City commissioners move to make Gray corridor developer friendly

Gary B. Gray • Jan 18, 2013 at 10:10 PM

The City Commission passed a first reading of an ordinance Thursday that would make land in the Suncrest and Bobby Hicks Highway areas more developer friendly, a move made eight days after a U.S. district judge dismissed a suit in which Gray residents, upset with Johnson City’s recent and possible future annexations there, challenged a state statute.

Commissioners also passed a first reading of an ordinance to annex — a property owner requested annexation — slightly more than 10 acres along the Kingsport Highway that includes about 3,640 feet of Bobby Hicks Highway.

“I attended the planning meetings on this, and my understanding is they can’t do anything in the county,” said Danny Sells, a Gray resident who headed the group Citizens to Maintain Gray last summer when the city proceeded with the Suncrest Annexation and an attempt to annex land along the Bobby Hicks Highway. “The key is, they are talking about 300 feet from the edge of city right-of-way. Is the bogeyman out there? Yes. But this move is not a surprise. However, this whole area will be Johnson City at some point, and this move does continue to set the stage for further annexation.”

Commissioners are in the process of amending the city’s zoning map to reflect the removal of the City-County Overlay and the establishment of the Corridor Overlay along the city right-of-way on the Boones Creek Road and Bobby Hicks Highway corridors in Gray.

These two areas run down the middle of the Suncrest Annexation, and the failed Bobby Hicks Highway annexation, and any properties within 300 feet from the edge of city right-of-way will be included. Properties outside the city would not be affected unless annexed into the city.

Basically, the difference in the two districts is the new overlay status removes additional requirements placed on new developments, according to Angie Charles, senior planner.

“Honestly, no harm no foul on this one,” Sells said. “My only concern is that their map reflect what areas that are within the city’s jurisdiction and which areas are not.

The new district does not prohibit parking within the front yard setback; include additional restrictions pertaining to outdoor storage and sales of merchandise; or include specifications for curb cuts, driveways and internal circulation. The CO also loosens restrictions on the size and height of freestanding signs.

Commissioners adopted the new Corridor Overlay district on Sept. 20.

“We realized that folks out there may be affected, and I’m comfortable that the Planning Commission and city staff has seen this through carefully,” said Commissioner Jane Myron.

This owner-initiated annex along the Kingsport and Bobby Hicks highways is being called the 6315 Kingsport Highway Annexation and includes about 95 percent transportation and utilities and 5 percent commercial. The property currently is in Washington County and is zoned B-3A (general business district). The ordinance would rezone the property to B-4 (planned arterial business district).

The assessed value of the commercial property in $73,120, and the estimated annual revenue to the city in property tax would be about $1,150.

In other business, commissioners approved a first reading of an ordinance to rezone an 18.8-acre parcel that fronts Boone Ridge Drive from MS-1 (medical services) to R-5 (high density residential) at the request of Mitch Cox. The developer wants to build a 413-unit apartment complex with a density up to 22 units per acre, and a concept plan is not required with an R-5 zoning.

The Planning Commission voted 10-0 in December to approve passage of the ordinance by the full commission.

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