basin project is planned for that area, which is part of the city’s long-term flood mitigation plan.

U-Haul, which is doing business at 114 W. King St., was offered $820,000 by the city for the property based on an independent appraisal, but the company has refused to negotiate with the city, and it appears the condemnation of the property will be an issue settled in court.

Meanwhile, the Chickens On Our Property group has asked to be heard tonight. Emily Katt, who is representing the group, said in a letter to City Manager Pete Peterson that the group will ask for a proper determination of whether a backyard coop with a small number of hens is actually endangering human health.

The group also will ask for an ordinance to ensure pet hen owners have similar rights and responsibilities as other pet owners.

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