The first reading of the Bobby Hicks Highway/Airport Road Annexation ordinance, a scaled-back version of an annexation plan previously discussed by Johnson City officials, was approved at Thursday’s meeting of the Johnson City Commission.
Johnson City Development Services Department Director Angie Carrier said the annexation, if ultimately approved by the commission, would affect a little more than 180 acres of property and around 50 people. The annexed area would contain 27 dwelling units, contain no agricultural land, and would contain 1.95 miles of roadway including portions of Bobby Hicks Highway, Airport Road, Kingsport Highway, Roy Martin Road, Judge Gresham Road, and all of Ethan Court and Stowaway Court. The annexation would be for parcels of land in Gray along the Bobby Hicks Highway from Interstate 26 North to the Washington County/Sullivan County line.
The ordinance to be considered by the commission included zoning property contained within the ordinance to R-2 (Low Density Residential), RP-3 (Planned Residential), B-4 (Planned Arterial Business), I-1 (Light Industrial) and HCO (Highway Corridor Overlay) zoning. The inclusion of the B-4 zoning was a point of contention for Vice Mayor Phil Carriger.
“I must say I’m disappointed we’re going to have to revisit the issue of B-4,” he said. “I’m adamantly opposed to that. We promised these people ... I’m just shocked. Has anyone requested a B-4? Has there been a business or person?”
Carrier said the original proposal called for a B-5 zoning rather than B-4, but that the city’s planning commission voted to change this to B-4 in the ordinance. She said the change back to the B-5 zone would be left to the city commission’s descretion. Aside from the agricultural land, Carrier said the planning commission also opted to remove some R-2 residential areas not along the corridor discussed for annexation.
“I know there were a couple of property owners who existed in that area that preferred B-4,” Commissioner Clayton Stout said. “They didn’t want to put any controls on their property as far as future use.”
Stout also questioned whether the Mouse’s Ear Gentleman’s Club would be included in the annexation for consistency. He said he was unsure of the message the commission would be sending if it engaged in “picking and choosing” which businesses to include in annexation. The planning commission’s vote on the ordinance did not include the business.
“I have a real problem with telling some business owners they’re going to have to be saddled with city and county taxes and some business owners are not,” he said.
Carriger said he worried about the “nuisance factor” the business’s inclusion in the annexation would present. Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said law enforcement has been called out to the business around 75 times annually since 2000 and 14 times this year.
City Manager Pete Peterson said legal issues may come into play if the city were to annex the business under the currently proposed ordinance. He said the business would be “grandfathered in” and may not be able to continue to do business as it currently does as beer is sold through a county-issued beer license. Peterson said the grandfather status would remain until the license expires, which would come with a change of ownership or management.
“So the argument could be made that you are devaluing the business in terms of potential for resale,” Peterson said.
Mayor Jeff Banyas said the city’s planning commission could further explore the situation involving the Mouse’s Ear. Banyas also made the motion to approve the annexation ordinance on first reading, replacing the B-4 zoning with B-5 zoning. The motion was approved by a 4-0 vote. Carriger abstained from voting.
The commission also voted to reject an ordinance that would have amended sections of the zoning code to permit farm animals, including chickens, in agriculturally zoned areas of the city only. The ordinance was up for consideration on its second reading.
After hearing from several member of the group Chickens On Our Property, who asked the commission to either defeat or defer its consideration of the ordinance, Stout supported the ordinance’s defeat, stating he would like to bring an ordinance before the commission’s consideration in the future that would allow for the keeping of chickens in residential areas. This motion came after Carriger’s motion to accept the ordinance as presented died due to the lack of a second.
Stout’s motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Jane Myron, was rejected by a 3-2 vote, with Banyas, Carriger and Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin voting against.
With the original motion dead and Stout’s motion rejected, Peterson said the city would go back to enforcing the ordinance currently on the books. Current city code allows chickens in different areas of the city, but requires health officer approval if the chickens are closer than 1,000 feet to an adjoining structure.
The commission also approved the first reading of an ordinance to remove a 5.4-acre residence and working farm at 124 Jim Richmond Rod from the city corporate limits. The property was located within the Suncrest Annexation area that became effective June 2.