City commissioners Thursday will continue their careful and measured steps toward its rails-to-trails project by settling on a general set of by-laws that will guide a five- to 15-member task force in its quest to fund and construct what is commonly known as the “Tweetsie Trail.”
On April 4, commissioners agreed to Mayor Jeff Banyas’ recommended appointments to a rails-to-trails task force that will be charged with helping guide the start and completion of the $5.2 million, currently unnamed 10-mile trail between Johnson City and Elizabethton.
The following were unanimously approved: Steve Darden, former commissioner and mayor; Dr. Dan Schumaier, Johnson City business owner; Ray Flynn, an avid runner; Grant Summers, developer/builder; Steve Frabitore, a Tupelo Honey stakeholder; the city manager; mayor; vice mayor; representatives not yet identified from the city of Elizabethton, and possibly others as time goes by.
No members of the group will receive any compensation, though their task is substantial, according to the proposed by-laws. Johnson City’s mayor, vice mayor and city manager will serve terms concurrent with their offices. All others will serve three-year terms. The task force’s basic priority is to solicit and identify public and private funding opportunities.
At the City Commission’s March 21 meeting, Banyas said, “It’s obvious from the master plan that the full $5.2 million build-out is probably something we won’t do. I see this as a private-public venture. I want to see if we can develop a task force, perhaps a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group.”
Since that time, “steady as she goes” is about all there’s been to say about the project.
Neither Banyas nor City Manager Pete Peterson were immediately available for comment.
The group will be electing a chairman, vice chairman and secretary to serve one-year terms. The proposed by-laws call for an annual organizational meeting and no less than twice a year in regular session.
Meanwhile, Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois will return to chambers to give commissioners a safety report on the Sinking Creek Environmental Education Park.
The commission last month approved an agreement with Boone Watershed Partnership to pursue the first phase of the Sinking Creek Wetlands Project, a 28-acre environmental education park off King Springs Road — a phase that does not include construction of a parking lot or boardwalk.
After a lengthy power point presentation by Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, commissioners raised many a question about safety, long-term maintenance and other issues at the park. So, with a consensus that there were too many unknowns, a vote on the project, which was to include 600 feet of wetlands in about 2.5 acres of the property, was unanimously deferred to give Sirois time to consider safety issues.
Commissioners also will consider a first reading of an ordinance to rezone about 2.5 acres at 2412 Knob Creek Road from MS-1 (medical services) to R-4 (medium density residential). The petitioner is Mitch Cox and Dominion Development Group. Cox wants to build a 40,000-square foot, 60-unit assisted living facility on the site, which adjoins the Towne Acres neighborhood.
The property has frontage on Knob Creek and Stonecrest Court. A 65-foot landscape buffer would be located along the east side of the property line next to single-family residences fronting Lizabeth Drive.