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City seeking to improve ambiance on main corridors

Gary B. Gray • Feb 4, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Property owners along West Market Street will be blanketed with another layer of zoning restrictions and standards should the Johnson City Planning Division’s proposed Design Overlay district be established.

A letter from the city’s Development Services Department dated Jan. 22 informs recipients who own a total of 161 parcels that they can learn more about the new district at an upcoming neighborhood meeting.

The proposed district includes all city right-of-way on West Market between State of Franklin and Claude Simmons roads. Claude Simmons marks one of the southernmost points at which the city’s Urban Growth Boundary, or its jurisdiction, ends. Single-family and two-family land uses are exempt from the additional requirements.

The city is moving in this direction on main corridors in an effort to “establish higher environmental, aesthetic, and design standards for designated areas of Johnson City that includes properties visible from specified streets,” according to the proposal.

An owner’s entire property would be included in the new overlay district and required to conform to the new regulations if it’s frontage is within 300 feet of the city’s right-of-way. However, city right-of-way extends from the edge of the road at varying distances depending on the location.

On Jan. 17, city commissioners passed a first reading of an ordinance that will do the same on State of Franklin, and the “sprucing up” is meant not only for existing properties but for all new development.

Joel Johnson, who’s owned 11-E Mini Storage for 12 years and is one of the affected property owners, has planned to expand in a year or so, but the new standards would not allow it. Under “prohibited uses,” self-service storage is among six banned uses, as are adult-oriented businesses, transmission towers, auto repair, mobile home sales and salvage and/or junk yards.

“I have six buildings on my property, and we planned to expand to nine,” he said. “Are they going to let me?”

No — not under the proposed plan.

When told of Johnson’s possible dilemma, Development Services Department Director Angie Carrier said he could build before the proposal makes it through the Johnson City Planning Commission and the City Commission and still be OK.

“I’ve been getting ready to expand, but I probably would not be able to build for a year or two,” Johnson said. “My cost would be about $100,000, and the income from that could be worth $200,000 to $300,000. If they tell me I can’t complete it, then I’m hurting. My costs may also go up because of other requirements.”

Carrier said the zoning designation of a property would not change.

“The target areas are the corridors coming into the city,” she said. “We want to try to make them more aesthetically pleasing. This originated about two years ago, and the design overlay was put together by a committee. It’s been discussed at least for the one year I’ve been here. The city has sent notices to all property owners within the overlay.”

The proposal calls for all new utility lines to be buried and all ground-mounted mechanical equipment to be screened from view. Exterior building materials, such as corrugate metal siding, vinyl siding and unpainted concrete block would be prohibited.

Other requirements include hiding refuse collection, landscaping any pedestrian path that is 5 feet wide and a general reduction of size when it comes to freestanding signs.

An informational neighborhood meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday. The Planning Commission will hear comments from affected property owners at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12. Both meetings will be held in City Commission chambers at the Municipal & Safety Building, 601 E. Main St.

For more information, call Angela Charles, senior planner, 434-6059.

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