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City Commissioners take on traffic study key to $20M development off North State of Franklin Road

October 2nd, 2013 9:30 pm by Gary B. Gray

City Commissioners take on traffic study key to $20M development off North State of Franklin Road

Nashville’s GBT Realty’s proposal to develop a $20 million retail complex off North State of Franklin Road will be on the front burner tonight when the City Commission reviews a traffic study that could determine whether the project moves forward.

Commissioners will either halt, defer or advance a second reading of GBT’s proposal to rezone the 29-acre parcel from MS-1 (Medical Services) to B-4 (Planned Arterial Business). The five-member board also will revisit the developer’s proposed concept plan, which needs only one successful majority vote to make the grade.

Road alignment and ingress and egress has been the primary issue holding back the substantial development, and both the concept plan and rezoning were deferred Aug. 1 in a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Clayton Stout voting not to delay the decisions.

“Time is money,” Stout said in August. “Either you want to develop or you don’t. I also think we will regret this by not keeping it zoned medical. We don’t want to send our kids to ETSU so they can come out and bag groceries or help people try on shoes.”

Jeff Pape, GBT Realty Corp.’s shopping center division senior vice president, answered questions obligingly at that meeting and agreed to adhere to the results of the study. Traffic, and all the potential problems linked with high vehicle counts and crowded streets, became the main focus when residents living nearby voiced their concerns.

He told commissioners after that vote that should the study reveal the development is not feasible he “would not be able to pull permits.” That does not necessarily mean the project would die, but it would require reconfiguring traffic flow and finding ways to fund it. 

Mountain States Health Alliance owns the land, and it remains to be seen just how that entity will work with the developer and/or benefit from future revenues that come from the investment.

The original concept allows right turn access and egress off North State of Franklin — the same approach taken in the Fresh Market design. But that would place the road off Sunset Drive about 500 feet away from its intersection with North State of Franklin, an intersection with six lanes.   

The biggest concerns from residents, and from Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, were that GBT wants to place the entry and exit on Sunset, between North State of Franklin and Waters Edge Drive. Pindzola has suggested two new left turn lanes on the southbound portion of North State of Franklin at that intersection. He also suggested GBT and the city work together to find a way to reconfigure the right turn lane onto Sunset by either adding new stop lights or reshaping the road.

Skyline Drive, just south of the proposed development, already is set for improvements by the city, but residents have expressed concern about what will happen to that road once the development goes in.

Commissioners also will consider a resolution establishing fair market value for the land needed to construct the Veterans Affairs Hospital Connector Project — an access road from the intersection of Indian Ridge Road and West Market Street to the VA. The purchase of eight properties are involved; two property owners have agreed to donate their land for the project.

A local company has independently determined the fair market value of all land needed at just more than $1.3 million. 

The project has been in the pipeline for about a decade, and its estimated total cost is about $3.8 million. The city has received an $852,000 Transportation System Community Preservation grant and about $900,000 from the High Priority Project grant program, and that money will be used to acquire the properties.

The city attempted to secure an additional $1.6 million in federal grant requiring a $400,000 local match to help fund construction of the project, but that did not happen.

Related articles:

City Commission begins process to host 29-acre retail development

Traffic concerns idle $20M development at Sunset/State of Franklin

Johnson City Commission takes first step to land large retail development

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